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"I loved the idea of a totally normal suburban couple having this horrible hobby."
There are always suggestions on how two people can spice up their love life. For the couple at the heart of Samantha Downing's debut novel, they go down an unorthodox route: murder. When a body is mysteriously found, the husband narrator discovers his wife did not go along with their original plan, putting their fun in jeopardy and connecting their crime to a notorious serial killer. More twists and turns fill the book and you wonder who did what, and who is to blame.
Samantha spoke with us about her life-long love of thrillers and her favorite parts of writing this dramatic, twisty novel.
How did you get started writing?
I think it was a natural transition from being a big reader to wanting to write my own stories. I began with a few short stories, then a collection of them, and finally a whole novel.
I read that you wrote many manuscripts before getting to this one. What was it about My Lovely Wife that made you know it was going to be your debut?
I didn’t know! I never submitted any of my novels to agents or publishers. A friend sent this one to another friend, who had gone to school with an agent in New York. He then referred me to Barbara Poelle, who is now my agent.
Tell us what inspired you to write My Lovely Wife. Had you always been interested in thrillers?
I grew up reading thrillers. My whole family has always read them, so they were always around the house. Later, when I was broke and living in my first apartment, I used to go to a used bookstore across the street and get a stack of paperbacks. When I was done I would trade them in and get another stack. It was very convenient, given that I didn’t have a car at the time!
The original idea for My Lovely Wife came from a documentary about a couple that kidnapped a woman and held her captive. The idea of a woman doing this to another woman was so odd, it kind of stuck. I twisted it around a bit and came up with the idea for the book.
P.C. Jacqueline Dallimore
For the couple in the novel, murder is a bit of a hobby, which understandably gets them into some trouble. This is sort of a strange question but what was your favorite part of writing such interesting, strange characters?
Actually, what I enjoyed most was the everyday interaction between them. Talking about the kids, about errands that needed to be run, about money. I loved the idea of a totally normal suburban couple having this horrible hobby. There is almost no gore in the book – the violence is mostly implied – and writing that type of thing doesn’t hold much interest for me. I prefer the relationships between people.
Some reviews of the book say that the prose makes the reader feels implicit in the couple's antics. Did you want to create this effect?
I love that effect! This is why I love books in first person and present tense. It makes everything feel very immediate, as if you are in the room with the characters.
A serial killer also plays a big role in the book. Did you do any research on the topic before writing?
I feel like I’ve been researching serial killers all my life. They’re almost impossible to avoid, there are dozens of TV shows about them, along with hundreds of movies and books. At this point, I think we have to assume people know something about serial killers – even if they’ve only seen Silence of the Lambs or Criminal Minds, they know about profiling. What I didn’t want to do is repeat information about serial killers than is pretty much common knowledge at this point.
What is coming up next for you after the book releases? Any ideas for your next one?
My second book is already written! It’s another thriller, hopefully as disturbing as this one is.
Follow Samantha Downing on Twitter. My Lovely Wife is available March 26 from Berkley Publishing, a division of Penguin Random House.
Rachel A.G. Gilman is the Creator/Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Creature.