Thursday, September 17, 2020

Wendy Walker

Wendy Walker is the author of the psychological suspense novels All Is Not Forgotten, Emma In the Night, The Night Before and Don’t Look For Me. Her novels have been translated into 23 foreign languages and topped bestseller lists both nationally and abroad. They have been selected by the Reese Witherspoon Book Club, The Today Show and The Book of the Month Club, and have been optioned for both television and film.

My Q&A with Walker:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title does a lot of work highlighting the theme of the book and also the basic set-up for the plot. Molly Clarke disappears on a back road far from home. A note is found that says “Don’t look for me” and explains that she is leaving because she feels her family will be better off without her. When she is not found, the search is called off and she is presumed to have walked away from her life. But, of course, that is not the case. When taken alone, the title might not be quite as effective as it is. However, because my books fall squarely in the thriller genre, and when taken together with the book’s cover which depicts a woman running away from an approaching vehicle, the fact that this is a book about a missing woman is quickly conveyed.

What's in a name?

I spend a lot of time finding names for my characters, and even the towns and streets in the story. I keep a spreadsheet with names I’ve used in prior books so I don’t repeat them, and then I grab an old phone book (which has last names) and pull up a website with baby names for boys and girls. I then make a short list for each character. I think about the character’s personality and then try to match that with a name. What’s interesting about this process is that my visceral reaction to a name might be very different from another person’s because these reactions are based largely on people and characters we’ve encountered in real life. As the writer, I name characters that evoke the response in me because I have to stay true to the character throughout the story. If I can do that, the reader will come along with me for the ride!

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

The ending is the hardest to plot. There are high expectations with thrillers to create a great twist, and this is usually the starting point for me – how will it end? The beginning is much easier because I always use a “cold” start – placing the reader in the center of the action that is already taking place. My novels often span only a few days or weeks, even if the backstory is more developed as the action unfolds. For me, hooking the reader by pulling them right into the heart of the story is highly effective. I always know where to start once I know where it will all end!

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

My characters all have parts of me somewhere in them. I think it’s impossible to separate completely from a character, even one that is not at all like me. Everything we experience in our lives, people and situations and other stories in all forms, shape our perceptions of character traits, personalities, reactions, motivations and emotions. It’s a primal human trait and important to our ability to socialize and have relationships. Even when we are writing, we are drawing from our human experience. Some of my favorite characters are ones I am nothing like and are unlikable, period. In crafting them, I had to draw from characteristics that I find unappealing – and that necessarily draws from my own experiences throughout my life.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I am a huge consumer of streaming series, the darker the better. I am always watching out for twists and turns and characters that I’ve never seen before – and I think about how they add to the experience of the story. I truly believe that entertainment is as much about how a story is told as it is about the story itself. Turning to a different medium and experiencing story telling in that form helps to expand my thinking about how I might tell my own stories in written form.
Learn more about the author and her books at Wendy Walker's website.

The Page 69 Test: Four Wives.

The Page 99 Test: Social Lives.

The Page 69 Test: Don't Look for Me.

--Marshal Zeringue