When Kiersten Modglin is not watching Netflix or curling up with a good book she enjoys writing psychological suspense in which she explores the darkest parts of human nature and the inner workings of twisted minds. Her novel, "If It Walks Like a Killer", is no exception. As our Author of the Day, Modglin reveals what inspired her to make seemingly happily married college sweethearts the center of her story and gives us some insights in her writing process.
Please give us a short introduction to what If It Walks Like a Killer is about.
If It Walks Like A Killer is a story about the perfect family living the perfect lie. It follows Caide and Rachael Abbott, a happily married couple with two beautiful kids and absolutely nothing to hide. At least...that's what they want you to think. When a murder occurs in their sleepy little town, the Abbott's suddenly find themselves the prime suspects of the crime. With no solid alibis and evidence mounting against them, their community demands answers. Running out of time and options, the Abbott's are forced to face the secrets they've worked so hard to keep hidden.
What inspired you to make seemingly happily married college sweethearts the center of your story?
I love stories about big secrets hidden behind perfect doors and that's exactly what I wanted to create with this novel. I think every house, every family, has their own set of secrets and a sort of mask they wear to show the outside world. This book was about ripping that mask off and forcing a seemingly normal family to realize they aren't as perfect as they would like to believe. I think, as humans, we compare ourselves to everyone around us and I wanted to show why that's not okay. Everyone has something they want to keep hidden and no one's as perfect as they'd like to seem.
Why did you pick a small town in North Carolina as the backdrop of your book?
I am in love with the Carolina's. They're absolutely gorgeous. And I think small towns are interesting to write about because they all have their own sort of rules and that makes for an interesting dynamic.
Readers report that this is a real page turner - how did you pull this off?
I wish I could say that it just came naturally, but the truth is it took a lot of work and planning. I always start with an outline once I have the basic plot points of my book. As I write, sometimes I'll switch certain things around to make it flow better or to add a bit more suspense. I'm a big fan of cliffhanger chapter endings because I know that's what keeps readers saying "Oh, just one more chapter" so I incorporate a lot of those big moments in my writing.
And speaking of switching things around, fun fact: when I wrote the first outline for this book the killer didn't even exist!
You tell the story from multiple POVs. Why did you take this approach?
You know the old saying "there are two sides to every story"? Well, in If It Walks Like A Killer there are around eight sides. I love novels with multiple POVs because, for me, it helps to add to the suspense. Miscommunication, secrets, and lies can all be shown through different sets of eyes and that only helps you get a better understanding for the characters and their story.
Your books explore the darkest parts of human nature and the inner workings of twisted minds. What drew you to this genre?
I write the kind of books I would want to read. I'm obsessed with psychology. How our minds work, why we do the things we do, what makes an evil person evil and a good person good. It all thrills me. On top of that, I love mysteries. I'm a huge fan of suspense. I think there is something amazing about that "A-ha!" moment that a well played out twist can bring. If I can keep my readers completely in the dark, reading into the middle of the night because they just have to know what's going to happen...then I've done my job.
This was your debut work. What has the experience been like?
It has been everything I dreamed of and nothing that I expected. Being an author is hard work. I don't think I realized what all went into it. I kind of thought, you know, you write this book and you're done. But there's so much more. I absolutely love every part of it though. It's been amazing so far.
Did you plan from the start to make this into a series?
That's an awesome question. The Carolina Killer Files are actually three totally separate books, the only thing they have in common is that they are all mysteries set in the Carolinas! When my publisher picked up all three books, they had this great idea to market them together and that's how the series came to be. So, no, I never planned for them to be a series and I was shocked (but thrilled!) when I was approached with the idea.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? Best time of the day to write, favorite writing spot etc.?
I'd love to say I write in a cozy chair, wrapped up in a blanket with a fresh cup of coffee but the truth is most of the time I'm lucky to sneak a few moments here and there. I write in notebooks, on napkins, or once or twice in a pinch, on my arm. Most of the time when I get around to sitting down to writing, in amongst the chaos that is my life, my coffee is cold and I'm trying not to move my left arm in fear of waking up my daughter!
What is the hardest thing about being a writer?
The hardest part of being a writer is how lonely it is sometimes. I have a great team of people helping me but most of what I do, you know, in the day to day of the job...is by myself. You spend most of your day inside your own head and it's hard to explain to anyone just how lonely that can be.
Do reviews and reader feedback shape your work? Or do you feel like it's better to avoid the feedback—both positive and negative—so that it won't interfere with your vision?
Oh, absolutely. I try to read all of my reviews and take in what my readers are saying and I try to learn and grow from the negative and appreciate the positive. I've had several readers contact me and tell me what they do or don't like and I totally keep that in mind during my writing. My sister's the best...she's one of my biggest fans and every time she finishes one of my books I'll get a phone call and we basically walk through the entire plot and I get her thoughts on everything. I thrive on what my readers think, good and bad. I will say, though, in the beginning I really struggled with what people would think of certain things, but that wasn't me being true to my story, my characters, or myself. I've had to realize over time I can't please everyone and at the end of the day what matters to me the most is getting across whatever point I'm trying to make with the story. They can't all have happy endings and sometimes there's beauty in that.
What are you working on right now?
I am currently knee-deep in my next novel, a romantic suspense. It follows the story of a widow trying to find out the truth about her husband's sudden death, a teenager who's harboring some deep secrets, a stranger who's trying to help...but with a hidden agenda of his own. Look for it in mid-February!
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I love to hear from my readers!
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/kierstenmodglinauthor