Boats, an island and a murder
Our exclusive interview with bestselling author Rachel Hawkins about her latest thriller, Reckless Girls.
Rachel Hawkins was born in Newport News, Virginia, but lives in Alabama. She is the author of the hit thriller, The woman abovefollowed by his latest adult thriller, reckless girls (St. Martin’s Press), now in hardcover. It follows six visitors as they sail to the island of Meroe, a desolate place in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. With their arrival, secrets are revealed about their past, a devious stranger appears, and alliances form and shift. This is a thriller you won’t want to put down.
Konstantin Rega: How long have you lived in Virginia?
Rachel Hawkins: I was born there, but we moved when I was quite young to Alabama. When I told my mom I was doing an interview with Virginia Living, she said, “Make sure you tell them your dad was in the Navy and we were vacationing in Williamsburg when you were 12. .” For this trip, I remember I didn’t really enjoy it, but then I got a book of ghost stories about the area, and I was totally into the trip afterwards.
Would you say that living in the South influenced your writing?
Yes, it definitely influences my writing. I really enjoy writing books that are set here because we’ve seen so many stereotypical depictions of the South, and I’m always interested in reflecting something a little more authentic where I live.
This is certainly true for The Wife Upstairs. It’s Southern Gothic and all. But Reckless Girls takes place on an island.
I was definitely thinking about that. This book is a strange mixture of inspirations. In fact, I was inspired by a real mystery novel called, And the sea will tell. About a couple on an island and a murder in progress. Although it is no longer recognized now.
In Reckless Girls that you wanted to write this kind of book since you were 12 years old.
I have wanted to write a book about the “murder boat” for a very long time. My father was a sailor, and that’s why I was born in Virginia; he was stationed in the Navy, Newport News. So I grew up around boats. Every time I thought about writing something like this, I wanted the story to take place in a wild place. South Pacific atmosphere.
The title itself kind of hints at the ending, but certainly doesn’t spoil it. How did you find it?
I’m really bad at titling my books. I called him “Boat Murder” in all my emails to my editor. Another option I found was “Over My Head”, but I didn’t like it. Reckless Girls is from my editor’s boss and that’s fine with me. It’s about these girls and what they do. I thought that was the best nod to themes, and I also thought it sounded exciting and sexy.
As a thriller writer, is it a challenge to stay one step ahead of your reader?
My go-to advice is always: be kind to yourself. With thrillers, I think the main thing to remember is that you can’t surprise every reader. They will see some twists coming. Even if you can’t surprise all readers, try to make sure you keep them happy.
You wrote several children’s books before these two “adult” novels. What made you decide to diversify?
I strongly believe in always listening to my instincts and those were just the stories I wanted to tell and I ran out of stories to tell. I think for children’s books you have to be very authentic in the stories you tell and if I couldn’t do that anymore, it was time for me to move on. It’s been ten years and 11 books in children’s literature, and it was just the right time for a change.
When considering the characters for this new novel, how did you map them?
It was one of those things where the characters kind of came first. My main character was the one I was interested in writing about from the jump. I knew there would be a boyfriend and other exciting characters to bring them to the island. Adding Jake and Elisa gave me some extra plot ties. I never wanted so many characters that it was hard to keep the story straight. Three pairs, units. And then break them and change the alliances. You need an outlier to mess things up. It’s a pretty organic process. Always what best serves the story.
There’s a gritty realism at play here. Lux, towards the end, talks about all the lies being fed to her. And it’s ironic that while working as a maid in a hotel in Hawaii, she sees these lies told to herself, but not to herself.
Not everything is glamorous on these trips. It’s the people behind the scenes who see the worst in people in so many ways. But I think Lux doesn’t want to see them. I also joke that there is no police presence in my thrillers; no one ever tries to solve them.
With this one released, what can readers expect?
I have another thriller coming out in 2023. It’s about two best friends who vacation in a cute Italian house where a murder happened in the 70s. There’s a mix of the present and this that happened in the past. It’s gonna be a lot of fun. Reckless Girls has a lot about heartbreak, class, and sex. I wanted to talk about friendship between women. It will also cover art, which I couldn’t cover in my previous books.
And finally, with your books, what do you want people to take away from them?
Hope people have a good time. For two hours, readers can enjoy the troubles these characters go through, taking them away from their own real-world issues. I joke that my biggest thing is people buying my books at airports. You know? Going on vacation with my books.
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