There’s nothing better than kicking back with a twisty thriller during the summer, and that’s why I Killed Zoe Spanos is the perfect choice for our July YA Book Club. This fever-dream thrill ride will leave you catching your breath and guessing again and again until the very end. Amber Smith, author of The Way I Used to Be, called this book “haunting, addictive, and simply unputdownable,” and we couldn’t agree more. Fans of Sadie by Courtney Summers and One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus, as well as podcasts like Serial will not want to miss this must-read book of the summer. We were thrilled to ask Kit Frick five questions on everything from her favorite podcasts to the inspiration behind some of her most haunting characters to what she’s reading now.
And don’t miss our virtual #BNYABookClub event live on B&N Facebook on Thursday, August 6th at 4 PM ET.
The Missing Zoe podcast sets to uncover the truth of Zoe’s disappearance. Were there any podcasts that you were a fan of, or listened to, while writing that inspired you?
Absolutely! The Missing Zoe podcast transcripts were so much fun to create. I’m an avid true crime podcast listener, as I’m endlessly intrigued by crime and criminality. There’s so much to discover about humanity, the criminal justice system, prejudice, and even storytelling through the examination of real cases. That being said, all true crime podcasts are not created equal. I’m not a fan of those that set out to sensationalize or that seem to forget that their subjects and their families are real people. (Martina grapples with that last point herself while hosting Missing Zoe.)
A few investigative true crime podcasts I’ve really enjoyed are: Serial season one (obviously!), Bear Brook, Direct Appeal, Finding Tammy Jo, and all the seasons of the CBC podcast Someone Knows Something. A few currently airing, weekly true crime podcasts on my regular rotation are Women & Crime, DIE-ALOGUE and Criminal.
We see Anna’s memories stretch and change over the course of the story. How do you think the people around you shape your memory and what you believe to be true?
Memory is a fascinating and scary thing. Without giving too much away, the malleability of memory plays a key role in the novel, and it’s something I spent a lot of time thinking about when building the story. People like to say, “I have a great memory,” or “my memory is terrible,” but usually it’s not as cut-and-dried as those statements make it out to be. In fact, those of us with “great” memories often misremember important events, and those of us who readily acknowledge that our memories are bad are probably just more tuned into the faultiness of the human brain in this regard. There are illuminating studies on eyewitness testimonies and false memories that would blow your mind.
We’re highly suggestible as humans when it comes to memory—even if we’d like to think we’re not. I’m not saying everyone is lying to you (or am I?) but when we hear others’ accounts of events, or when a past occurrence is suggested to us, it can actually alter the memory stored in our brain. There are scientists and researches that would be able to speak to this much better than I can but suffice to say that I really empathize with my protagonist, Anna, who is unreliable yet very relatable in her struggle with memory.
As a little girl wise beyond her years, Paisley wasn’t what we were expecting. Did you always set out to create her this way or did she evolve over the course of your writing?
In fiction, as in life, it’s so often the case that kids pick up on things that adults miss or exhibit a depth of perception beyond that which we give them credit for. I always knew that Paisley—Anna’s nannying charge for the summer—would play a special role in the story. As is the case for many writers, the magic of discovery is often in the drafting, so while the kernel of Paisley’s character was there from the beginning, it was through the process of writing and revising that she really came into her own.
Setting always plays such an important role, especially in a thriller. What drew you to telling this story in such an idyllic place like Herron Mills?
I chose the Hamptons setting largely because of Daphne du Maurier’s classic romantic thriller Rebecca, which served as a source of inspiration for my novel. Rebecca is set in an upscale, seaside suburb of London, England, so when thinking about the perfect setting for I Killed Zoe Spanos, placing my own mystery in an affluent seaside village in the Hamptons, just east of New York City, was a natural fit.
There’s a fascination we have as readers when bad things happen in beautiful, privileged places. That sheen of perfection and impenetrability is stripped away. I love a vivid, atmospheric setting and creating the fictional Hamptons town of Herron Mills Village—which is based on East End villages like East Hampton and Amagansett—was key to getting to the heart of this story. The setting is truly a character in its own right.
This is shaping up to be quite the summer for YA. What are you reading now and what’s up next in your TBR pile?
It certainly is! I could go on and on here, but I’ve limited myself to four summer books in four different genres that I’m very excited about:
Romantic Comedy: Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon is an absolutely delightful rivals-to-lovers rom-com set over 24 hours in Seattle.
Contemporary Realistic / Mystery: This Is My America by Kim Johnson is one of my most anticipated summer debuts. It’s going to strike a chord for readers seeking a compelling, timely crime novel.
Horror: Interview with the Vixen by Rebecca Barrow is an Archie comics horror novel by one of my absolute favorite young adult authors.
Paranormal Romance: The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig is a queer vampire romance I can’t wait to sink my teeth into.