Interview with Erik Therme, Author of If She Dies

23 Feb 2021

What can you tell us about your new release, If She Dies?

My greatest fear, as it must be with most parents, I imagine, is the death of a child. How do you live through that moment, let alone the days, months, and years that follow? Tess, the protagonist of If She Dies, has no answer to this question: only pain, grief, and a struggling marriage. Her one solace is following and watching Eve Becker, the 12-year-old daughter of the man who killed her daughter, as a way to cope with her own loss. When Eve goes missing, Tess is the likely suspect and must learn the truth to prove her innocence.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I often joke that I learned to write by reading Stephen King, but it’s the truth. I discovered the novel Misery in junior high and immediately began crafting my own tales of horror. Most were pretty lousy, but the more King I devoured, the more respectable my writing became. Eventually I moved away from the ‘supernatural elements’ and found my own style and voice.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

My favorite novel, hands down, is Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn), which is a captivating story with dysfunctional characters you can’t help but root for. Winter’s Bone (Daniel Woodrell) is a beautiful and horrific tale of redemption, family, and survival, and A Simple Plan (Scott Smith) taught me an important “rule” of writing: tell a simple story with complex characters. I’m also a huge fan of Rachel Caine’s Stillhouse Lake series, which follows a woman who has lived through a horrible tragedy, and in many ways, was the inspiration for If She Dies. Last, but certainly not least, is Stephen King’s The Stand. King’s character development is always excellent, but there’s no question he raises the bar with this one. Even his most flawed characters have redeeming qualities—so much so, that you sometimes find yourself empathizing with the bad guys.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Getting the words just right. I’m a semi-compulsive organizer, and I can easily spend hours making spreadsheets, lists, or reorganizing the nooks and crannies of our home. Writing, for me, is the ultimate form of organization: You type words and sentences onto a screen​​, then rearrange them until they’re exactly the way you want.​ It’s not uncommon for me to spend an hour on a single paragraph, but once it’s finally right, it’s the most fulfilling feeling in the world.

What is a typical day like for you?

A typical writing session for me is as follows: open Word, type a few sentences, check e-mail, check Twitter, type a few more sentences, check Facebook . . . aaaand rinse and repeat. It’s a miracle I get anything written. It’s also probably the reason it takes me forever to finish a book. I do have moments where I get into the zone and write big chunks without distraction, but those are usually few and far between. Needless to say, I’m not a very prolific writer.

Any guilty pleasures?

I’m not a very outdoorsy person (outside of mowing my lawn or retrieving my mail), yet, for some inexplicable reason, I’m obsessed with reality shows like Mountain Men and Alaska: The Last Frontier. I think it’s because I’m so far removed from that life that it’s mind boggling to think people can be that resourceful and adventurous. And I commend them . . . as I sit on my couch, in front of my fireplace, eating Doritos.

What scene from If She Dies was your favorite to write?

There isn’t a particular scene that stands out, but I really enjoyed crafting the scenes between Tess and her husband Josh, as this is the first time (in six published novels) I’ve written a married protagonist. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I often found myself drawing from our real life conversations, and many of Tess and Josh’s quirks and beliefs—good and bad—are based in fact. That said, my wife had preemptive “veto” power over anything that hit too close to home.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

“Worry does nothing but steal your joy and keep you busy doing nothing.” Of course, this is often easier said than done.

Erik Therme is the author of the new book If She Dies

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