Megan Collins is the author of The Winter Sister. She teaches creative writing in Connecticut, where she lives, and is the managing editor of 3Elements Review. A poet and fiction writer, her work has appeared in many journals, including Off the Coast, Spillway, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Rattle.
Behind The Red Door
When Fern Douglas sees the news about Astrid Sullivan, a missing woman from Maine, she is sure she knows her. Fern’s husband thinks it’s because of Astrid’s famous kidnapping—and equally famous return—twenty years ago. But Fern has no memory of that, even though it happened an hour outside her New Hampshire hometown. And when Astrid appears in Fern’s recurring nightmare, one in which a girl reaches out to her, pleading, Fern fears that it’s not a dream at all, but a memory.
Spellbinding, poignant and atmospheric, Behind The Red Door is one of those rare stories you can get utterly lost in.
Author’s Corner – Interview with Megan Collins
Thanks so much for being on Author’s Corner! Can you tell us one interesting and unique thing about you, something most people might not know? An interesting hobby or funny habit, something so readers can get to know the person beneath the author.
One of my funny habits is that I tend to spontaneously make up songs with random, ridiculous lyrics. They’re usually only two to four lines long, but they’re accompanied by catchy little tunes that my husband and I can’t get out of our heads. Here are the lyrics to a couple house favorites:
“Truman Capote/ why don’t you get to know me?”
“Lizard remorse/ doesn’t always end in divorce/ but lizard remorse is what I have/ ’cause I treated that lizard so bad.”
What are some of the jobs you had before becoming an author? How have they helped you in your writing career now?
My first job out of college was working as a reporter at my local newspaper—and I hated it! It was a lot of late nights covering seemingly endless town meetings, but it did allow me to get a better understanding of how local politics and police departments work, which is pretty helpful as a writer.
Other than that, I’ve been a creative writing teacher for the past twelve years, and that’s a job I love. I have been consistently challenged and inspired by my students, and when I see them taking risks on the page, it pushes me to do the same.
What was the very first thing—ever—that you can remember writing?
The first “book” I wrote was a picture book when I was five years old. It didn’t have a story or anything; it was literally just a book of terrible illustrations I’d done and a word beneath them explaining what the picture was of—complete with misspellings I will never forget: “faurs” for “flowers”; “swetr” for “sweater.” But the first actual story I wrote was when I was six, and it was called “The Bad Cats”—about, believe it or not, some bad cats. As soon as I saw how you can create characters and a plot from absolutely nothing, I was hooked!
What would you do if you weren’t a writer?
I guess “teach” is too much of a cop-out answer, and actually, I don’t think I’d be a teacher if I hadn’t been a writer first (since I originally thought, “Oh, teaching! That’s a good way to have summers off to write!” before I understood the actual demands—even in summers—of teaching, or fell in love with it as a job).
To be honest, I’m actually finding it really difficult to answer this question, because I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, so I never really explored too many other career paths. So I guess my answer is: if I weren’t a writer, I have no idea what I would do!
What was your favorite childhood book?
When I was really little, it was The Monster At The End Of This Book, starring Grover from Sesame Street—though I would still read that book right now if I had a copy. It had everything: suspense, intrigue, a protagonist who freaked out more and more as the book went along, and the best twist ending I knew of as a kid! As I grew a bit older, though, I couldn’t get enough of series like The Babysitter’s Club, Sweet Valley Twins, and Nancy Drew.
If you could recommend any other book(s) that you’ve read and loved recently, what would they be?
I am obsessed with Wendy Walker’s newest thriller, Don’t Look For Me, which comes out in September. I read it in only one day, and it took me on such a dark, surprising ride that I thoroughly enjoyed—even as it terrified me! I also really loved Kate Stayman-London’s One To Watch, which is a romcom about a plus-size fashion blogger picked to be the star of a Bachelorette-type show who goes in expecting to boost her career, only to find herself falling for more than one man.
If you could invite five people (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
Toni Morrison because she has been the greatest writing teacher I never actually had, showing me that compelling stories and poetic language are not mutually exclusive. I’d love the opportunity to thank her for everything she’s given me, as both a reader and writer.
Sylvia Plath for reasons similar to Toni Morrison. When I was fifteen years old, writing terrible poetry, Sylvia Plath’s work taught me about the importance of imagery. It still pushes me, to this day, to try to find extraordinary ways of expressing ordinary things.
Samantha Irby because I’ve just read her book of essays Wow, No Thank You, and I think she’d be a hilarious dinner companion, even though, as I learned in the book, she’d probably hate committing to the event.
Lauren Graham because, in all the interviews I’ve seen her do, she seems like the funniest, most delightful person who doesn’t take herself too seriously.
Tom Hanks because he’s Tom Hanks.
What’s your writing schedule/habits? Any tricks to get the creative juices flowing?
Due to my teaching schedule, I tend to write in the mornings, and I work toward a certain word count goal each day. When I’m not approaching a deadline, I try to keep my goal reasonable—usually just 500 words. That way, anything I write over that number makes me feel like a rock star. It’s a complete mind game, but it works!
Writing Behind The Red Door
Let’s talk about your book Behind The Red Door. Can you tell my readers a little about it?
The book begins when Fern Douglas sees a news story about Astrid Sullivan, a missing woman from Maine, and immediately feels like she knows her. Fern’s husband tells her it’s because Astrid was famously kidnapped—and famously returned—twenty years ago in an unsolved abduction, but Fern has no memory of that happening, even though the kidnapping occurred in her home state of New Hampshire.
That night, when Fern’s recurring nightmare suddenly has Astrid’s face in it, she becomes convinced that she knows her, and begins a race against time to try to uncover memories that will help locate Astrid, who is believed to have been abducted by the same man who took her decades ago.
Where did you come up with the idea?
I think a lot of thriller writers—and people in general—have an eerie fascination with the idea of a missing person, but the seed for this idea actually came to me when I wondered what would happen if a person who’d been famously kidnapped as a child (think: a case like Elizabeth Smart) went missing again, this time as an adult.
Describe Behind the Red Door in three words.
Dark, twisted, chilling
What do you think readers will love about Behind the Red Door?
I’m hoping that readers will love the book-within-a-book aspect of this novel. Not only will they read about Fern’s journey toward uncovering her memories, but they will also read the story of the missing woman, Astrid, herself, through excerpts of a memoir she published about her original abduction. These excerpts are woven throughout the book and serve as clues for Fern as she tries to find out where Astrid is now.
If you could choose an actress to play Fern, who would it be?
Fern frequently notes her small size—she’s short and petite—so I think Anna Kendrick would be the perfect person to play her!
I love how you perfectly balance atmosphere and character in your books! You really make the characters and setting come alive! Do you visualize what you’re writing beforehand, or do you just write and see what comes out?
Thank you! Usually, I get a strong sense of setting and imagery while I’m in the outlining and plotting phase, but those images always get fleshed out more as I actually write, and I find new surprising things about them I didn’t know would be there.
Was the ending planned from the beginning or did it evolve as you wrote it?
When I’m writing, I always have to know what the ending’s going to be. I so admire authors who discover their ending as they write, but I’m such a planner in my everyday life, so I always need to know exactly where I’m headed—or else I’ll be too anxious to get any words down! Knowing the ending also helps me be more deliberate when creating new twists, plot points, and red herrings.
What’s next for Megan Collins?
Are you working on a new book? Can you tell my readers a little about it, a blurb, potential release date, etc? Where did you get the idea?
I’m currently revising my next book, which hopefully will be out next summer. It’s about a true-crime obsessed family who gathers to bury their father, but when they open his burial plot, they find the body of their long-missing brother already there.
Get In Touch
Megan loves connecting with readers. You can get in touch with her at: