Wendy Walker is the national bestselling author of All is Not Forgotten and Emma In The Night. She has sold rights to her books in twenty-three languages, as well as film and television options. Before becoming a writer, Wendy practiced both corporate and family law, and worked as a financial analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co. Wendy is currently finishing her fourth thriller and managing a busy household.
The Night Before
A clever, shrewdly plotted psychological thriller!
The Night Before follows two sisters, Laura, unimaginably damaged, and Rosie, who’s spent her life worrying about her. When Laura doesn’t return home from a date, Rosie begins a desperate search for her. But she isn’t just worried about what this man might have done to Laura. She’s worried about what Laura may have done to him.
Nobody writes damaged characters quite like Wendy Walker! The Night Before is a clever, insightful, shrewdly plotted psychological thriller, which starts out strong and keeps building to a final, heart-pounding conclusion. With a fast pace and life-like characters, this unique and dark story is one you won’t want to miss!
Author’s Corner – interview with Wendy Walker
Can you tell me something quirky about you that your readers might not know?
I am pretty obsessed with psychological motivations and the darker side of human nature. I am often the last person at any table, listening to a story, telling a story, absorbing any real life drama that presents itself.
Among close friends and other writers, I have an acerbic sense of humor and tend to overshare. I often speak words out loud as I write them. It’s a good thing I write at home, alone! I hate to shop, cook, and empty the dishwasher. But I love to organize shelves and balance my check book. My perfect day is when I am still in my pajamas at the end of it. And in another life, I would be a therapist.
Can you tell us one interesting thing about yourself?
I used to be a competitive figure skater. In fact, the three years I spent training away from home as a young teenager most certainly informed the way I see the world and ignited my interest in human drama. Skating is a highly competitive and often isolating environment. The pressure is intense, and the training is demanding. And, at the end of it all, things beyond your control can determine your fate. Those are some jaw-dropping lessons to learn at a young age!
You used to work in family law – what made you move into writing? Did you always have a secret dream to be an author?
I started writing after my first son was born, nearly twenty years ago! I was motivated by a desire to not become a Stepford Wife (I was a stay home mom in the same town where the movie was filmed – the original and the remake!). I didn’t want to go back to corporate litigation, but I needed something to strive for that also provided intellectual challenges. I had no idea what I was doing, but I did know that I loved stories.
It took me many years to become a published author, but that was not the end of the journey. Those novels, both in the women’s fiction genre, did not sell well enough to provide me with a financially sustainable career. My children were all in school and I was single again, so I found work where I could, as a family law attorney. Still, by that time, I had developed a love of writing, so I kept at it. Five years later, I was encouraged to write a psychological thriller, and, by that time, my work in family law had given me the tools I needed!
I wrote my first thriller, All Is Not Forgotten, in about two months and the rest is history. So, ironically, family law played an instrumental role in enabling me to quit the profession and write full time!
How has being a bestselling author changed things for you? Do you still write the same, or is there more/less pressure now?
The most important change is that I can actually breathe again! I get to work around my kids’ schedules almost all of the time, while still building a sustainable career. That is the dream right there – to have that time with my kids. It goes by fast!
On the other hand, there is more pressure to keep getting better, and also to write stories that people want to read. My work is now read and reviewed by thousands of people around the world. Luckily, I have a wonderful team that helps me to evaluate plots and fine-tune each novel until it is the best it can be. So, with the added pressure has also come added support.
What are some of the jobs you had before becoming an author? How have they helped you in your writing career now?
Everything I’ve done in my life played a role in my writing. Figure skating gave me discipline and an intuitive sense of human nature. Investment banking gave me confidence and an understanding of the financial world. Law school, and practicing law, were crucial in developing my ability to build a complex plot, piece by piece.
Family law, in particular, was essential to learning about the basic types of psychological illnesses that often drive my characters. And there is no question that being a mother has given me the emotional knowledge to flesh out my characters and make them relatable. I could never have predicted or planned how each of these experiences would fit together to make me the writer I am today, but I am grateful for each and every one.
Stranded on a tropical island, what would be the top three books you’d have with you?
The Lord of the Flies, to remind myself the importance of civility. Pride and Prejudice, to escape into the arms of Mr. Darcy. And Mystic River, because it gets me every time.
If you could recommend any other book(s) that you’ve read and loved recently, what would it be?
I am going to step outside my genre and recommend the next book by Therese Fowler, A Good Neighborhood. It’s not out until 2020, but I got a sneak peek and it’s phenomenal.
Who’s your favourite character you’ve ever written and why?
Choosing a favorite character is as impossible as choosing a favorite child, but here goes. Dr. Alan Forrester in All Is Not Forgotten. I will always be grateful to him because that was the book that launched my career. But mostly because, in writing him, I allowed myself the freedom to be unhindered by what people might think of him. So often, we strive to have our characters be relatable and likable, unless they’re clear villains.
Dr. Forrester is arrogant and abrasive. But he is also brilliant and compassionate. His moral quandary causes him to compromise his integrity, but not without regret. He is deeply flawed, complicated, and damaged by his past. In all of those ways, he is profoundly human. For me, writing a character like that is pure bliss.
I love how your books are so gripping and yet so intricately woven on such a deep, psychological level. Is that something you plot, or do the different strands evolve as you write?
I am a plotter for sure. I try to plot almost every twist and turn before I begin writing. But inevitably, the characters will develop in unexpected ways, new ideas will bubble to the surface (usually at 4 am), and changes will be made. Still, to lay out a plot with twists that make sense from a psychological standpoint, I feel it’s very important to have a plan at the start. Otherwise, the twists can feel random and disjointed, or not consistent with the psychological illnesses or motivations being portrayed.
Writing The Night Before
Let’s talk about your new book. Can you tell my readers a little about it, how you came up with the idea and what inspired you to write it?
After writing two very dark thrillers driven by backstory, I wanted to develop a more forward moving plot. I had a tiny seedling of an idea around Internet dating, where people frequently lie in their profiles. Having been single for nearly a decade, with many single friends, I had a deep working knowledge of this topic! So I thought, what if a woman went out on a date with a stranger from the Internet and never came home?
With most thriller plots, an idea like this also requires a structure to make it suspenseful. How a story is told is often more important than the story itself. I eventually came up with the idea of the split time frame. What if we could be with Laura on her date, knowing it was going to end badly, but also be looking for her the next day? When I had this brainstorm, I knew I had the book! The last piece was adding Laura’s backstory and dark history, which turned the theme of a date-gone-wrong upside down, as she becomes more of a suspect than the stranger she’s met.
Describe The Night Before in three words.
Riveting. Propulsive. Compelling.
What scene did you enjoy writing most?
I loved writing the short chapters when Laura is with her therapist. Those were the places where I was able to weave in the actual psychology of attachment issues – or, in colloquial terms – why women choose the wrong men. This concept was crucial in telling Laura’s story because the reader has to understand why she doubts her judgment throughout the course of the date. In those chapters, I was able to tease out the reasons for her bad choices.
What actress/actor would you cast to play Laura and Rosie?
Yikes! That’s so tough. I can never picture specific actors playing my characters because they take on such strong personas in my mind. I will leave that to the powers that be in Hollywood!
Was the ending planned from the beginning or did it evolve as you wrote it?
The ending was planned from the start. I needed to know what happened to Laura so I could set out the clues along the way. I think it is very important in a thriller to have twists that most readers don’t guess, but also to provide enough evidence that readers don’t feel betrayed. The perfect thriller is when the reader is surprised, but then thinks back on the story and realizes the truth was there all along. Of course, the short, quick, alternating chapters where the time frames converge were really fun to write. I couldn’t type them fast enough!
What do you think readers will love about The Night Before?
I hope readers will love the breathless structure of the split time frame, where they always know something the characters do not, but then they also learn something new in each chapter. I hope they love the interesting psychology behind relationships and the sometimes flawed choices we make. I hope they love the twist that Laura has a dark, violent past and that she may be the one responsible for the date going wrong. And I hope they love Laura and Rosie and their unwavering bond.
What was the most surprising thing you learned while writing it?
The most interesting thing I learned while writing The Night Before was the psychology I used to shape Laura’s character. I now share the research I did into the connection between childhood trauma and adult attraction with all of my friends! It’s not at all what I thought it would be, and it gave me insight into myself, as well as Laura.
The two main protagonists in The Night Before are sisters – what drew you to writing such a tense, thrilling, believable exploration of the sister relationship?
The emotional pull of The Night Before is built upon the strong bond between Laura and her sister, Rosie. I have three sisters, one who is just a year older, and this was very much a part of the inspiration for the story. It is fascinating how different sisters can be, and yet there is something about the shared experience of one childhood that forges a lifelong bond. Sisters witness each other’s history in a way that no one else does. Even if they react differently or are treated differently within the same family, they have a profound, visceral, understanding of one another simply by virtue of walking through life, side by side.
What’s next for Wendy?
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?
My next thriller takes us to a small town in rural Connecticut where a mother goes missing on her way home from visiting her son at his boarding school. Her daughter is the only one who believes she can still be found, but her search will take her down the same road that led to her mother’s demise.
Get in touch
Wendy loves connecting with readers. You can get in touch with her at:
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