Interview with Kimberly McCreight
We got a chance to chat with Kimberly McCreight — author of the wildly successful Reconstructing Amelia — about her career, her influences and her latest book, The Outliers.
BAM: In the Books-A-Million offices, Reconstructing Amelia advanced reader copies were read and quickly shared with others. Everyone loved it! As a long-time writer you must have been thrilled when the book made the national best seller lists. What was your reaction and how did you celebrate?
KM: Disbelief? That’s pretty much still my reaction when I see one of my books on a shelf anywhere or when anyone contacts me after having read one, much less on a bestseller list. (And I mean disbelief mixed with total elation.) I’m glad, too; I never want to take any of this for granted.
As for celebration, I think we ordered Sicilian, deep dish pizza instead of regular pizza that night. That was also how we celebrated finally selling Reconstructing Amelia. Wow. Writing this has made me realize that I seriously need to up my celebration game.
BAM: With two best-selling adult novels, what made you decide to write for the Young Adult audience? What was the inspiration for this story?
KM: I didn’t really think about writing for a particular audience or that I was making a switch at all. I was the first person to call The Outliers YA and that was probably because unlike my adult books that included both adult and teen POV characters, this one had no adult POV characters. But otherwise, there was no difference in the writing for me. Both are equally intricately plotted and concern much the same emotional terrain.
The Outliers was inspired first and foremost by my daughter who has always been extremely empathetic. On the upside, this makes her adept socially and it deepens her friendships. But being so sensitive can also be a burden, causing her to be on the anxious side. And these are qualities she and I share—for better and for worse. It was in pondering this connection between my daughter and I that I began to wonder about a possible link between emotional intelligence and anxiety, particularly in women.
BAM: What books did you read as a teen and how did those books influence your writing?
KM: Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities were both huge influences on me, though I will admit to not having picked them up voluntarily. I took an English class just on Charles Dickens and it was in that class that I wrote my very first short story. Also Less Than Zero, Bright Lights Big City and probably every single one of Stephen King’s books. I think King is a genius. If I ever met him I would probably pass out. Every writer should read Stephen King’s On Writing—it’s amazing. I have always read really widely and I think all aspiring writers should. Hearing the voices of many helps you find your own.
The Outliers by Kimberly McCreightBuy Now
From the New York Times bestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia comes a fast-paced teen series where one girl learns that in a world of intrigue, betrayal, and deeply buried secrets, it is vital to trust your instincts.
It all starts with a text: “Please, Wylie, I need your help.” Wylie hasn’t heard from Cassie in over a week, not since their last fight. But that doesn’t matter. Cassie’s in trouble, so Wylie decides to do what she has done so many times before: save her best friend from herself.
This time it’s different, though. Instead of telling Wylie where she is, Cassie sends cryptic clues. And instead of having Wylie come by herself, Jasper shows up saying Cassie sent him to help. Trusting the guy who sent Cassie off the rails doesn’t feel right, but Wylie has no choice but to ignore her gut instinct and go with him.
BAM: Outliers is a thrilling read which will leave readers on the edge of their seat, but there also is the underlying friendship of Cassie and Wylie. Teen relationships are complicated. What made you want to explore this in your book?
KM: Teenage friendships, between girls especially, have been at the heart of each one of my books—Reconstructing Amelia, Where They Found Her and now The Outliers. I have always had really intense friendships, probably a consequence of having a pretty troubled home life as a teenager. Even now, my friends are my bedrock. They mean everything to me. But I think really intense friendships can be complicated, especially when you’re young and you’re changing all the time—what you want, who you are, what you like. Not to mention that you’re also getting into romantic relationships for the first time. It’s a perfect storm.
BAM: What made you decide to write a trilogy and how did that process differ from writing a stand-alone book?
KM: I always conceived of the books as a trilogy. There are larger thematic and political points I was interested in making, separate and apart from the specifics of each mystery. I always knew those broader points would take much more than a single book to resolve and I saw it in three distinct chapters—one for each book in the trilogy. I don’t think the process is any different really, except that I do need to go back and pull forward any of the threads purposefully left open in the earlier book.
BAM: Your fans are very excited that Lionsgate and Reese Witherspoon are involved in the production of Outliers as a movie. How involved will you be in the project?
KM: I will be as involved as they want me to be. To be honest, I’ll just be delighted to be a spectator and then an audience member. But I have felt completely respected and honored by the process. I’m not writing the screenplay—I have the next books to focus on—but I am confident that the screenwriter will do a fabulous job bringing Wylie, Jasper, and Cassie to the screen.
BAM: So you’re currently writing the next book in the series? After that will you consider staying in the YA genre?
KM: I am currently finishing up work on book two in the trilogy and will then move on to book three. After that I have another adult book coming from Harper—I haven’t started working on that one yet, but I know the basic story. It will be set back in Park Slope, Brooklyn. And will involve the violent rape of a prominent woman in the community. And it’s going to have an awesome twist.