📷 : Trevor Wineman
Today sees Elizabeth Klehfoth release her debut book titled All These Beautiful Strangers, which is already receiving praise from readers with advanced copies and publications including Elle UK and Entertainment Weekly. Later this month, Elizabeth is attending the YA Literature Convention at Olympia on the 29th July where she will join a panel of other suspense novelists whilst on a trip to the UK. Chatting to Elizabeth, she talks about All These Beautiful Strangers, attending YALC and her second novel.
Where did you get the inspiration from to write All These Beautiful Strangers?
I was watching the HBO docuseries The Jinx about real estate heir Robert Durst and the mysterious deaths surrounding his life, including that of his wife Kathleen, who disappeared from their lake house in 1982 and is now presumed dead. If you’re familiar with that story, you’ll notice some parallels between it and All These Beautiful Strangers (the wealthy real estate heir, the missing wife, the lake house), but what initially sparked my interest was the moment in the docuseries when Robert Durst recalls waking up in the middle of the night as a young boy and seeing his mother standing on the roof in her night gown moments before she fell to her death. It’s a moment he remembers vividly, and yet others adamantly claim that it never happened. It’s always fascinated me how supple and unreliable memory can be, and yet, at the same time, what a powerful role memory can play in shaping who we are. We’ve all at one point or another had a vivid memory contradicted—there’s a moment we recall very clearly, but that others claim couldn’t have happened exactly the way we remember it. I’ve always wondered—what would happen if the memory being contradicted was an important one, a memory that, in part, shaped the way we saw a particular person, or factored in to how we saw ourselves or the world around us? What if we were told that we didn’t see what we thought we saw, and everything that we thought we knew was suddenly called into question?
That was the impetus behind the main character, Charlie, who is seventeen years old when the novel begins and is looking back on these seemingly idyllic summers she spent with her parents at their lake house after she’s discovered a set of damning photographs that have been unearthed from beneath the floorboards of her parents’ bedroom. Suddenly, she is disillusioned, the castle-like house she grew up in becoming a prison, her once benevolent father cast into the role of malicious jailor. But what did Charlie see in those photographs to make her view of her family and her childhood shift so drastically? I had to keep writing to find out, and that became the driving force behind the novel.
What can you tell us about the book?
All These Beautiful Strangers is a twisty mystery about a girl from a family with a dark past, who is determined to discover the truth about her mother’s disappearance. If you like secret societies, boarding school dramas, lots of glitz and glam, plot twists, secrets, and dangerous friendships, then you’ll probably like this.
How long has it been in the works?
About three years. I started writing All These Beautiful Strangers around May of 2015.
Is there anything you can tell us about Charlie which won’t give spoilers?
Charlie is a seventeen-year-old girl who comes from a family with a lot of wealth and privilege and also a lot of heartbreak. She suffered the loss of her mother at a very young age. Both her privilege and the loss of her mother have given Charlie sort of a tough exterior that may be hard to look past or warm to at first, but give her a chance. I promise there’s more to her than you might see at first glance.
Had you always known you would call it All These Beautiful Strangers?
No—the title was actually the last thing about the book to fall into place. The final edits were done and we had even done a round of cover art before we finally settled on All These Beautiful Strangers as the title. The working title for a long time was The House on Langely Lake, but that sounded too much like either a period drama or a horror film. We wanted something with a dark and glitzy mood that would match the atmosphere of the book. I liked having “strangers” in the title because an idea that’s central to the book is that we all carry secrets, and sometimes the people we think we know the best and are the closest to are actually hiding the most from us. And “beautiful” is a nod towards this glamorous world Charlie is a part of, even if it is sort of cold and dark sometimes, too.
For those lucky enough to have already read the novel, what have the reviews been like?
The reviews have been really positive overall. Readers seem to be drawn into the plot and left guessing until the end, which is what I’d hoped for. I wanted to create an immersive story that kept people eagerly turning the pages.
How do you think you’ll feel seeing your debut novel on bookshelves around the world?
It’s sort of indescribable. Having a book published has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember, and it still doesn’t quite feel real.
Is there an audiobook available in the UK and the rest of the world?
Yes, the audiobook will be available in the UK and the US.
Are you looking forward to being a panelist at YALC 2018?
I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a panelist at YALC this year. I’m a huge fan of young adult fiction and the suspense genre in particular, so to be able to get together with other fans of YA and talk to other YA writers about the suspense genre is going to be a lot of fun.
Will you be doing a book signing at the event?
Yes, so please come stop by and say hello!
Will there be any other UK events you’ll be attending whilst visiting?
I’ll be doing an author Q&A and book signing at Eason’s in Dublin with Melissa Albert (The Hazel Wood) and Moira Fowley-Doyle (Spellbook of the Lost and Found) on July 25th, which I am so incredibly excited about.
Do you have plans for a second novel?
Yes, I’ve made a solid start on my second novel. It’s another suspense/mystery novel, this time set in Los Angeles. I’ve lived in L.A. for the past four years, and it’s such an interesting place that I’ve been itching to set a story here.
Did you grow up reading the same style of book?
I didn’t read a ton of suspense/mystery novels growing up. I read quite a bit of the classics and literary fiction in school, and then in my own time I read a lot of historical fiction and young adult romance, which I’m still a huge fan of. It wasn’t until I was a bit older that I really started getting into thrillers/mystery/suspense books.
What age were you when you realised you wanted to become an author?
I’ve always sort of just known that I wanted to be a writer. Ever since I understood what books were and that people got to write them for a living, that’s what I wanted to do.
All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth is out now, published by Penguin, £7.99.
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