Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Sixteen-year-old con artist Jo Chastain is about to take on the biggest heist of her life: impersonating a missing girl. Life on the streets of Boston these past few years hasn’t been easy, and Jo is hoping to cash in on a little safety, a little security. She finds her opportunity in the Lovecrafts, a wealthy family with ties to the unsolved disappearance of Vivienne Weir, who vanished when she was nine.
When Jo takes on Vivi’s identity and stages the girl’s miraculous return, the Lovecrafts welcome her back with open arms. They give her everything she could want: love, money, and proximity to their intoxicating and unpredictable daughter, Temple. But nothing is as it seems in the Lovecraft household—and some secrets refuse to stay buried. As hidden crimes come to the surface, and lines of deception begin to blur, Jo must choose to either hold onto an illusion of safety, or escape the danger around her before it’s too late.
I was born and raised in Massachusetts, on the South Shore, which sounds beachy, even luxe. Think Winnebagos and chicken coops. My three brothers, 16, 10, and 8 years older, were teens by the time I became a person. Happiest around adults, who often forgot I was there, I spent days eavesdropping on gossipy moms in lawn chairs and nights listening under the table during tipsy Scrabble parties.
My dad read to me nightly. Eventually and early, I read to myself, everywhere. On top of an enormous freezer chest stuffed with meat. On drives until I grew nauseous. In bed until my eyes gave out. I read anything I could get my hands on. V.C. Andrews and Dickens. Black Beauty and the Bible. The Economist. Madeline L’Engle and Margaret Atwood. National Geographic.
I got a bachelor’s degree in English from Stonehill College and a Master’s in Journalism from Northeastern University. For a while, I worked as a business journalist. Instead of waiting for the Federal Reserve to release the Beige Book, I pitched story ideas along the lines of “Stigmatized Properties: When Murder Kills Property Values”. You see where things were headed.
Today, I live with my family northwest of Boston in a town a lot like Shiverton, near the real Fells reservation of AFTER THE WOODS. Born with dysgeographica—I’m directionally challenged—the fear of getting lost in that lovely, dark forest lives close to my skin.
1. What is on your nightstand? I’m reading an ARC of Burro Hills by debut novelist Julia Lynn Rubin, about a boy who is hiding his sexuality while trying to survive in a seriously rough California town. It’s gritty, real, and has a strong sense of place. I just finished Sunburn by Laura Lippman and Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. Could they be more different?
2. What author would you totally fan? Megan Abbot. Her work has provided her with this lovely cross-over niche that I envy. She is good stuff.
3. What makes you cringe? In YA, gratuitous swearing, lazy dialogue, and imprecise voice. Swearing that isn’t inherent to the character or tone just pulls me right out of the story. No kids talks or thinks like they walked out of an Aaron Sorkin pilot, but that doesn’t mean you don’t take care to get those exchanges exactly right. Bad dialogue and bland inner-voice make me sad.
4. Do you obsessively plot out each point or just go with the flow? I scramble to write a broad strokes-outline, then tweak as logic and inspiration dictate. I cannot spend long on plotting; I get too ancy to write. Right now, I’m writing a contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s Richard III, and it requires the most intricate plotting work I’ve ever done, because every tiny detail hinges on another. It’s been an awesome exercise in patience, and so, so fun!
5. Is there a word you love to use? My editor, Janine O’Malley, would tell you “just.” I would tell you I’m super fond of bowels, as in bowels dropping, bowels churning. Just, bowels.
1 winner will receive a finished copy of IN HER SKIN and BEAUTIFUL BROKEN GIRLS, US Only.