Putting the YA in FRIYAY: Karen McManus on writing and TWO CAN KEEP A SECRET!

Nobody writes YA thrillers like Karen McManus.  One of Us is Lying was a runaway smash hit—think The Breakfast Club with a deadly twist—and her latest novel Two Can Keep a Secret is just as fun, with shocking reveals and twists that will keep you reading late into the night. Find out about Karen’s writing process and which character she relates to the most below!

Describe TWO CAN KEEP A SECRET in 5 words.

Homecoming turns deadly once again.

Which of your characters from your latest novel is most like you?

Ellery’s twin brother, Ezra. He’s the observer of the story, along for the ride as Ellery starts poking around in their mother’s past and the mysteries of Echo Ridge. Ezra’s running commentary is pretty much exactly what I’d say in the same situation. Also, we like the same music 🙂

Recommend a book for Ellery.  

Ellery is a true crime buff, so she’d love something like The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas. The main character in that book was a key witness in the years-old prosecution of a serial killer, but now that she’s older she’s starting to question whether her memories are real.

There are so many twists in this story. How do you keep track of them while writing?

I would love to tell you that I have an extremely clever system, but I use a basic Excel spreadsheet as a chapter guide. I sketch out key beats for plot and characters, and then write in 3-4 chapter bursts. I do a lot of revising of those chapters before I move on, making sure I’m satisfied with how the story is progressing. Then I go back through the larger outline to see if what I’ve written requires any changes to the structure as a whole.

What is the best piece of writing advice you have ever received?

I wish I could remember who said this, because I’d credit them if I did: that characters should be doing something in the last chapter that would have seemed impossible in the first. I love that, because it’s the perfect litmus test as to whether your characters have undertaken enough of a journey to grow and change.

In the Toronto area? Meet Karen McManus at Indigo Yorkdale on Thursday, February 28th at 7pm. Details here!

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  1. Pingback: Putting the YA in FRIYAY: Indigo’s Best Books for Teens | Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers

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