Interview with Kaitlin Ward, Author of Lie to Me
For fans of Netflix’s You and the recently renowned YA series One of Us Is Lying, Lie to Me is a complex, thrilling, and absorbing read that is certain to impress teens looking for a novel to keep them up late at night, searching for the answers to Amelia’s story. Kaitlin Ward was kind enough to share some of her insights into the publishing world, some advice to young writers, and intimate details about Lie to Me and what fans can expect.
What first inspired you to tell Amelia’s story in Lie to Me?
I wrote the first version of this story quite a long time ago — about a decade now, I think. It wasn’t the same story then, and Amelia has become a more complex and interesting character in this iteration. I like writing stories about girls who are plucked out of everyday life and who show that you can be extraordinary no matter who you are. Amelia wants to be an entomologist, not a detective or anything like that, but she’s a very determined person, and she is willing to do whatever feasible to keep herself alive. I think that kind of thing is really brave, and that’s the kind of story I wanted to tell.
How would you describe the writing experience for this novel compared to that of your previous work?
The writing experience for Lie to Me was pretty wild. The deadlines were shorter than I’ve ever had before, and that created unique challenges because it meant I had to be more disciplined than ever before about my writing time. In some ways, though, the process gets easier with each book. I’m more confident now that I know what I’m doing, and it means I need less time convincing myself I’m doing a good job. Lie to Me also didn’t require a ton of world building research. I read a lot about serial killers (as one does), but I used a setting that’s very familiar to me and gave Amelia an interest I know a lot about; and this meant I didn’t have to spend a lot of time on the research portion, which was another thing that made this book easier to write on a short deadline.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? What does the writing process look like for you?
I am a little bit of both, I guess. I used to be 1,000% a plotter, but now I usually have a basic outline or synopsis, and then I let the book take me where it will. Each book is its own unique process, but one thing I’ve learned that’s held true across all my books is that no matter how great my plan is, something will come up when I’m writing that completely derails the rest of my outline, and I’ll have to abandon it. So now I embrace that! I also have learned to recognize that I’m at my best when I’m revising, so when drafting I really focus on just getting something there. Editing is easy enough once you have words on the page.
What does an average day in your life look like? Are there any spaces that you find help you concentrate and write?
On an average day, I go to work at my day job (which I love) until 5:00, then I’m home in the evenings except when I have some kind of commitment. To me, one of the best things about living in a small town is that it’s easy to get involved, and because of that I’m on my town’s school board and do a few other things here and there. I will be happy to have some time back in my schedule when my term ends, but I’m very glad to have done it. I am also mom to an eleven-year-old boy, so this time of year there’s skiing and/or basketball just about every evening. There are days when I just don’t have time for writing (because letting my brain rest sometimes is extremely important!), but I try to make time for it most evenings. I like to tell myself that if I get some writing done just about every night, whether it’s a paragraph or a page or a couple thousand words, that’s progress. If I wait till a day when I have a solid, quiet block of time for writing, I may never find it.
What authors/books have had the greatest influence on your writing? Why?
Although my writing style is very different than any of these, my biggest writing influences were probably The Giver by Lois Lowry, Shade’s Children by Garth Nix, and the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. They were all things I read when I was in the middle school, and they have all stuck with me since. Although fanfic wasn’t a thing then – or at least, it wasn’t a thing I had heard of – a lot of my writing around that age was definitely what would now be called fanfic of one or more of those books. While I would never want anyone to see that writing now (embarrassing!), I think it was a hugely important developmental step for me.
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? What steps did you take to being the author you are today?
I wanted to be a writer for as long as I had a concept of what careers were, I think, but it was a long time before it became something I viewed as an actual career option. Probably the most important step I took was when I joined a forum for writing Sims 2 stories. I loved The Sims, and I loved writing, so when I discovered that you could take pictures of your sims, caption them, and upload them as stories, I had to be part of this. It was a friend, not me, who first thought about taking the next logical step, and we both joined the forum Absolute Write (which I am no longer active on but recommend to any aspiring author!). From there, it was a long road, but once I committed to the idea of being a published author, there was nothing that was going to make me stop trying.
If you could describe Lie to Me in three words, which would you choose?
Small town murder!
What can readers expect from Lie to Me?
Well, you can definitely expect a serial killer! But it’s also a story about being a teenager in a small town and trying to navigate your friendships and family and how to react when a world that felt extremely safe suddenly doesn’t feel safe anymore (something I think we can all relate to these days). There’s also insects and Halloween parties and a main character torn between feelings she has for a boy who’s her brother’s sworn enemy and a girl whose friendship she’s afraid to lose if things don’t go as she hopes.
Are you currently working on another novel? If so, what details (if any) can you share with readers?
I am definitely working on another novel, and I wish I could say more about that, but for now, I can’t!
Finally, what advice do you have for aspiring young writers?
My favorite piece of advice to give is: Don’t give up. There are a lot of things that go into becoming a published author. Talent and timing are both huge, of course, and a willingness to learn and grow and accept feedback and grow a thick skin. But above all else, you have to be willing to keep trying, even when it feels really difficult. Persistence is how books get written, and it’s how they get from rough drafts to finished products on bookshelves.