Today, Hartford Books Examiner welcomes Jennifer McMahon.
The New York Times bestselling author of the newly released suspense novel The One I Left Behind (William Morrow Paperbacks, $14.99), McMahon will appear at both R.J. Julia (Madison) and Bank Square Books (Mystic) this week. (See event details below.) Her previous titles are Don’t Breathe a Word, Dismantled, Island of Lost Girls, and Promise Not to Tell. McMahon grew up in suburban Connecticut and later graduated from Goddard College. In addition to writer, her eclectic jobs have included house painter, farm worker, paste-up artist, pizza delivery person, and homeless-shelter staff member; she has also worked with mentally ill children and adults in various capacities. McMahon makes her home in Vermont with her partner and their daughter.
The One I Left Behind was published earlier this month, and has been met with much critical acclaim. Megan Abbott, bestselling author of Dare Me, praised, “Haunting and harrowing, The One I Left Behind offers enthralling suspense but also so much more: a richly poignant tale of the families we’re born into and the ones we build ourselves.” Further, the book received starred reviews from both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly; the former noted, “McMahon scores a solid touchdown in this creepy but engrossing thriller…Readers will find themselves unable to turn the pages fast enough…” while the latter heralded the book as, “[A] haunting work of literary suspense…Grippingly plotted, this intricate, character-driven story seamlessly shifts time.”
From the publisher:
The summer of 1985 changes Reggie’s life. An awkward thirteen-year-old, she finds herself mixed up with the school outcasts. That same summer, a serial killer called Neptune begins kidnapping women. He leaves their severed hands on the police department steps and, five days later, displays their bodies around town. Just when Reggie needs her mother, Vera, the most, Vera’s hand is found on the steps. But after five days, there’s no body and Neptune disappears.
Now, twenty-five years later, Reggie is a successful architect who has left her hometown and the horrific memories of that summer behind. But when she gets a call revealing that her mother has been found alive, Reggie must confront the ghosts of her past and find Neptune before he kills again.
Now, Jennifer McMahon shares a few pages from the book of her life…
1) As a child, did you wear your literary lust loud and proud or were you a closet bibliophile?
In all honesty, I didn't love reading when I was a kid. I'd rather be running around in the woods, or doing my best to scare the pants off all the children in the neighborhood by pretending my house was haunted or making them play Bloody Mary in the bathroom.
2) What book(s) were you likely to be caught keeping company with under the covers?
I liked to steal my mother's scary books. A favorite was Amityville Horror. I kept it hidden under my bed and it terrified me. My grandmother was a psychiatrist and had shelves full of medical books -- I was constantly sneaking looks at some of those. I was fascinated by the descriptions of illnesses and diseases. Also, I couldn't stay away from all the really gross pictures of different diseases, particularly if the diseases occurred on an embarrassing part of the body.
3) What are you reading currently & what is your initial impression?
I'm reading a galley of a book coming out in April. It's called RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA by Kimberly McCreight. I'm really loving it. It's about a woman whose teenage daughter has just died after falling to her death from the roof of her exclusive private school. Her mother tries to piece together the final days of Amelia's life by looking through her emails and texts, and soon discovers that her daughter was keeping some pretty dark secrets. McCreight does an amazing job at capturing the complexities and angst of teenage girls.
4) What one book do you always recommend when asked?
Anything by Shirley Jackson. I'm always kind of surprised by the number of people I meet who aren't familiar with her work.
5) Which of your own books would you suggest to readers & why?
This is such a hard question! Honestly, I usually recommend my most recent book (in this case, THE ONE I LEFT BEHIND) because I always feel like the most recent is the best. People often ask if my books should be read in any particular order, but they're all stand alone novels, so picking up any one of them would be fine.
6) Is there a book or author that readers would be surprised to know you’ve read and liked?
Maybe Ernest Hemingway? His writing feels very masculine to me and I've never been thrilled with his portrayal of women, but I enjoy the spare, understated style he wrote with. It feels almost simplistic, but there's so much going on under the surface.
7) Who is the one author that would, or did, make you weak in the knees upon meeting?
Honestly, I feel pretty awed anytime I meet just about any writer. I get how hard it is to write and make a living from it, but there's also this almost magical force you need to tap into, and I'm amazed by anyone who can do it.
8) Has there been an “I’ve made it” moment in your career?
You know, I was going to say being on the New York Times bestseller list, but the other night I had a book release party here in Vermont, and I looked out across this room packed with friends, family and fans who were all there to help me celebrate and that topped hitting any bestseller list.
9) What is your greatest literary ambition?
To still be writing very creepy books when I am an old woman.
10) Fill in the blank: Hartford Books Examiner is _____.
…an intelligent and entertaining forum for connecting readers with great books and the people who write them.
With thanks to Jennifer McMahon for her generous contribution of time and thought.
Ms. McMahon will appear at R.J. Julia on Thursday evening, January 24, at 7:00 pm. This event is free; reservations can be made online or by calling the store at 203-245-3959. R.J. Julia is located at 769 Boston Post Rd. in Madison.
The author will also appear at a special luncheon event at Bank Square Books on Friday, January 25, at 12 pm. Purchase of the book ($15.00) is the ticket for a simple luncheon, dessert, and a choice of wine or seltzer. Reservations can be made online or by calling the store at 860-536-3795. BSB is located at 53 W Main St. in Mystic.