Please welcome Margaux Froley to the blog! Her brand new thriller, Escape Theory, is out today from SOHO Teen, and she was kind enough to chat with me about the book, her writing, and more!
*Also, courtesy of the kind folks at SOHO, we’ve got a copy of Escape Theory up for grabs, so be sure to check out the giveaway details at the bottom of the post!
Margaux, you’ve enjoyed a career in film and television. What made you decide to take the plunge and write a novel? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer; it was always something I could rely on harness some of the random stuff that floats through my head. Living in Los Angeles, film and television writing are the most prevalent writing jobs, if you can get them; but I’ve always had my eye on fiction as well, specifically YA. In 2010 I was plotting a move to New York just as a change of scenery when I met a friend, and fellow novelist, Jennifer Niven. I went to a signing of one of Jennifer’s books and that’s when the thought really stuck in my head “I want a book with my name on it too.” That was when I put the screenwriting down for a few months and started really learning how to write fiction.
Will you tell us a bit about Escape Theory?
Escape Theory is a mystery thriller set in a California boarding school. The biggest hook about the book is that it is told from the point of view of Devon Mackintosh, who is the school’s peer counselor. It is through her therapy sessions with other students that she unravels the mystery of a fellow student’s suicide. Plus, Devon and the student who killed himself, Hutch, have a romantic history that is revealed in flashbacks throughout the book.
As a boarding school grad, yourself, I imagine you were able to mine the experience in order to write Escape Theory! Did you have to do any special research for the novel?
I had to learn to become a peer counselor, basically, which was pretty research intensive. I also visited boarding schools beyond the one I went to just to make sure I was covering all my bases and really representing California boarding schools, which have a different culture than East Coast boarding schools.Why mystery/suspense? What do you love most about the genre?
There’s nothing like good secrets and a good mystery to keep readers turning the pages. I don’t consider myself too much of a mystery buff, but I find that good drama always has some sense of a mystery…secrets to be revealed and how far people will go to keep their secrets covered. I think after this book, and studying the mystery/thriller genre much more, I’ve become even more of a fan of a well-written mystery. Also, I would argue that in most mystery books, discovering the answer to the mystery implies that characters have to be stripped away at. Bit by bit we get to see deeper and deeper elements of their personalities, and as a writer, that is such fun fodder to play with.
What are a few of your favorite authors or novels? Is there a particular author or book that has impacted you more than others?
A Secret History by Donna Tarte, Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, and I just finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, all were such riveting character dramas, disguised as mysteries. Also, I’m a big fan of Stephen King. That man is so prolific, always entertaining, and with such an enviable sense of human darkness…it’s kind of amazing. Same with Gillian Flynn, I find that her characters are so rich and honest, yet unabashedly dark, it’s humbling.
Early influencers were kind of clichés, but hey, when I was growing up there wasn’t that much YA around. J.D Salinger, Raymond Carver, Raymond Chandler, Ray Bradbury, James Cain, Roald Dahl. I loved their lean prose, unaffected characters, and mind-bending stories. These were the books that got me addicted to reading in maybe 7th/8th grade, which I think was when I really got on the path to becoming a writer.
What book(s) are you reading now?
I’m on a Gillian Flynn marathon and trying to read her first two books this month. I find that when I like a book I want to read everything I can get my hands on from that author. Plus, I’ve been reading a lot about the 1940s and the building of the atomic bomb as research for the second Keaton Novel (trust me, it relates to the current book ultimately;)..I’m starting Los Alamos by Joseph Kanon, which I’m very excited about.
What’s something that you look for in a good book?
My biggest pet peeve about fiction is pacing. Coming from writing screenplays, we are always aware that time is money. Usually, a lot of money. You can’t afford to have scenes that go nowhere, or character moments that don’t add to your story. While I like the depth and breathing room that fiction allows, I get annoyed when books spend too long in slow-moving description that doesn’t add to the story. I want a book that’s the equivalent of an adventure.
Is there anything that will make you put a book aside, unfinished?
Meandering story that doesn’t pay off. Meander all you want…it just has to lead to something relevant eventually.
Oh, and writers who insist on using big words when simple ones would suffice. The story doesn’t get better because the writer is more fluent with three syllable words.
When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
I have been enjoying my recent move back to Los Angeles, so anything involving the sunshine. I’m a big fan of hiking in the Hollywood Hills. I’ve also gotten semi-dorky about food lately and love shopping at Farmers Markets and trying new healthy recipes. I’m pretty low-key in my non-writing life because I find that the calmer the outside world is, the richer the inside world in my head can get. Oh, and my boyfriend and I are re-watching all of The Wire, because it’s only the best television show…ever.
Is there any news of upcoming events or projects that you’d like to share with us (or anything at all!)?
I’m knee-deep into writing the second book of the Keaton School series…it’s been fun to hang out with Devon and Cleo and the Keaton gang some more, but also engineering flashbacks to the 1940s and the founding of the Keaton School. I’m also back in Los Angeles, so in keeping with those stereotypes, I’m adapting the first book into a TV pilot script, working on another television script, and going out for television writing jobs. And I’m trying to design my rooftop deck into a super cool garden/hang-out space, so always open for ideas if you guys have any.
Keep up with Margaux: Website | Twitter
Read an excerpt of ESCAPE THEORY
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of ESCAPE THEORY by Margaux Froley to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US addresses only
4. You must enter on or before 3/20/13
5. Giveaway books courtesy of SOHO
6. Please see my Giveaway Policy.
About ESCAPE THEORY:
Sixteen-year-old Devon Mackintosh has always felt like an outsider at Keaton, the prestigious California boarding school perched above the Pacific. As long as she’s not fitting in, Devon figures she might as well pad her application to Stanford’s psych program. So junior year, she decides to become a peer counselor, a de facto therapist for students in crisis. At first, it seems like it will be an easy fly-on-the-wall gig, but her expectations are turned upside down when Jason Hutchins (a.k.a. “Hutch”), one of the Keaton’s most popular students, commits suicide.
Devon dives into her new role providing support for Hutch’s friends, but she’s haunted by her own attachment to him. The two shared an extraordinary night during their first week freshman year; it was the only time at Keaton when she felt like someone else really understood her. As the secrets and confessions pile up in her sessions, Devon comes to a startling conclusion: Hutch couldn’t have taken his own life. Bound by her oath of confidentiality—and tortured by her unrequited love—Devon embarks on a solitary mission to get to the bottom of Hutch’s death, and the stakes are higher than she ever could have imagined.