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An Interview with Leah Konen: Author of One White Lie

August 11, 2020

One White Lie is the latest novel by Leah Konen. Lucy King is running away from an abusive relationship. To the outside world it might seem strange. She had a good-looking boyfriend who she adored. But little by little, as Lucy is holed up in Woodstock NY with only her dog and her thoughts for company, the reader learns of the abuse and controlling behaviour she has been put through. Things get seriously complicated when a couple she is staying with, seemingly kind and generous on the surface, reveal they have secrets of their own and Lucy gets drawn into a bizarre scheme to fake a man’s death.

Leah Konen has written an ingeniously-plotted, suspenseful thriller that will have you hooked until the last page. One White Lie was published as All The Broken People in the US. I was fortunate enough to interview Leah Konen about her new novel. The following interview took place by email.

Leah Konen

Interviewer: As this is your debut psychological thriller, how did your prior experience as a journalist and writer of Young Adult fiction inform your approach to the genre?

 
Konen: I believe that writing is writing, so while I have had a more wandering path to get to my first psychological thriller, I do think that my previous work, both as a journalist and as a YA novelist, informed my work for this book. Journalism teaches you the power of observation, as well as the importance of communicating clearly. Particularly when working out characters and writing dialogue, I lean on my skills as a journalist—and it’s also helpful when I know it’s time to “kill my darlings,” if you will. I favour more spare prose, and I think journalism absolutely has influenced that. As for YA, there is no way I could have plotted One White Lie without my knowledge from my previous books. The genre may be different, but so many of the foundations of the writing process are the same.
 
Interviewer: The story of One White Lie brings to mind both classic films (Sleeping with the Enemy), as well as acclaimed novels such as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. But it also has elements which are completely original. What did you want to achieve with the narrative when you set out to write the novel?
 
Konen: When I began One White Lie, I set out to write a modern film noir with a decidedly feminist slant. Women authors like Gillian Flynn, Tana French and Ruth Ware were absolutely inspirations, but I think I drew the most influence from classic films like Strangers on a Train, Dial M for Murder, and quintessential noirs. I’ve always been a Hitchcock fan, and I hoped to create something with a Hitchcockian feel, updated for today.
 
Interviewer: There was some worry at the beginning of lockdown that it might lead to a rise in domestic abuse cases. How did you research this subject? Did you look at case studies and speak to survivors?
 
Konen: I think that’s a huge concern with lockdown, and it is so important that those experiencing domestic abuse have adequate resources to get to safety. In the US, where I live, those resources are woefully lacking. For the book, I did a lot of reading, as well as anecdotal research from people in my networks. What I found was that abuse was very often portrayed a specific way in film, television and novels, but the way it played out was more varied and insidious in real life. I tried to capture the many facets of domestic abuse through Lucy’s story.
 
Interviewer: Lucy’s first-person narration skilfully takes the reader through the novel. Did you imbue the character with much of your personality and have you shared many of Lucy’s struggles?
 
Konen: Lucy, like all my characters, is fictional. I think there’s a tendency to assume first-person characters are a vessel for the author, but I hope we can move away from that assumption. I’ve actually written about this phenomenon for Marie Claire. I think it especially comes up for women writers.
 
Interviewer: What are your writing plans? Has lockdown inspired another novel?
 
Konen: I’ve actually just turned in revisions on my second novel, and I’m also at work on a third. My next novel follows a group of women who embark on a long girls’ weekend, only for one of them to disappear on their first night out. When the friends go to report her missing, they discover that there’s no record of her existence at all, leaving them scrambling to uncover her secrets while protecting their own. I think readers of One White Lie will find a lot to love in this next book.
 
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