Davidson-based author Megan Miranda, one of Verse & Vino 2020’s featured authors, offers a glimpse into her surprising writing process.
by Michelle Boudin
Megan Miranda knows how to spin a good tale. But the New York Times bestselling author who pens keep-you-up-at-night psychological thrillers says she doesn’t actually know how her books will end when she first sits down to write. Instead of mapping out the mystery before putting pen to paper, she lets the characters guide the story.
“I don’t do a lot of plotting up front,” Miranda says. “For me, my first drafts are figuring out who my characters are and discovering what their relationships are like and what their backstories are. I feel like the mystery develops hand in hand with that. I think if I knew the end from the start, it would be too obvious.”
The 39-year old mother of two is one of five featured authors at Verse & Vino, the blockbuster annual fundraiser for Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation. This year’s event will be presented virtually on November 5.
Miranda admits her creative strategy can make for a complicated and sometimes lengthy writing process.
“I don’t know if it’s an ideal process — it requires a lot of rewriting when I do figure things out — but I don’t really see a whole story up front. I may see a halfway point.”
Miranda moved to Huntersville from Boston with her husband in 2004 and recently relocated to Davidson. Her adopted home state often plays a role in her novels, including her latest, The Girl from Widow Hills.
“I’m really drawn to small-town settings, but I always make up the town because I don’t want to take someone’s lovely small town and then turn it creepy — which is inevitably what happens in a thriller.”
The Girl from Widow Hills is about a woman trying to escape her childhood, when she was the center of a news story that captured the nation’s attention. Miranda says she got the idea after a story from her own childhood resurfaced.
“I had been listening to the news and they said, ‘Baby Jessica is getting married.’ I thought, I haven’t heard that name in years — and yet I could remember the story just from that name. Then the Thai cave rescue [of 12 youth soccer players and their coach in 2018] happened, and I was so invested in that story, too.” Both of those real-life events served as inspiration for her book.
It’s the fourth adult novel for Miranda, who got her start writing young-adult thrillers, and her first new book since Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book club picked her novel The Last House Guest as a book of the month.
“[Witherspoon] has such a big platform, and it really increased the visibility of the book — and then, people who discovered that book are going back and reading [my] other books.”
After that exposure, Miranda says a lot of book clubs chose the book for their own monthly reads, and that meant she got to chat with a lot of them — something she is doing more frequently since the pandemic put an end to her planned book tour. Main Street Books in Davidson hosted her virtual launch party and has been a great partner, she says. Having them in the neighborhood means she can easily pop over to sign some books and do a little shopping of her own.
While she may be a master at suspense, Miranda is not always a fan of similar genres.
“I cannot watch scary movies or TV shows in general. I’m always drawn to thrillers and suspense. I think maybe I’m drawn to them because as a character, you make it through to the other side, but I cannot watch a scary movie unless someone has told me the entire plot. Things get in your head and can keep you up at night.”
She’s writing another thriller right now, but she doesn’t want to divulge too much about the subject just yet.
“Based on my process, things can change,” the author says. “But I can tell you it’s another adult psychological suspense novel and it relates to a lot of the themes I’m drawn to that have been in previous books. It centers again on a very tender dynamic between two women.”
True to form, she’s keeping us in suspense — at least until next year. SP