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Monday, January 28, 2013

Blog Tour: Hysteria by Megan Miranda

I'm thrilled to be kicking of the Hysteria Blog Tour today with a visit from the author now and a review that will post tomorrow. Author Megan Miranda is here for a quick interview about her heart-pounding sophomore novel Hysteria in which she discusses how the story got its start and the keys to its construction. Hope you all enjoy!

Megan Miranda was a scientist and high school teacher before writing Fracture, which came out of her fascination with scientific mysteries—especially those associated with the brain. Megan has a BS in biology from MIT and spent her post-college years either rocking a lab coat or reading books. She lives near Charlotte, North Carolina, where she volunteers as an MIT Educational Counselor. 
Bio from author's website.

Where to find her... 

Tell us a little about the story seed that grew into Hysteria. Was there one image or line that started it all? If so, what?

I usually start with characters instead of premise. In this case, a girl (who was, at the time, nameless) who killed her boyfriend. I knew the story was going to start after this, and that this girl would be pretty different from the girl who existed before this event. But I didn't really have a sense of story yet. So I gave myself a writing prompt—a first sentence—to help me set the tone of the book and to discover where the story might go. So I guess you could say that first sentence was the seed of Hysteria: "My mother hid the knife block."

But the first sign that this would actually grow into a story didn't happen until I got about 100 pages in to the first draft (and then went back to the beginning). My main character was being haunted by something, and I wasn't entirely clear on what that something was. But then I got sucked in to the idea of haunting, and all the ways that word can be used, and all the things that can haunt… so when I sat down to write the story that became Hysteria, in my mind, it was going to be about "a girl who can’t be charged for murder, and things that can haunt."

In your mind, what is the key to writing a psychological thriller? How's does it play into Hysteria? 

Oh, I’d be curious to see answers from different writers, because I’d imagine we each approach it pretty differently, and I am by no means an expert on the topic. For me, I think there are two types of psychological thrillers: the type where you question what's real (like in Black Swan), and the type where the main character is being challenged, or harassed, in a game of minds… like in Silence of the Lambs.

For me, the key is that the narrator has to question… question what’s really happening, question themselves, question if things are real. This can be either because the narrator is unreliable, or because someone is messing with the main character's head in the context of a thriller. I think the main character and the mechanism of the implied danger are the two key components to creating a psychological thriller.

I definitely kept this in mind when writing Hysteria. I tried to have two different thriller-esque elements. The internal: What is happening to Mallory? And what happened in the past? Is it real? Is she losing her mind? And also, something external: Is someone messing with her? Is someone after her? And if so… why?

Mallory has two tragedies during the course of the novel that she is forced to remember. How did she, in essence, reconstruct the crime scenes?

The interesting thing about the first crime scene, for me, was that Mallory remembered some of it. She remembered enough to reconstruct what some people believed was the truth. This was something I was very interested in while writing the book—the way eye-witnesses remember parts and their minds can fill in the rest. It’s not until she remembers a pivotal moment, which is triggered by a big moment in the story, that she pieces together that key middle section that was missing, and sees the scenes anew with that other element.

As for the latter crime, well… it’s harder for her to reconstruct that one, I think, because she’s not quite an eye witness. She has to rely on observing the actions, and words, of others, and that one is a little more like solving a mystery.

What's the next project you are working on? Describe it in five words.

Fracture sequel. Decker’s story. Cursed.

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