Good Girls and Last Lies: Q&A with Author Mary Kubica
July 17, 2017
Kara Kohn, Plainfield Public Library District
An Illinois native living in the southwest suburbs, Mary Kubica took the reading world by storm with the success of her debut novel, The Good Girl, in 2014. In Every Last Lie, her newest psychological thriller released this summer, a woman loses her husband in a car crash that her daughter survived unharmed and she begins to suspect his death wasn’t an accident. With several best sellers under her belt, the ILA Reporter asked Kubica to talk about her writing process and what reading and libraries mean to her.
Q: Tell us about the first story you remember reading (or one that was read to you) and the impact it had on you.
I can’t say that it’s the first—it definitely wasn’t—but it’s one of the first that I remember and one that has stuck with me for a long time. When I was a girl, even when I could read myself, my mother would sometimes read aloud to me before bed.
It was something I always looked forward to. At some point in my elementary school years, she read Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting to me, and I absolutely loved the aura and mystery of the Tuck family, as well as watching the friendship between Winnie Foster and Jesse Tuck build on the page. To this day, it’s one of my favorite books of all time, as it truly instilled a love of reading within me, something that only flourished over time.
Q: Do your characters sometimes hijack the story or do you feel like you’re holding the reins?
They do! I often have an idea of who my characters are when I begin a novel, but at some point in the writing process, a phrase emerges or a character does something that really solidifies for me the person they are and the impact they’re going to have on this book. It’s certainly something unintentional that happens during the process, but for each novel I’ve written, I can honestly say the plot emerges in ways I never would have planned, and I have the characters and their unpredictable nature to thank for this, no doubt!
Q: Do you have any writing rituals?
I’m an early bird. I love getting up at 5:00 A.M. every day to write. It’s absolutely my favorite and most productive time of the day to work, with my first cup of coffee and while my mind has yet to be bogged down with all those thoughts that arrive with daylight.
Q: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
To write like no one will ever see my work. My earlier manuscripts and stories were very inhibited. There was a voice in the back of my mind that constantly wondered what a reader might think of my work—or what my parents, sisters, and friends would think of it—and for this reason, I was more constrained. I held back in my writing, and my work suffered because of it. It was only in letting go of those concerns that I felt my writing had the ability to be more honest and to truly shine.
Q: How do you select the names of your characters?
I try to choose names that feel suitable to the character, which sometimes means that they change during the process. I like to mix traditional names with something a bit more modern, and sometimes rely on a family name or a name that I simply like. In Don’t You Cry, the narrators Alex and Quinn share my own children’s middle names. In Every Last Lie, the character of Maisie shares a name with my great-grandmother.
Q: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Quieting the voices in my head. Writing is a process that can play games with the mind. One day I love my manuscript and the next I hate it. The most difficult part of the process is silencing those doubting voices and putting my all into the manuscript every single day.
Q: Have you written any books that are not published?
I have a number of unfinished manuscripts that predate my debut, The Good Girl, but I have only one completed manuscript that’s not been published. It was written between my second and third novels, Pretty Baby and Don’t You Cry, and quite simply, though it had a premise I loved and was excited to write, it didn’t come across so well on the page. My editor and I made a unanimous decision to set that manuscript aside and focus on a clean slate, and thus, Don’t You Cry was born.
Q: Where is your favorite place to write?
At home. I find that I’m far too easily distracted to write any-where public, and so I do my writing at home. If I’m alone—when the family is off to school and work—I’ll park myself at the kitchen table or the living room sofa to work, but when they’re home, I stay in my office.
Q: What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Pretty Baby. For whatever reason, it didn’t fare as well as my other novels, though it’s one that has always held a special place in my heart. I loved the story and the characters (Willow especially), but for me, it’s the novel that solidified the fact that I can write and that my first novel, The Good Girl, wasn’t only a stroke of luck.
Q: What is something memorable you have heard from one of your readers?
I love hearing from readers. What is the most memorable to me is anytime readers share with me how much they’ve been touched by a character or a story line. Writing is quite a solitary endeavor, and so to see the way that your novel impacts another human being means the world to me.
Q: Is there anything you can share about your next book?
I’m just finishing up my fifth novel, called 11 Days, which is still a work-in-progress, and so I can’t speak to it too much, other than to say it’s a novel about mistaken identity and a young couple’s struggles with infertility. Look for it in the summer of 2018!
Q: Tell us about what libraries mean to you, as an author.
I adore libraries. They offer such a wonderful community feel and are an amazing way for readers and writers to connect. I visit many libraries, both locally in-person and throughout the country via Skype, and have met a great number of librarians and patrons, all of whom have been so supportive of me. I love that libraries offer all people an equal opportunity to read, and access to those things that they love to read.
Readers’ Advisory Note: With a Chicago setting in most of her novels, Kubica’s books are a sure bet for readers of The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Girl on The Train who are clamoring for more. To book Kubica for a book discussion or author visit, she can be reached through her website at http://marykubica.com.