Leah Konen Switched Gears to Write a Thrilling New Novel
Q&A with the author of 'All the Broken People'
|Jul 14, 2020|
Leah Konen made her start writing young adult novels. But she found herself gravitating toward a different kind of story.
That’s why Konen wrote All the Broken People, a domestic thriller that came out on June 30. It’s Konen’s first adult novel and it’s racking up rave reviews.
“Even the biggest thriller fan will struggle to guess the ending of this twisty, gorgeously written debut,” Rolling Stone magazine wrote. The Kirkus review said, “Konen proves herself a master of weaving webs that slowly contract, strangling characters in the threads.” And Marie Claire included All the Broken People on its most-anticipated books of 2020 list.
Konen talks in the interview below about going from a small town to New York City, switching from young adult to writing a thriller, and more.
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Q & A with Leah Konen
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in Quincy, Wash., a very small farming town with two stoplights. There was an alfalfa field behind my house and a cornfield down the street. I was surrounded by cousins and relatives, and it was a lovely place to grow up, but I’m a city girl at heart and consider the Northeast my home now.
I live in upstate New York now with my husband, our seven-month-old daughter, and our seven-year-old dog. (They are both VERY cute). When I’m not writing, I’m hiking in the gorgeous trails of the Catskills, running around our rural area, or working on an overly ambitious house project. I just refinished our deck which may have been more work than writing a novel.
When did you move to New York? And what was your plan?
I moved to NYC straight out of college. I wanted to work in magazines, and that was where the jobs were, but I soon took a novel-writing class, and I decided that’s what I really wanted to do.
Honestly, my only plan was to try and get a job and see if I could make it. I moved into a three-month sublet with a friend from college with five-thousand dollars in my savings account from working three jobs that summer. And I’m still here, thirteen years later! Well, I’m mostly still here. See my answers about COVID!
Were you in Brooklyn during the pandemic, or upstate?
We were very lucky to be upstate during the pandemic. We were already up here during our family leave for the birth of our daughter, and just when we were gearing up to go back to our “normal lives” in Brooklyn is when the pandemic hit.
We’ve been very fortunate through the pandemic because we have this small home in a rural area that was not hit very hard, but we did have to let go of our Brooklyn apartment. For the first time in ages, we no longer have a city address, but we’ll be back eventually.
Let’s talk about your new book, All the Broken People. This is your first non-young adult novel, correct?
Yes, All the Broken People is my first book for adults. When I was writing YA, I loved being able to speak directly to teens, some of the most engaging, whip-smart, and passionate readers you’ll find anywhere. I continue to be delighted and inspired by the amazing readers that discover my young adult books.
That said, I found myself being drawn more and more to the world of suspense—and how it plays out in uniquely adult situations. I was devouring every thriller I could get my hands on and binge-watching horror movies, desperate for stories that could explore relationships and feminist issues against the backdrop of a twisty, edge-of-your-seat plot. I grew up fascinated with these sorts of stories—my mother and I would scour Blockbuster Video for every Hitchcock movie we could find—and I began to feel strongly that I wanted to write my own.
Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” All the Broken People was that book for me. It had been simmering for some time, and it felt like the culmination of a lifetime of devouring these types of stories. Even though it meant a career shift for me, and even though it was a scary leap, I knew it was the book I just had to write.
How did writing this book differ from your previous novels?
To me, the main difference between YA and adult is one of voice, and each of my characters has their own voice, so to find that for Lucy in ALL THE BROKEN PEOPLE, I followed mostly the same process—a mix of writing, plotting, and letting all my ideas simmer as I got to know my main character.
However, the process of writing a coming-of-age or romance novel is very different than the process of writing a mystery. I’m a planner and a plotter, so with five books under my belt, I thought I knew how to lay it all out and hit the beats I needed, but in reality, I had to learn the process all over again. You can ask my fantastic agent, Elisabeth, just how much I had to learn. (And how many drafts it took me to do it!) Then again, maybe you shouldn’t!
What, if any of your book launch plans have been altered by the pandemic?
I was all set to go on a tour to some of my favorite places, including North Carolina, but unfortunately, that wasn’t able to happen. But I really enjoyed my week of virtual events and all the awesome readers who came out to them—and booksellers who made them happen!
If you want to see my “virtual book launch,” it’s up on Murder by the Book’s Facebook page.
Who are some of your favorite writers?
I’m a huge reader, so I have more favorites than I can possibly list here, but I’m especially into character-driven thrillers featuring strong and powerful women characters. Liane Moriarty, Ruth Ware, Gillian Flynn, and Tana French can pretty much do no wrong in my book.
What are some of the best books you’ve read lately?
My favorite book in the last year or so is probably The Need by Helen Phillips. It’s heartbreaking, heart-pounding, and just absolutely incredible, and it explores motherhood in such a fresh, unusual way.
Lastly, anything else you'd like Bidwell Hollow followers to know about you or your work?
Just that I put my heart and soul into this book and I am so very grateful to every single reader. You all are the ones who allow us to do what we love every day!
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