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Interview: Karen M McManus, Author, Nothing More to Tell – “I write with my teen readers in mind”

What inspired you to write for young adults?

I loved creative writing as a child and teenager but never thought that I could pursue it as a career. I hadn’t thought about writing in years until I decided to buy a book for a cross-country flight and picked up The Hunger Games at the airport bookstore. I devoured that book and was inspired to try writing again. I didn’t know a lot about the Young Adult genre at the time, but I began reading more and was deeply impressed with the depth, diversity, and dynamic nature of YA books. There’s something very special about capturing that moment in life when you are figuring out yourself and your place in the world.

368pp, ₹399; Penguin India

Do you agree that teen mystery dramas aren’t necessarily consumed by teens only? They find an audience in adults too.

I write with my teen readers in mind, but I’m always happy when my books find a wide audience. Many adults enjoy the pace and the emotional depth of young adult stories and appreciate revisiting a formative period of their lives. My sixth book, Nothing More to Tell, was just released, and I recently heard from a teen reader who told me that she, her mother, and her grandmother all read the book at the same time. I thought that was amazing.

Tell us about the process of turning One of Us Is Lying into a TV series.

It was surreal! The whole process, from having initial conversations with producers to the show appearing on screen, took about four-and-a-half years. The pilot was green lit back in 2019 and shot at the end of that year — and then, of course, the world changed in 2020 with the pandemic. So we had to wait a while to learn whether or not the show would air. Ultimately, it made it on-screen in the fall of 2021.

What do you hope the TV series will bring to the audience that’s different from the book?

TV and print are very different mediums, so there are always changes from page to screen. I hope my readers enjoy seeing a story they love unfold in a new way.

Both, your book and the show, are bingeable. What do you feel about binge-worthy content in books and on screen?

Personally, I love getting so invested in a story that I can’t rest until I know how it ends. Content like that tends to stay with me, and I’ll often revisit it at a more leisurely pace later.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

I usually start with a “hook” – a concept that interests me – then move on to characters, and then outline the plot in more detail. For example, with Nothing More To Tell, I wanted to tell the story of a teen investigating a murder involving her ex-best friend. I didn’t know exactly what that story should look like, but I knew it needed to hinge on the relationship between these two characters, so I spent a lot of time on them.

Any favourites in the classic YA genre?

I adored both Little Women and Catcher in the Rye. I also loved Lord of the Flies and A Wrinkle in Time.

What kind of reader were you as a teen? What were your favourite books / authors?

I was a voracious reader and read everything that I could get my hands on. Some of my favourite authors included Lois Duncan, SE Hinton, Agatha Christie, Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, and CS Lewis.

“TV and print are very different mediums, so there are always changes from page to screen. I hope my readers enjoy seeing a story they love unfold in a new way.” - Karen M McManus
“TV and print are very different mediums, so there are always changes from page to screen. I hope my readers enjoy seeing a story they love unfold in a new way.” – Karen M McManus

You wrote your first YA novel in 2017. Your contemporaries (John Green, Rainbow Rowell etc.) were already popular names in this genre by then. Did you at any point feel like this genre would not work?

No, I didn’t really worry about that. I just wrote the book I would have loved to read as a teen.

Have you ever thought of writing anything else besides YA mystery?

I love writing YA mystery, but I think I’d also enjoy writing mysteries for adults; or perhaps a straight contemporary story.

Do you think YA fiction will always be relevant?

Absolutely. It’s an exciting, ever-changing segment of the publishing industry. I think demand will always be high for young adult literature, and new classics and new authors are constantly emerging.

Arunima Mazumdar is an independent writer. She is @sermoninstone on Twitter and @sermonsinstone on Instagram.

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