NEXT APPEARANCE: Wednesday, May 25th, 7 p.m., Private Book Group, Centerbrook, CT
Click here to read Writer Story’s interview with me.
Click here to read Serious Reading’s interview with me.
Click here to read Fresh Fiction’s review of NOWHERE GIRL
NOWHERE GIRL is #4 on Popsugar’s List of the 26 books you should read this spring.
NOWHERE GIRL is one of March’s BEST BETS in Women’s Fiction. Click here to read:
Click here to read HARTFORD BOOKS EXAMINER’s REVIEW OF NOWHERE GIRL
KIRKUS REVIEW of NOWHERE GIRL
Sixteen years after her twin sister, Savannah, was found dead in a derelict house on the edge of town, a bestselling thriller writer begins to uncover what really happened.
In Strecker’s (Night Blindness, 2014) latest, Cady Martino is at a crossroads:
her marriage is on the rocks, endangered by lack of communication and problems with infertility, and the sudden rekindling of a high school crush has Cady questioning what she’s willing to risk to find happiness. She has a core group of friends, including her best friend since forever, Gabby, and her brother, David, but her husband’s fascination with her wealth and her own weight issues continue to prey on her self-esteem. Most of all, however, she has never come to terms with her grief for Savannah. When she gains access to interview a convicted serial killer as research for her current book and, at the same time, the local police decide to reopen her sister’s case, Cady begins to discover things about Savannah’s life and death that lead her closer to the truth… The novel offers a very appealing protagonist in Cady. She’s plucky without being annoying, self-aware without being maudlin, and fiercely loyal without being blind. Her group of friends has an enviable bond, and the mystery focuses on personalities and relationships as much as it aims to reveal “whodunit.” In the end, this is a novel about great loss and refusal to surrender to the pain of this loss, showing instead how one can learn to live with it and, ultimately, find forgiveness and love as a survivor.
“I just finished Susan Strecker’s new book, Nowhere Girl. I really liked her debut, Night Blindness, and having a great second book solidifies that you’ve got a real talent on your hands! Strecker has a way of making her characters seem like the people next door. Their trials and tribulations feel real and relatable, and meeting them in a mystery keeps you rooting for them every page of the way. I read Nowhere Girl in one big gulp. I hope she keeps them coming!”
-Jill Miner, Saturn Booksellers
“Cady and Savannah are twins and twins have a relationship that the rest of us will never really understand. They are in high school and the day that Savannah is late and makes Cady miss the bus, Cady knows immediately that something horrific has happened but no one will believe her until Savannah’s body is found. For years, Cady, an author, hears Savannah’s voice in her head and in her dreams, and it happens so often and intensely that Cady is consumed by it. Her marriage is falling apart, she is falling apart, her writing is dark and she is a very unhappy person. Cady wants to understand the mind of serial killers and interviews a killer in prison. When the police reopen the cold case of the murder, Cady is right there, trying to help. As we learn more and more about Savannah and what was going on in her life at that time, the pieces start to come together. Except….. just when you think you know who the killer is, it goes off in another direction and you are wrong. [The] ending is a huge surprise. Excellent resolution and as all the puzzling pieces fall into place, you can feel Cady’s relief and sense of freedom from something that has tortured her for sixteen years. Cady can now get on with her life, her writing, and maybe even find some happiness. Mystery lovers will love this one.”
-Susan Wasson, BookWorks
ESSEX NOVELIST SUSAN STRECKER CELEBRATES HER SECOND BOOK, ‘NOWHERE GIRL’
Give Essex author Susan Strecker credit for a couple of things — besides, that is, her infectiously readable novels. One, she really likes music. And, second, she has faith that, literally speaking, things will somehow always work out.
These would seem to be mostly distinct convictions but, on one fated afternoon, as Strecker was driving down the road with tunes blasting, a Red Hot Chili Peppers song called “Scar Tissue” came on.
“Music is everything to me,” Strecker says. “I mean, I have horses named after songs. And the Chili Peppers tune played and I just said, ‘I’m gonna write a book called ‘Scar Tissue.’ I had no characters or beginning or ending. But, ask me if that’s a brilliant title and I’ll tell you it is. There are so many interpretations of ‘scar tissue.’ So I just asked myself, ‘What could this story be?’ I WILL write this book.’”
Strecker, indeed, came up with a tremendous plot and a winning set of characters. Protagonist Cady Martino is a bestselling novelist whose marriage is crumbling. She has fertility problems, she’s obsessed with guilt and frustration over the unsolved years-ago murder of her twin sister, Savannah, and her husband is shallow and obsessed with material things.
Cady relies on a group of wonderfully eccentric friends — Strecker is a master of richly drawn support folks — but everything starts to percolate when, trying to research a new novel by interviewing an imprisoned serial killer, Cady runs into an old high school crush who happens to be a prison guard. Does she have renewed feelings for him? Are they reciprocated? And when local cops decide to reopen the investigation into Savannah’s murder, the plot starts to spin like a particle accelerator.
The finished novel hit bookstores March 1 and, as part of her regimen of appearances and signings, Strecker headlines an author luncheon at noon Wednesday in the Michael Jordan Steakhouse at Mohegan Sun.
There’s only one small thing.
The novel’s not called “Scar Tissue.”
The title is “Nowhere Girl.”
What happened is, after she turned in “Scar Tissue” — the second of a two-book deal with Thomas Dunne, the St. Martin’s Press imprint — Strecker got one of those “good news/bad news” calls from her agent. It seemed the editor loved the manuscript but thought the title could be better.To most folks who might dream of a career writing novels — Strecker’s 2014 debut, “Night Blindness,” sold after 53 rejections — the major component to take out of that scenario is that, yes, the editor loved the book. And, yes, that fact registered with Strecker on some level.
“The truth is, though, when I got that call, I said, ‘OK’ and just sat down on the floor and cried,” Strecker admits. “If ‘Scar Tissue’ had not been the title, the book wouldn’t have been written. The only reason I was inspired to write was that title. It sounds weird but it’s true. And my kids came home from school and I was weeping on the kitchen floor, they said, ‘Uh, mom, should we call daddy?’”
By now, Strecker laughs about the whole situation. While “Nowhere Girl” isn’t a song title, it is, she says, based on one of her favorite Bruce Springsteen tunes called “Nothing Man.” Plus, “Nowhere Girl” has gotten positive advance praise. Kirkus Reviews, for example, called it “compulsively readable” and a “mystery (that) focuses on personalities and relationships as much as it aims to reveal ‘whodunit.’”
“The book was sort of an accidental mystery,” Strecker says. “I came up with the idea of a set of the twins and the sense of sibling connection. And that’s all I had. Literally, from one moment to the next, as I write, I have no idea. I had no idea it was going to be a mystery. It wasn’t until about the third version that I decided one of the twins would get murdered early on.”
Cady’s survivor guilt is complex. She was the “good girl” who worshipped her sister and, over the years, romanticized Savannah’s rebellious qualities — many of which surface in detail as the novel develops.
One early plot idea is indicative of Strecker’s long process. It occurred to her that the perpetrator could be a schizophrenic killer, the sort of serial monster that gambols through many popular thrillers. That didn’t work out, though.
She laughs, “I was writing along and the police found the killer two weeks later and I said, ‘Hey, I’ve just written a 20-page novel!’”
Subsequent versions had many derivations on that theme that slowly shifted the story to focus on the “whodunit” aspects. Strecker loved Cady and the cast and the core elements of the story, but she had to try all sorts of endings and potential villains. And if she didn’t think a particular scenario failed, chances were her agent and/or editor did.
“It was actually pretty funny,” Strecker says. “I had everything in place and the tone and tension, but I couldn’t figure it out.” She finally called an old friend who happens to be a criminal defense attorney, and asked him how to kill someone and get away with it. His answer — no spoilers here! — sent Strecker off in a new direction that, in turn, inspired a twisty solution that should absolutely take readers by surprise.
Oh, and for the record? Strecker only listens to music to get fired up before she writes, but doesn’t actually have tunes playing during the work. She says, “If I’m listening to really good music — and all my music’s really good — it’s hard for me to dance and type at the same time.”
“Susan Strecker’s debut, Night Blindness, is engrossing, fast-paced, and filled with layers of emotion as Jensen Reilly finds unconditional love in the aftermath of more than a decade of complex grief and secrets. Strecker’s honesty about family relationships, and her expert hand at revealing what befalls the Reilly family, had me turning the pages late into the night. Night Blindness is a powerful story of loss and renewal.”
–Amy Sue Nathan, author of The Glass Wives
“An achingly atmospheric novel redolent of the time-blurred past even as it crackles with jealousy, regret, and unresolved passion in the present. It’s Strecker’s storytelling gift to make us love all her characters for their flaws as much as despite them, shading their mistakes with love and forgiveness and weaving a more than satisfying resolution. I can’t wait to see what Strecker writes next.”
–Sophie Littlefield, bestselling author of Garden of Stones
“Susan Strecker writes with unflinching honesty about the dynamics of a family in crisis, and the fallout of a single rash act. In her beautifully rendered debut novel, she proves that while there are no easy answers, there can be forgiveness and redemption. This is rewarding, up-all-night reading at its best.”
–Susan Wiggs, #1 New York Times-bestselling author
“A beautiful debut filled with perfectly drawn characters, the visceral feel of a New England summer, and a long-buried family secret. I loved every page.”
–Kristin Harmel, internationally bestselling author of The Sweetness of Forgetting
“Family tragedy and guilt are too much for 16-year-old Jensen Reilly to handle by herself, but that is what she tries to do for 13 years. She abandons everything that defines her and starts a new life as an artist and model, eventually eloping with her art professor. Jensen is finally forced to face her past, her old friends, her family, and her first true love when her father is diagnosed with a brain tumor and she returns home to help care for him. Night Blindness is at times both achingly sad and uplifting, filled with a joy of life and love. It is a story of first love, family, grief, guilt, forgiveness and how the truth can truly set one free. I loved every page and couldn’t put it down.”
-Nancy McFarlane, Fiction Addiction Booksellers