Koethi Zan – Q&A

Today I’m pleased Koethi Zan to the blog. Koethi is the author of The Never List and her latest novel, The Follower was published by Harvill Secker on 18 May 2017

Koethi kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about The Follower.

The Follower tells the story of Cora Jenkins, the wife of a madman. Cora is not an evil person. At least that’s what she tells herself. But when left alone to mind Julie, her husband’s captive, their psychological warfare forces Cora back into the part of her past that she tries to forget. There she must confront how she ended up the complicit wife of a psychopath and decide whether she will continue to carry out his bidding. Meanwhile, as Julie, a perfect student with a formerly perfect life, struggles against her captors, she discovers she has her own dark side and has to figure out whether it’s strong enough to keep her alive. 

2. What inspired the book? 

When researching my first book, I encountered many stories of the wives of abductors who helped their husbands commit unfathomable crimes. I couldn’t understand why they would assist with such gruesome acts that also seemed to be against their own self-interest. For this book, I wanted to explore that more deeply and find out the psychological key to it all. As I would have expected, the answers are extremely complicated. Hopefully, the book captures some of that complexity and uses it to propel a deeper story.

3. How much research do you have to undertake when writing your novels? Do you plan all of the story or see where the words take you? 

I tend to do quite a bit of research. For THE FOLLOWER, I examined the true stories of the wives of abductors–women like Wanda Barzee, Nancy Garrido, and Michelle Martin, whose husbands all held girls captive. I read newspaper accounts, the memoirs of their victims, and their court testimony. I wanted to get at why women would participate in such crimes and how they manage to survive within these constricting worlds they’ve built for themselves. As for plotting, I don’t plan the whole story in advance, but I tend to know the character arc and know generally how I want it to end. Then I let the characters get me there. 

4. What did you discover about the process of creating a novel that surprised you?

Everyone says it, but I wouldn’t have believed it until it happened:  that magic moment when the characters take a life of their own and you’re just trying to get it on the page. That’s when it’s really fun.

5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?

I’ve been very involved with local politics and activism for several years now, and that keeps me busy. Besides that, my life is quite boring: cooking, hiking, and reading. I live in a beautiful rural area, near horse and sheep farms, so to relax I like to go on long walks and try not to think about things like people being held captive by psychopaths.

6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be? 

I think I’d pick ULYSSES because it would take me the rest of my life to get through it. But I could only choose it if I also got to have a companion guide to go along with it.

7. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer? 

My question would be: what do you do when you get stuck when writing?

If I’m really stuck, I like to take a break and watch a lot of creepy films alone in my basement. I developed the habit of solo movie watching when I was in graduate school for Cinema Studies years ago (another story). The school screened films on Saturdays from early morning through late afternoon, and I was often the only one there for hours on the morning shift. They showed everything, but I had a taste for the slightly off-kilter films and now have a set that I return to regularly for inspiration. For this book, a few of the films I watched were Repulsion (1965), The Night of the Hunter (1955), Peeping Tom (1960), Eyes Without a Face (1960), and Face in the Crowd (1957). I highly recommend all of them, but maybe with long breaks in between to recover. 

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About the book:

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SHE’D DO ANYTHING FOR HER HUSBAND.

Julie has the perfect life

A kind boyfriend, loving parents and good grades. She has everything ahead of her.

Cora’s life is a nightmare

A psychopath for a husband, a violent father and a terrible secret. There’s no way out.

But one night, their worlds collide

Locked in an isolated house together, they must work out what has happened – and who they can trust to set them free.

From the bestselling author of The Never List, this is a breath-taking new thriller about the wife of a kidnapper and her relationship with his last victim.
Read more on the Penguin website.

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