As a writer, I find it particularly brave when a book doesn’t end on a note of justice, when things don’t turn out hunky-dory in the end. (Anyone else still worried about that baby in Gone Girl, now a tween and up to who-knows-what?) After all, this is more realistic, right? In real life, we don’t get a 6’5″, 250 pound hunk with a strong moral compass crossing into town just at the moment when wrongs need righting, much as we all might long for a Reacher. End-on-a-gasp conclusions are author Hannah Mary McKinnon‘s sweet spot, and she was good enough to share some behind-the-scenes, making-of-the-book thoughts with Rogue readers. As a bonus, there’s also a giveaway—read on to learn how to enter!
Never Coming Home figures in as title, a chilling line at the end of a chapter, and thematically as well. Please elaborate!
Lucas’s wife Michelle is missing. He knows she’s never coming home because he hired a hitman on the dark web to get rid of his outrageously rich and annoying spouse. A month after her meticulously planned disappearance, a photograph with a cryptic note shows up on his doorstep. Somebody knows what he did. But who? With his thorough preparation, how? And what will they do next as he goes from hunter to prey…?
I hate-love your neatnik, anti-privilege, wounded sociopath. Please tell us about the element of psychopathy in this book.
Lucas is a highly-skilled con-artist. A charming, handsome chameleon who transformed himself over the last decade to get the life he feels he deserves. But he’s not all bad. He has a witty sense of humor, loves his disabled father, and his mutt of a dog, Roger. He cares deeply for his ailing mother-in-law, too. Everyone else? Not so much. By telling the story through his eyes, I wanted readers to understand why and how Lucas became the person he is. My goal is for them to like him at least a little, even root for him at times despite knowing they shouldn’t. Lucas knows exactly who and what he is, at one point saying, “We’re all a little evil on the inside.”
For all the merry mayhem, you deal with very serious themes—addiction, systemic injustice, the patriarchy. How do you strike the right balance?
Because the entire story is told from the villain’s point of view, and deals with heavier issues, I was wary of it not being heavy throughout. Adding humor to the book helped, including showing Lucas’s softer side. There’s a very personal reason for this stylistic choice, too. Never Coming Home is my third pandemic release, but the first I wrote while we were in actual lockdown. My mum passed away a month before I started writing the manuscript, so 2020 was a very difficult year. I needed to work on something where I could wreak havoc and take out my frustrations and sadness, but also a story that made me laugh out loud and forget what was going on in real life. That’s why Lucas has such a distinctive voice with so much sarcasm and wit. He truly was hilarious to me, and it was refreshing to be fully immersed in the mind of a killer, and try to have him justify everything he did. Lucas, murderous ways and all, saved my sanity during a time when everything else felt hopeless.
Marriage. (Cue Billy Crystal in The Princess Bride). Not necessarily a good thing in a Hannah Mary McKinnon novel. How does the marital institution make for good suspense?
Gosh, how doesn’t it? Maybe I feel the need to explore that terrain because I’m scarred from my grandmother once telling me she’d never thought of divorce, but often of murder. But seriously, I’ve been happily married for 23 years. Sure, there have been a few ups and downs, but Rob is the love of my life, no question. Not having that stability scares me, so I basically I write about my worst relationship nightmares.
The Queen of Happily Never After mixes it up a bit in her latest. Or does she? Without spoilers, tell us a bit about how you feel about this ending.
I knew exactly how the story would end, right down to the last word, from the moment I began the plot. I hope readers find Lucas’s journey satisfying, and that his antics, and the last twist on the twist, entertain them as much as they amused me.
What kind of ending do you love most as a reader? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Never Coming Home!