“I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.”
This is what we learn from the back cover of Mary Kubica’s debut novel The Good Girl.
Center to the story is Mia Dennett, a young woman who is a portrait in contradictions. Her upper middle class family seems to have it all. Her father is a prominent Chicago judge, her mother a stunningly beautiful socialite, her sister a successful lawyer. Mia is an inner-city art teacher who is a vibrant, fiery contrast to their well-bred, cool, calm suburban behavior. The family is at odds with Mia’s lifestyle, unable to come to peace with her insistence on being different, when she quite suddenly disappears.
As puzzling as the events around Mia’s abduction and disappearance are the confusion around her return is even greater. She no longer responds to the name Mia but has become Chloe, a young woman who remembers nothing of her past – not from before the kidnapping and certainly nothing from the “during” period.
The narrative of what happened to Mia – and why – is shared among several key characters, inviting the reader to join Eve, Mia’s frightened and fragile mother, and Det. Gabe Hoffman, a man determined to bring Eve her daughter back, as they take a hazardous journey to find out what is truly happening in a game where no one and nothing is as it seems.
Maggie: This is an unusually intense mystery with some truly frightening moments. What inspired this particular story?
Mary: There was no inspiration per se, just me with some spare time on my hands, a wandering mind, and a love of writing. I was first struck by the idea of the kidnapping itself, and then the non-linear timeframe and multi-character perspective. I didn’t know exactly where I was going with the novel; it wasn’t until partway through The Good Girl that I discovered how this book would end. I often credit my characters themselves as being the greatest source of inspiration, as they occupied my life, my dreams and my mind while I was writing The Good Girl. They – mainly Mia and Colin – were my muse; they told their story to me.
Maggie: At the heart of the story is family and how we can feel disconnected from the people we would expect to feel closest to. I especially related to Eve and how she felt she had fallen short as a mother. I think most mothers have these fears of having somehow not done enough for our kids. Can you tell us a bit about what it was like to write such a character and what, if anything, inspired you to do so?
Mary: Eve was the character I felt most connected to, and with whom I could most easily relate. As a mother myself, I was able to delve into some of my biggest fears of motherhood, and that nagging notion that we are not doing all we can for our children. I was also able to put myself in Eve’s shoes and wonder how I would feel if one of my children were to disappear. Writing of Eve’s mourning and fears were very personal for me, and I felt so sympathetic for her as she longed for her missing child.
Maggie: This is a trying time in publishing and probably a tough time for an up and coming writer. Please tell us a bit about your road to publication.
Mary: After finishing The Good Girl, I submitted queries to many, many literary agents, and though a few asked to read the manuscript, in the end no one offered to represent it. I was pretty sure my book would never be published until two years later when one of the agents sent me an out-of-the-blue email. My story, she said, still resonated with her two years later and she was wondering if it had been sold. It was like a dream come true! She and I worked together to edit the novel a bit, and a few months later I had a publishing contract with Harlequin MIRA. It’s all been a thrill. I feel very fortunate for the experience, and wouldn’t change any of it for the world.
Maggie: Gone Girl has been such a phenomena in the thriller market. Do you think its success aided in your own quest to get published?
Mary: I think thrillers and suspense are really all the rage right now. I know for me, personally, it’s my go-to when looking for something to read. People seem to really enjoy them. The comparisons to Gone Girl have done nothing but great things for The Good Girl. I, myself, had not read Gone Girl until after I’d finished The Good Girl and the comparisons were being made; I loved the book! It’s such an honor to be compared to one of Gillian Flynn’s greatest novels.
Maggie: This is not the type of story typically seen in the Harlequin MIRA lineup. Were you surprised by being picked up by this particular publisher?
Mary: When I initially saw Harlequin on my agent’s submission list, I was a bit taken aback. At that time, I associated Harlequin with the greatest romance novels of our time. I wasn’t familiar with MIRA, an imprint of Harlequin that specializes in mainstream fiction, including thrillers and suspense novels like The Good Girl. As I did my research on Harlequin though, I was thoroughly impressed by their wide array of authors, and not just within the MIRA imprint. I was excited to learn more about their nonfiction books, the teen imprint and more. As I learned more about Harlequin as a whole, I knew this was right where The Good Girl and I belonged – and I’m so happy to be a part of the Harlequin Books family!
Maggie: Thanks for taking the time out to chat with AAR about the book, Mary.