Interview with S.L. McInnis
by Anna Shura
S.L. McInnis has a degree in broadcasting and has worked in public radio and television. Like the two main characters in the book, she studied music for years. She lives in Rotterdam with her husband. Framed is her debut thriller.
AS: Could you please tell us about your latest novel?
S.L. McInnis: Framed is about two old college roommates who get thrown together after years apart. They were always very different: Beth was the conservative one while Cassie was wild and unpredictable, always getting them into trouble. When Cassie calls out of the blue saying she needs a place to crash for a few days, Beth is shocked, but she can’t say ‘no’ to her old friend. What Beth and her husband, Jay, don’t know is that Cassie’s on the run from a drug deal gone wrong. Four people are dead – including an undercover cop – and Cassie has stolen a million dollars in cash from the crime scene. Money that Beth and Jay desperately need. A clever L.A. detective tracks Cassie to the house, but the guestroom is empty, and Cassie is missing. When Jay confesses to an affair with Cassie in the hopes of coming clean, Beth is furious. He’s now Goode’s prime suspect in her disappearance. But there are a lot of people who want Cassie dead – including Beth herself now – so it’s a very twisty ride.
AS: What is your writing process like? Do you have an outline, or do you have an idea and see where the story will take you?
S.L. McInnis: I do use outlines sometimes, but when a story gets going, it often veers away on its own, anyway. I usually feel more comfortable just sitting at the keyboard and discovering what the characters do and say. If you get the characters right and give them that freedom, they often flesh out a lot of the story for you. I recently learned Margaret Atwood doesn’t use outlines either, so it made me feel better!
AS: When were you first inspired to write Framed?
S.L. McInnis: I had this wild college friend who showed up in my life after years apart and brought a lot of drama with her. The situation didn’t get nearly as bad as it does in the book, but it might’ve spawned the idea. I’ve always been interested in themes like friendship, identity and betrayal. I must’ve been working on this book subconsciously for years, because once I started writing about these two old roommates who really don’t know or trust each other anymore – the stolen money, the shootout, and all these tense situations – just flowed. Stephen King said writers are like archaeologists uncovering a story that already exists fully formed. It felt like that writing Framed, almost like watching a movie. Until editing time, of course. Then reality sets in and you realize there’s a lot more work to do.
AS: Have you always been interested in writing thrillers/mysteries?
S.L. McInnis: Yes, I’ve always preferred writing – and reading! – thrillers, mysteries, even horror. I’ve worked in other genres but find myself most at home with a plot that involves bad guys and some kind of jeopardy.
AS: Do you have a favorite character of the ones you have created and why?
S.L. McInnis: The characters in Framed were all so alive for me – and so different – it’s hard to decide. I think it’s a tie between Beth and Det. Goode. I loved Beth’s complexity and the evolution of her character. But Goode was so much fun to write, too. He had such a unique, strong voice and was always so suspicious of this “happy family.” I’d love to feature him in a crime series someday!
AS: Who are some of your literary influences?
S.L. McInnis: Charles Dickens, Stephen King, Gillian Flynn, Margaret Atwood, Liane Moriarty, Dennis Lehane and Tom Wolfe, among others!
AS: What is next on your reading list?
S.L. McInnis: I’m looking forward to Ruth Ware’s One By One. I always love her work, but we’re in a midsummer heat wave right now, so a snowbound ski chalet mystery is just the ticket.
AS: Here at The Strand we are big Sherlock Holmes fans. Sherlock is classically shown wearing a deerstalker hat. What would be your defining detective accessory?
S.L. McInnis: Det. Goode loves Gatorade. He often has a bottle in one hand – even standing right next to a sign that reads: “Absolutely No Food or Drink in the Morgue.” And he gets miffed if he’s somewhere that doesn’t serve Gatorade. It’s not as refined as the deerstalker hat, of course! But I liked how specific it was and it added a bit of humour to his scenes.
AS: What are you working on now and can you give us a teaser?
S.L. McInnis: I’m working on a thriller inspired by a historic true crime. But I’ve also started the sequel to Framed. I can’t say too much about it without spoiling the twist ending of the first book, but let’s just say it’s about a dangerous road trip that involves some of the characters … with lots of bad guys and jeopardy, of course.