Kara Thomas Reveals Insights About Her First Adult Thriller ‘Out of the Ashes’

KaraThomson_NovelSuspectsNS: You’ve historically written YA thrillers. What made you decide to delve into adult
crime fiction with your newest novel Out of the Ashes?

KT: I started the first draft of Out of the Ashes eight years ago, after I sold my YA novel The Darkest Corners. I kept coming back to the idea, but I just never had time to dedicate to the story because I was contracted to write more YA novels. In 2020, after I turned in a final draft of my YA novel That Weekend, I decided to use my extra time at home during the pandemic lockdown to focus on finally finishing a draft of Out of the Ashes. In all that time, I never got Sam out of my head, and I knew that the only thing standing in my way of finishing the story was my own fears that I wouldn’t be very good at writing for adults.

NS: Speaking of Out of the Ashes, we were lucky enough to pick an early copy up.
We’re not going to give any spoilers, but let’s just say that we DID NOT guess
that ultimate reveal. Can you tell us the secret to creating a killer twist? (Really
one after the other!)

KT: I wish I knew the secret—the truth is that the twists always just come to me, usually before I even plot out the rest of the story! I think with mysteries, a satisfying reveal is the most important element, and everything else should be crafted around it. I knew with this book that the twist needed to be emotionally devastating for Samantha and upend the idea that getting an answer means obtaining closure. I think the best twists are the ones that are somewhat divisive—I know not every reader will agree with Sam’s actions at the end of the book, or understand why she makes the choice she does. Whenever I am considering what note to end a book on, I ask myself, is this an ending I would need to discuss with a friend?

NS: From Little Monsters to The Darkest Corners, you’ve always managed to captivate
your readers with tightly plotted stories and intriguing characters. Out of the
Ashes is no different, following Samantha Newsom in her quest to uncover who
was responsible for murder her family. Where do you get inspiration for these
raw and oh-so-human characters?

KT: Character is most important to me as a reader of mysteries and crime fiction. You can have a twisty plot and those OMG! moments, but they don’t land with the reader as well if you’re not invested in the characters emotionally. Main characters like Sam, and Tessa in The Darkest Corners, are my favorite type of characters to read about—they have emotional trauma, they are a bit haunted, and they are driven by a need to make sense of the past. Sometimes I am inspired by the stories of real people, and others, I’m inspired by other fiction writers who successfully create these types of characters, like Jane Harper, Dennis Lehane, and Gillian Flynn.

NS: In the ever-changing publishing and writing landscape, are there any rules or
guidelines (methods you swear by) you stick to when starting a new project?

KT: I try to always stick to the rule that no one writes a perfect first draft, and I need to embrace the chaos—the golden rule of writing is that you can’t revise or edit a blank page.

NS: When you’re shopping for a new crime fiction book, what are you looking for?
What are the words on the back of the dust jacket that are going to spark your

KT: I am a sucker for cold cases, dysfunctional families, and characters who break the mold of the typical narrator—i.e. not necessarily a detective or police officer.

NS: We love to ask this question to get to know what’s on our favorite authors’
minds: What are you currently reading and/or watching?

Succession! I am always watching Succession, and I’m lucky enough to finally have a new season to watch. My newest TV obsession is Shrinking on Apple TV, and of course Ted Lasso. I’m currently reading We Thought We Knew You, a true crime book, as part of my job as a librarian, where I facilitate a true crime book discussion.

NS: Do you have any new projects you’re working on that you can share with us?

KT: I am working on a couple books at once right now, but my YA readers can expect another teen novel from me soon—I am returning to a world I’ve written in before, is all I can say, and I’m super excited about it.

NS: Can we anticipate any more adult books from you?

KT: I’m currently revising my next adult novel, due out next year, which follows a disgraced journalist on Long Island who is pulled back into the cold case murder that ended her career.

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