Q&A with Pintip Dunn, author of THE DARKEST LIE
1. In THE DARKEST LIE, CeCe works at a crisis hotline. Tell us about the research you did into this. What was the most interesting thing you learned about crisis hotlines?
I actually volunteered at a crisis hotline when I lived in San Mateo, CA -- usually the early morning shift, from 3 am to 6 am! During training, I learned that it wasn't my job to solve the callers' problems. I wasn't a professionals, after all. I might offer contact information for local resources, but mostly, my role was to listen and ask questions. The most interesting thing I learned about crisis hotlines was the impact I could make on a caller's life just by listening. Often, a caller would thank me at the end of the call and say how much better he or she felt -- even if I felt like I hadn't said very much. I realized it was this moment of connection -- the knowledge that someone out there cared -- that made the difference.
2. You have a sold a bunch of (six?) books almost at once, what was that like? How has the process been now that those books are coming out? Is it what you expected? Better or worse?
I sold seven books in approximately seven months. What was it like? It was crazy! To be honest, by the time I finally sold, I had almost lost hope. I say "almost" because although I've contemplated giving up countless times, I'd finally concluded that I'm a writer and I can't change that, no matter what happens in the external world. So, if I hadn't sold, I would've explored other options, but I wouldn't have stopped writing altogether.
I wrote my first novel perhaps fifteen years earlier. I signed with my agent, Beth Miller of Writers House, four years ago on the third novel I queried. For the next 2.5 long years, I heard the same thing over and over again: "love this book, but we can't buy it because of the market." I could've despaired -- okay, I probably did -- but I also wrote another book. And then another. My first offer came in August of 2014, just over a month after I gave birth to my third child, and in the next seven months, I sold all three books, plus four others.
The last year has been a roller coaster of extreme emotions, but overall, it's been good. Really good. Better than I expected. I was extremely lucky to sign with two incredible publishers -- Kensington and Entangled -- and I would happily take all the stress and anxiety and uncertainty of the last year to experience that moment of holding my book in my hands for the very first time.
The process of releasing all these books, from two different publishers, means that there are lots of overlapping deadlines. Beth and I have had to stay very organized, but overall, I think we've done a good job.
3. You write across genres. What was your favorite part of writing this suspense?
I write in two genres, YA contemporary thriller and YA science fiction, but I hope that readers will recognize a common thread throughout my books -- that is to say, fast-paced and suspenseful stories about characters who are emotionally and morally complex.
My favorite part about writing THE DARKEST LIE was being able to explore Cece's grief over losing her mother. I lost my own mother when I was five years old, albeit under very different circumstances. There was no scandal, to say the least, but I have felt her absence like a hole in my heart my entire life.
I hope that Cece's pain will resonate with readers and that they will be able to relate to her process of healing.
4. You've said that you love reality TV, which shows are your favorites? If you could be on a reality show, which one would it be?
I love almost all of reality TV that has a component of competition, and my two favorites are Top Chef and Survivor. Top Chef, because I am a total foodie and so is the rest of my family. In fact, my brother and I will take vacations where we go on tours of Top Chef restaurants, and we form our own Top Chef fantasy league where we predict the next chef to be eliminated. Survivor, because of the strategic, complex, moral, and emotional decisions that have to be made. I often imagine myself in the contestant's shoes and think about how I would react. The season and episode when they pitted mother against daughter in a physical joust just killed me.
I would love to be on The Amazing Race! I'd love to travel around the world and visit all cultures. Plus, I think I would be great at the challenges!
5. Anything you'd like to add?
Thank you so much for this interview and feature! It is a true honor!
“Heartbreaking and heroic. You won't be able to turn the pages fast enough!”
--Romily Bernard, author of the Find Me trilogy
In Pintip Dunn’s gripping and timely novel, a young woman whose life unravels in the wake of her mother’s alleged suicide sets out to clear her name.
“The mother I knew would never do those things. But maybe I never knew her after all.”
Clothes, jokes, coded messages…Cecilia Brooks and her mom shared everything. At least, CeCe thought they did. Six months ago, her mom killed herself after accusations of having sex with a student, and CeCe’s been the subject of whispers and taunts ever since. Now, at the start of her high school senior year, between dealing with her grieving, distracted father, and the social nightmare that has become her life, CeCe just wants to fly under the radar. Instead, she’s volunteering at the school’s crisis hotline—the same place her mother worked.
As she counsels troubled strangers, CeCe’s lingering suspicions about her mom’s death resurface. With the help of Sam, a new student and newspaper intern, she starts to piece together fragmented clues that point to a twisted secret at the heart of her community. Soon, finding the truth isn’t just a matter of restoring her mother’s reputation, it’s about saving lives—including CeCe’s own…
“A twisty, fast-paced thriller that kept me guessing to the end.” —Shannon Grogan, author of From Where I Watch You
“This one will tug your heart and leave you breathless!” --Natalie D. Richards, author of Six Months Later
“A headlong rush into the shadows of secrets that should not be kept.”
–Michelle Zink, author of Prophecy of the Sisters