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Leah Konen: On the Thrill of Real-life Inspiration

Author Leah Konen discusses how being stranded led to the idea for her new thriller novel, The Perfect Escape.

Leah Konen is the author of All the Broken People and of several young adult novels, including Love and Other Train Wrecks and The Romantics. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied journalism and English literature.

She lives in Brooklyn and Saugerties, New York, with her husband, their daughter Eleanor, and their dog Farley.

Leah Konen: On the Thrill of Real-life Inspiration

Leah Konen

In this post, Leah discusses how being stranded led to the idea for her new thriller novel, The Perfect Escape, how this novel differs from her previous work, and more!

Name: Leah Konen
Literary agent: Elisabeth Weed
Book title: The Perfect Escape
Publisher: Putnam
Expected release date: Jan 4, 2022
Previous titles: All the Broken People; Happy Messy Scary Love; Love and Other Train Wrecks; The Romantics; The Last Time We Were Us; and The After Girls
Elevator pitch for the book: A girls’ weekend to die for—three friends on the way to a relaxing spa weekend find themselves stranded, scared and simmering with secrets when one of them goes missing after car trouble lands them in Catskill, NY.

Leah Konen: On the Thrill of Real-life Inspiration

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What prompted you to write this book?

My husband and I were on our way to the Bonnaroo music festival when our car broke down on the side of the road. After calling AAA, we found ourselves in Staunton, Virginia—an incredibly idyllic historic small-town that was walkable, charming, and a perfect destination. The people were so friendly, and the downtown was so adorable, it felt almost … too perfect.

I found myself wondering what would happen if a group of friends got similarly stranded in a cute Catskill-mountain town. What would draw them there? What would keep them there? Who would be waiting to meet them when they went out to explore? From that experience, the idea for The Perfect Escape was born.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

It’s hard to nail down exactly. This idea had been simmering for a while before I started drafting it in mid-2019. Once I start really writing, it usually takes me about six months for a first draft, several more for edits, and then of course there’s a whole production schedule with the publisher that gets it the rest of the way to actual publication.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

Yes! After publishing many books in the young adult world and one thriller, this is my first title being released exclusively as a trade paperback original.

The decision was made with my entire publishing team, looking at how people are reading books now in the pandemic and what people are looking for when they seek out stories like mine. I’m thrilled to have a paperback release, as I feel it gives people of all income levels a chance to get the book as soon as it comes out.

Leah Konen: On the Thrill of Real-life Inspiration

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

Absolutely. I started out writing the book from only Sam’s perspective. In the process of writing, I became pregnant and went through a very traumatic experience that shaped what I wanted to write going forward. I ended up expanding the narrative to include Margaret’s story as well, drawing on my own pregnancy experiences to craft her backstory and bring her character to life.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

Mostly, I hope they enjoy it! No matter how many books I write, I still always read for pleasure and entertain myself. I hope they’ll find a few surprises, are kept guessing with every twist and turn, and maybe even find themselves turning pages late into the night.

I do think there are some broader themes in the book around femininity, friendship and family, but I always leave it to the reader to get what they want out of it.

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

Just keep writing!

I’ve been at this a long time, and each book is different with its own ups and downs. I think the only thing you can really control in this business is the words you put on the page. Cultivating a regular writing practice and always having a project brewing somewhere in your brain can really help navigate the inevitable highs and lows of the industry.

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