Author Interview: Alexis Schaitkin

Years after the death of her older sister at a resort on the Caribbean island of Saint X, Claire is living and working in New York City when a brief but fateful encounter brings her together with Clive Richardson, one of the men originally suspected of murdering her sister. It is a moment that sets Claire on an obsessive pursuit of the truth…

“Unbelievable debut author. The twists and turns lead you to a place you never would have guessed.”

Mollie at HearthFire Books and Treats

Alexis Schaitkin told us about what inspired her to write this book, the audiobook—which is narrated by a fourteen-person cast—and how much she appreciates independent bookstores.

Please tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and how this story took shape for you.

For me, this story started with the setting of a Caribbean resort. I was interested in digging beneath the surface of a place that is designed to be a tensionless paradise. But while the novel’s inciting events take place during a single week in that confined setting, I always knew I wanted it to cascade outward, that this was a story about aftermath and how those events reverberate through these characters’ lives.

The novel’s central characters were there from the beginning. But at a certain point, when I had been revising drafts of the novel for over a year, it still felt incomplete, like the full weight of this tragedy and its ripple effects weren’t coming through. That was when I decided to let a cast of secondary, seemingly peripheral characters tell their stories, too. It was a late-in-the-process change that really completed the book. And I think the audiobook is where that structure shines the most.

Photo: @latestbookcrush

In two sentences or less, what’s something that might surprise listeners about your audiobook?

That participating in its creation was one of the unexpected joys of the publication process. I was incredibly lucky to get to collaborate with the audiobook’s producer over several months to cast the book’s fourteen voice actors.

Have you listened to your own audiobook? If so, what struck you about the narration?

I have dipped in and listened to some of each section and each actor. Listening to my own book read aloud is a somewhat uncomfortable experience, but still, I was so humbled and amazed by the audio. It really is a performance in a chorus of voices. That’s probably what strikes me most–how distinct each voice in the ensemble is. One second, you’re listening to a police officer in the Caribbean tell his story, the next you’re hearing from a Hollywood actress, or a sculptor living in Brooklyn. The novel has a sweeping scope, and I think the audiobook really captures and accentuates that.

Are you an audiobook listener? If so, what are some of your favorite audiobooks?

I don’t tend to listen to a lot of audiobooks now, but when I was growing up, my family took a lot of long car rides, and audiobooks got us through. The first one I remember listening to was Steve Martin’s Shopgirl. There was just something very special about listening to a book together with my whole family, as we drove down the interstate in the dark.

What have independent bookstores and/or booksellers meant to you personally and professionally?

Independent bookstores are a completely integral part of my life. I actually got engaged in a bookstore! I’ve moved a lot, and in each new place, whether in New York City, Charlottesville, the Berkshires, independent bookstores have become like second homes. I think there’s no better way to get to know a new place, and to start to put down roots there, than to spend time in its indie bookstores and get to know the booksellers there.

Now, as the publication date for Saint X has approached, I have an entirely new level of appreciation (or, frankly, awe) for how much work goes into running a bookstore, for the incredible and innovative programs bookstores run, and for how much of a difference it can make for a debut author when indie bookstores put your book into the hands of readers.

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