Author Interview: Jennifer McMahon

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Invited and The Winter People comes The Drowning Kind, a chilling new novel about a woman who returns to the old family home after her sister mysteriously drowns in its swimming pool…but she’s not the pool’s only victim. We spoke with author Jennifer McMahon about the inspiration for The Drowning Kind, her audiobook recommendations, and more!

The Drowning Kind

By Jennifer McMahon • Narrated by Joy Osmanski & Imani Jade Powers

“McMahon has a gift for creating creepy atmosphere and letting spooky suggestions linger in the mind. She’s also adept at weaving legends and stories into the fabric of what feels like real life, because her characters are so believably vulnerable. For best results, read it on a dark and stormy night—in a well-lit room, far away from the water.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

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

When I was a kid, my grandmother took me to visit a family friend who lived in a huge stone house. Behind the house, was stone-lined, spring fed swimming pool with the blackest water I’d ever seen. The owner told us the pool was bottomless. I reluctantly got in – only because the boy who lived there was teasing me and calling me a chicken. It was shockingly cold and so black and the entire time I was in that water, I was sure I could feel something touching me feet and legs, trying to pull me under. That pool has haunted me my whole life. And I’ve always wanted to put that pool in a story, to make it a character of its own, to ask it what secrets it was keeping. So that’s how I began The Drowning Kind—with my memories of that pool.

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

When I sit down to write a book, I don’t have an outline or a plan, so I never know where the story will take me. When I realized where the story of The Drowning Kind was leading me, I was honestly surprised—and I think listeners will be too!

Have you listened to your own audiobook? What struck you about the narration?

I’ve listened to the beginning and it was wonderful! I’ll confess, I get a little weirded out listening to my own books. I do really love the way the two narrators (Joy Osmanski and Imani Jade Powers) capture the distinct voices of Jackie and Ethel!

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

I used to be an occasional audiobook listener. I’m a big NPR person—I have the radio on all the time. But during the pandemic, I learned that for my own sanity, I had to dial back on the amount of news I was consuming. So I turned to audiobooks.

I listen to a lot of nonfiction—books on creativity and productivity like The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and Getting Things Done by David Allen.

I also really enjoy listening to fiction. One of my very favorite recent listens was Carrie by Stephen King narrated by Sissy Spacek. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, narrated by Tom Stechschulte gutted me (but in a good way). And in addition to loving Neil Gaiman’s books, I love the way he reads, so I’ve listened to a bunch of his stuff.

The Artist’s Way

By Julia Cameron • Narrated by Eliza Foss

Getting Things Done

By David Allen • Narrated by the author


By Stephen King • Narrated by Sissy Spacek

The Road

By Cormac McCarthy • Narrated by Tom Stechschulte


By Neil Gaiman • Narrated by the author

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

When I visit a new place, the two things I always look for first are the best place to get a good cup of coffee and the local independent bookstore (it’s extra sweet if they happen to be the same place!). I feel like my local independent bookstore, Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, shaped me as a creative person. This is where I bought all of my books in college and graduate school and where I still shop on a regular basis. I can go in now—just like when I was an 18 year old kid looking for new poets to read and adore—and know I’ll always discover something new.

Independent booksellers are rock stars. I love looking at staff picks and asking for recommendations! I love that my local indies know me and when I walk in, they show me new books that they know are right up my alley! And I feel so honored when I meet a bookseller who is a fan and hand sells copies of my books. It means the world to me.

Anything else to share with us?

I recommend listening to this with the lights on and far away from any dark pools of water!

Header photo by Zella McMahon

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