Alex Michaelides’ debut novel, The Silent Patient, is the season’s hottest thriller, having spent 10 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list (so far), and leaving us all talking about the stunning ending. We got him to talk to us about the book, his writing process, his next project, and libraries in our AFPL Q&A. Check out his responses below!
What would you most like people to know about your book, The Silent Patient?
It’s a psychological thriller but I think it’s more than that. My favourite comment on the book was made by the publisher from Israel, who said it’s a book for anyone who has ever loved deeply, or even been to therapy.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing my second novel. It’s again a psychological thriller although on a bigger scale than The Silent Patient. It’s about a series of murders at a Cambridge college.
What are you reading?
I’m currently reading Portrait of a Novel by Michael Gorra, on Henry James’s creative process during writing The Portrait of a Lady.
What genres do you especially enjoy reading? Which do you avoid?
I enjoy reading biography and historical books. I tend to read a lot of classic crime fiction but I don’t tend to read modern psychological thrillers at all. Which might seem paradoxical but I think I’m afraid of being influenced by other writers.
What are you watching?
I just finished Fleabag, which I think is the funniest thing on TV.
Do you remember the first story you ever read and the impact it had on you?
I think that was definitely a comic, like Tintin or Asterix. I was obsessed with them both. I wanted to go on the adventures with them. I still do.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, I still have it. It was a science fiction epic. Maybe one day I’ll revisit it!
Where is your favorite place to write?
My kitchen table. With coffee.
What’s something you are really good at that few people know about?
I love to cook, though I don’t know I’m all that good at it. I used to have a little fantasy of running a little restaurant but I know it’s harder than it looks.
When you’re writing, do you have everything carefully plotted out or do you just let the material come to you?
I plot very carefully and rewrite the outline many times. I think for detective stories like I write you need to have a strong grip of the plot.
Do you rewrite passages over and over or are you generally pretty happy with what you’ve written after the first time or two?
I rewrite many times, until I have no more notes. It’s a long process.
Is there anything you’ve edited out of a book that you really wish you had left in?
No. Not yet anyway.
What is your favorite thing about being an author? Your least favorite?
I love connecting with people all over the world who have read the book. There is no least favourite. I’m so happy and grateful I get to do this for a living.
Did you visit the library a lot growing up? Do you now?
My mum took me the first time when I was eight and I’ve been going since. I love libraries. I wrote a lot of The Silent Patient in a library.
What little known book do you wish everyone would read?
Nothing Special by Charlotte Joko Beck. It’s the best book on zen I have ever read and it changed my life.