Falsche Fährten, Ermittlungen auf eigene Faust und unzählige Geheimnisse – Bestsellerautorin Karen M. McManus über ihre Jugendbuchthriller “One Of Us Is Lying”, “Two Can Keep A Secret” und “One Of Us Is Next”

Falsche Fährten, Ermittlungen auf eigene Faust und unzählige Geheimnisse – Bestsellerautorin Karen M. McManus über ihre Jugendbuchthriller “One Of Us Is Lying”, “Two Can Keep A Secret” und “One Of Us Is Next”

Krimis und Thriller sind “in” – das gilt, so die Erfahrung hier bei uns in der Redaktion LESEPUNKTE, nicht nur für die Zielgruppe der Erwachsenen, sondern auch im Kinder- und Jugendbuchbereich. Die amerikanische Autorin Karen M. McManus trifft mit ihren Young Adult Mysteryromanen “One Of Us Is Lying”, “Two Can Keep A Secret” und “One Of Us Is Next” also mehr denn je den Nerv der Zeit. In ihren Romanen geht es um mysteriöse Morde, Vermisste, eine Menge Geheimnisse, Verdächtige und viele, viele falsche Fährten…

Anlässlich der Nominierung ihres Buches “One Of Us Is Lying” für den Deutschen Jugendliteraturpreis war die amerikanische Jugendbuchautorin zu Gast auf der diesjährigen Frankfurter Buchmesse. Ihren Besuch hat sie mit einer Lesereise in verschiedenen deutschen Städten verbunden. In Köln haben wir die Bestsellerautorin getroffen und mit ihr über ihre Jugendthriller gesprochen. Karen M. McManus hat uns u.a. erzählt, wie sie sich als Schriftstellerin seit Veröffentlichung ihres Debutromanes “One Of Us Is Lying” weiterentwickelt und welche Rolle das Scheitern am eigenen Schreiben dabei gespielt hat. Schließlich hat sie uns sogar ein Geheimnis verraten: Nämlich das, wie sie es geschafft hat, jede Figur in ihrem zuletzt erschienenen Buch “Two Can Keep A Secret” verdächtig erscheinen zu lassen (und wieso das bei “One Of Us Is Lying” vielleicht nicht ganz so gut geklappt hat).


Karen M. McManus: „One of us is lying“, erhältlich im cbj Verlag (2018), ISBN: 978-3-570-16512-6, 18,00 €

Lesepunkte: What do you think about the German cover for One Of Us Is Lying, Two Can Keep A Secret and One Of Us Is Next?

Karen McManus: I love them, I love all my German covers. I think they are so clever, I never would have thought of it! And it works so well. All international readers love those covers - when I post them on Instagram or Twitter, they always get a lot of engagement.

They give my books very much a branded look, which is nice as a new author.

Lesepunkte: Isn’t it?! Let's hop right into the story. One of the first happenings in the book is that Ellery, one of the protagonists in Two Can Keep A Secret, doesn’t get her luggage back after flying to live with her grandma. Did that ever happen to you?

Karen McManus [laughing]: Yes, it actually happened to me in Eindhoven in the Netherlands years ago. I was going there for business, and they made me check-in my suitcase as it was a small plane and it did not arrive. The only place in walking distance from my hotel was a store that sold kitchen supplies, then hardware and also clothes and it was not fashionable at all. I then wore a very boxy jacket that I had bought at the store because I had a business meeting and all I had was casual plane clothes. Ellery's experience is loosely based on that experience. It was the only time that something like this happened to me, and sometimes I worry that I jinx myself by writing about it and it's going to happen again. Different to Ellery though, it only took a day for me to get my luggage back.

Lesepunkte: Let's talk about the time frame of the book, the story covers a period from August to November 2019, so it is basically...

Karen McManus: ...happening right now!

Lesepunkte: Crazy! While reading, I was super excited that the story was happening in that exact moment! Is it the same with the English book, does it cover the same timeframe?

Karen McManus: It is! It is nice when it comes out in the given time frame as it did in Germany, because you really can read it and feel it happening. And it's funny because obviously it came out in January 2019 in America, so it was a little bit in the future. But when I wrote it, I had been hoping it would come out in 2018. I didn't finish the book as fast as I wanted to, and then I thought that, if I am using 2018 dates, it already feels a little outdated. I don't love using dates in books just for that reason, but in this book we needed the past time frame, so it felt like I had to do it.

Lesepunkte: In both your (until now) published books, you decided to change narrative perspectives. How did you come up with this idea?

Karen McManus: In One Of Us Is Lying, the idea is loosely based on a movie called 'The Breakfast Club' where five kids go into detention and all of them stay alive and all of them are different types. My idea was ‘five going to detention, but only four come out’. They are all different types, so the story should be told from these four who were in the room. But when I first started writing the book and I was sharing it with critique partners, almost everyone told me that I had too many people involved, and that I should only pick one to tell the story from their perspective. And I did try that for two chapters, but it didn't work at all, it just wasn't the story I wanted to tell. I thought of the spirit of the critique, that the voices weren't distinct enough, and I worked on that. I tried to let the reader spend more time with them in each chapter, so they would feel like they knew them, and I just found I loved writing multiple perspectives. The idea of lots of different takes on one situation and having an ensemble cast and people being able to have different roles within the plot was really fun for me. When I had the idea for Two Can Keep A Secret, I wasn't quite ready to do four people again, because it was a lot. But with Two Can Keep A Secret, I thought about these two unsolved crimes, and on the one hand, there is this perspective where someone's family lost somebody, a victim in the unsolved crimes, and on the other hand, one's family was a suspect. And those are two really interesting sides of the same coin and it made sense to include those.

Also it is a good technique for building suspects because you can take a character to an edge and then you stop and skip to the other character. It also gives readers more opportunity to find someone that they empathize with and that they can connect with. Also, my books are popular with girls and boys. They always have a male point of view, a male character, and sometimes boys just want a male character and sometimes girls want a girl character, and then sometimes they want the opposite and they can get that in my books.

Lesepunkte: And how do you develop the plot? Do you have the story planned in mind and plot before you write or is the story developing through writing the single chapters?

Karen McManus: It actually depends. With One Of Us Is Lying, it came to me all at once and it really didn't change that much. I knew the story I wanted to tell, and I sat down and told it. It was kind of easy, and I thought that's just how books went. With Two Can Keep A Secret it wasn't fully formed, and it needed more time, but I thought I would just sit down and write it as it happened before, and so I ended up writing a draft that just didn't work. Then I wrote another draft that didn't work. And finally, the third draft worked out. That taught me that it was a good idea to do a little bit more outlining beforehand. So, for my third book, my fourth book and for my fifth book, that I am working on now, I do outline them pretty heavily. It changes a lot to have that outline. Especially now that I have to jump in and out of books so often because there are other things to do, it is easier to go back when I have that.

Karen M. McManus: „Two Can Keep A Secret“, erhältlich im cbj Verlag (2019), ISBN: 978-3-570-16538-6, 18,00 €

Lesepunkte: At what point did you know who the murderer was in Two Can Keep A Secret?

Karen McManus: It changed with every draft. The three drafts had three different murderers. Which is why I like to say that everyone in that book seems suspicious because once they were [laughs]. That turned out to be a good way to write a mystery, but not efficient at all.

Lesepunkte: And when you read to teenagers, what is their usual suspicion of who the murderer is?

Karen McManus: With the current book Two Can Keep A Secret people almost never guess right, which makes me really happy, because a fair amount – probably half of the readers – guesses the outcome of One Of Us Is Lying. There is a solid group of people that claim to know the ending, but with Two Can Keep A Secret, hardly anyone is ever so sure. And that is what I wanted to achieve, I wanted to push myself by telling a really twisty and hard to solve story. And I feel like I did that.

Lesepunkte: Then who is your favorite character in Two Can Keep A Secret?

Karen McManus: I think I identify the most with Ellery, there are certainly little pieces of me in her. I also love true crime, and like that she is an active protagonist. The really interesting thing about Ellery and Malcolm is that Ellery wants answers and Malcolm is afraid of what he might find out, which means that he is a tricky protagonist because he is not always searching for answers. So he really needs her to push along, which makes her a good protagonist to write from that perspective. I also really love her brother Ezra and their twin relationship. Ezra is also a very laid back kid, who gave a nice comic relief, but also was an emotional center for Ellery.

Lesepunkte: I noticed that Ellery is having a hard time trusting people, she is always suspicious about everyone. I think that this makes her a realistic character – was it important to you to write characters that are not perfect?

Karen McManus: Yes. I think readers prefer imperfect characters, for one thing they are more realistic, and for another thing you give them room to grow. Ellery does learn to trust, she learns who she can trust. And Malcolm learns that it doesn't do you any good to pretend things aren't happening around you, you have to actually be an active participant in your life if you want to approve.

Lesepunkte: And how did you come up with the idea to use an amusement park as central setting for the story in Two Can Keep A Secret?

Karen McManus: I just like creepy theme parks, and actually I fell into this research hole and I don't remember why, but I kept looking at abandoned theme parks, and those are really creepy: They have all these rides that are all faded, all these vines growing all over the place. And I was researching on that for something completely unrelated and Two Can Keep A Secret was percolating in the background, I was putting together ideas for it, and then I thought about incorporating a theme park. It fits so well in this town, that has this creepy background which it simultaneously ignores and embraces in a very strange way, that an outsider picks up on instantly.

Lesepunkte: I really loved that idea! I want to pick up on something that you mentioned before, which is Ellery's fascination for true crime, which you so obviously share. Do you even have time to read and if so, are you reading mystery?

Karen McManus: I do, but when I am drafting my own books, I never read thrillers or mysteries, because I am just sort of afraid of influences seeping in and I don't want that. So when I am drafting, I tend to read fantasy or maybe a contemporary-romance type of book. I do try to read a lot, try to stay up with the young-adult-category in general and when I am not drafting I like to catch up with my genre.

Lesepunkte: Great that you still have some time for reading. As a reader, I was constantly trying to find out how all the events happening in Two Can Keep A Secret are related and suddenly, everything falls into place. It's like Ellery and Malcolm say, it's like a puzzle. The pieces keep coming together, even though you don't know where they fit.

Karen McManus: That bit also gave me an opportunity to make Katrin a big red herring, a side track.

Lesepunkte: I would like to get back to Ellerys brother Ezra, for whom you already shared your sympathy. He is gay, but that is not really a topic addressed, nor is it relevant for the plot. It's just that he is in love with boys and it's normal. Was it important to you to incorporate the topic in the way you did, or was that not intentional?

Karen McManus: No, it was. You know, with Cooper in One Of Us Is Lying, he had a much harder time with his sexuality, and he was surrounded by people that didn't support him, and even though he was ultimately able to accept himself and found people that accepted him, it was a hard journey for him. And I think that this is definitely a journey that a lot of kids experience, and many kids have told me how much they relate to Cooper which is wonderful. But I also think it is important to show a gay kid just living his life and having fun and being supported by people who care about him and it's not a big deal. So it was nice to give that role to Ezra, but also to Mia since you hear a lot about her not fitting in and that people give her a hard time, but it's not the driving force of her life. She is a confident girl, she has a supportive family, she has friends and other people are just an annoyance to her because she knows she is getting out of here, and she is going to be doing something interesting. So I did want to show that for both characters, Ezra and Mia.

Lesepunkte: I found it really refreshing that it is not made a big deal, just as it should be in society.

Karen McManus: Exactly, and it's nice for kids to see that. Ezra is just the brother and he's cool, he's a bunch of other things and he is also gay.

Lesepunkte: I was thinking about the title, which I think fits to more than one couple…

Karen McManus: …which was absolutely intended, even though the title came in rather late. It was actually my editor who came up with the title Two Can Keep A Secret while we were brainstorming and I thought 'wow'. It's a line from a song from the 'Pretty Little Liars' show, so I was wondering about the copyright, but the more I thought about it, the more I found it fitting so well. Especially because there are lots of pairs within the book, not only the twins but also Mia and Malcolm, Declan and Daisy, there are people sharing secrets, and all of that gets revealed in the end. The title just worked on lots of different levels for me.

Lesepunkte: Interestingly, it could have also been 'Two cannot keep a secret' because in the end, Ellery can or rather wants to actually keep a secret, even though we don't know what happens after the books’ story ends…

Karen McManus: Right, we don't know what she might do in six months. She might explode and tell somebody. And people ask me all the time, if I will write a sequel for Two Can Keep A Secret. And I just say 'never say never', but I feel like it would be very hard to undo that end because I actually want the reader to wonder what Ellery does. I think that's an interesting question to leave open.

Lesepunkte: It's probably also what teenagers reading your book don't like that much. In my experience they always want answers and don't like open endings. Is that what you experience too?

Karen M. McManus: „One Of Us Is Next“, ab 11. Mai 2020 erhältlich im cbj Verlag, ISBN: 978-3-570-16577-5, ca. 20,00 €

Karen McManus: Oh yes, I also get asked a lot what happened to Nate and Bronwyn from One Of Us Is Lying, and I actually thought it's obvious where they were headed. But because it's not on the page, a lot of people get anxious. So I did try to address that in One Of Us Is Next.

Lesepunkte: You studied journalism but did not work in the field, as far as I know. What made you think about starting to write?

Karen McManus: I honestly never thought I would write professionally. I used to write all the time as a kid until I was a teenager and it got sort of hard and I was interested in other things and stopped. I was working full time, raising my son. Then I was on a business trip to Portland in Oregon, which is about as far away from Boston as you can get. So I was at the airport and went to the bookstore and bought the book on display, which was the Hunger Games. I got obsessed with that book, couldn't stop thinking about it and for the first time in years I started thinking that I want to write something like that. So I did sit down on my computer and actually finished a book. And it was like a bad Hunger Games-mockup, it wasn't a good book, but it was so fun to write. Then I met all these other writers, because I joined all these social media the same time, and started interacting with them, made friends and we were sharing works which was fun. Then I wrote another book which also didn't go anywhere, but it was better. And I started thinking that if maybe, if I had the right book, I could get published because I learned so much and I understand writing and I know what I need to do and then the idea hit for One Of Us Is Lying. It was an idea where my vision was clear and if I would do a good job, maybe someone would be interested. So that's what happened, and it went from being a hobby to being published. I didn't quit my job for another year, because I didn't know where it was going to go.

Lesepunkte: What an inspiration for all those young kids out there who are thinking about writing a book! I noticed that Ellery and Malcolm have their own habits, Ellery always fumbling her hair and Malcolm wiggling his legs. Do you have such a habit (while writing) as well?

Karen McManus: I actually have Abby's habit, which I gave to her in One Of Us Is Lying: I play with my earring. I take the back off and I put it back on, and I do that all the time throughout conversations.

Lesepunkte: Talking to you I get the impression that you write your personal character into the characters of your books… 

Karen McManus: Yeah, they all get little somethings. There is a new character in One Of Us Is Next named Knox, and the very first time you are introduced to him, he is in a department store, and he is just thinking that he hates department stores because for some reason they just make him feel sad since everyone is just consuming too much, killing the planet and thus, he drinks his iced coffee. That's actually how I feel being in a big store, I get anxious, worried and I feel bad about it. But usually I have a big coffee in my hand, and am being part of the problem, which is ironic and I realize it…

Lesepunkte: Putting those little pieces of your own character and your personal thoughts into the characters of your book makes reading them even more thrilling and unravelling, which is why I can only recommend our young readers to engage with your books!

That's it with my questions, thank you for your time!

Karen M. McManus: „One of us is lying“, erhältlich im cbj Verlag (2018), ISBN: 978-3-570-16512-6, 18,00 €

Karen M. McManus: „Two Can Keep A Secret“, erhältlich im cbj Verlag (2019), ISBN: 978-3-570-16538-6, 18,00 €

Karen M. McManus: „One Of Us Is Next“, ab 11. Mai 2020 erhältlich im cbj Verlag, ISBN: 978-3-570-16577-5, ca. 20,00 €











Empfohlene Zitierweise

Interview mit Karen M. McManus (Jana Rüttgers). In: LESEPUNKTE 2020, URL: https://www.lesepunkte.de/interview/bestsellerautorin-karen-m-mcmanus-ueber-ihre-jugendbuchthriller-one-of-us-is-lying-two-can-keep-a-secret-und-one-of-us-is-next
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