Monday, August 3, 2020

Megan Collins Interview - Behind the Red Door

Photo Credit: Tania Palermo

Megan Collins is the author of The Winter Sister (Atria/Simon & Schuster). She received her B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, and she holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Boston University, where she was a teaching fellow. She has taught creative writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and Central Connecticut State University, and she is Managing Editor of 3Elements Review. A Pushcart Prize and two-time Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in many print and online journals, including Compose, Linebreak, Off the Coast, Spillway, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Rattle. She lives in Connecticut.


Tell us your latest news.
I’m currently revising my next novel, which is another thriller in which decades of secrets are exposed, completely uprooting everything one family thought they knew.

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in Connecticut, and I live in Connecticut. In fact, I’ve only spent about five years of my life not living in Connecticut—but that was for college and grad school, so I don’t even know if it counts!

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
As an author, it’s incredibly rewarding every time a reader reaches out to tell you they loved your book, and even more rewarding when they say that it touched or impacted them in a meaningful way. It’s also been incredibly rewarding to connect with other authors who are on this same journey, because only other writers understand what a strange and magical and emotional journey it is. And as a specific anecdote, I don’t know if “rewarding” is the best word to describe this, but Alice Hoffman, one of my literary idols, attended an event I did for my debut, The Winter Sister, because she is friends with my former poetry professor, who brought her along. She asked me to sign a copy of my book for her, and I gaped at her with my mouth wide open for what felt like thirty minutes.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I hope readers will think about the role that fear plays in their lives—not just their ordinary phobias like death or heights, but those bone-deep, human fears like losing someone you love, or having to let go of someone you care about because the relationship doesn’t serve you anymore. How much do we let fear keep us in situations that aren’t healthy for us, or don’t allow us to grow?

In your new book; BEHIND THE RED DOOR, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
The book begins when Fern Douglas sees a news story about Astrid Sullivan, a missing woman from Maine, and immediately feels like she knows her. Fern’s husband tells her it’s because Astrid was famously kidnapped—and famously returned—twenty years ago in an unsolved abduction, but Fern has no memory of that happening, even though the kidnapping occurred in her home state of New Hampshire. That night, when Fern’s recurring nightmare suddenly has Astrid’s face in it, she becomes convinced that she knows her, and begins a race against time to try to uncover memories that will help locate Astrid, who is believed to have been abducted by the same man who took her decades ago.

What part of Fern did you enjoy writing the most?
Fern suffers from acute anxiety, as do I, and even though writing about her anxiety definitely caused some flare-ups of my own, it was also a very cathartic experience. For so long, I thought I was “crazy” because of how my brain worked, the way I latched onto things to obsessively worry about that others could just breeze past or ignore altogether. But in writing about Fern’s anxiety in an empathetic way (because I think writers have to approach all their characters in an empathetic way), I was able, finally, to have empathy for myself.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Astrid?
In writing Astrid, whose voice in the book comes out through excerpts of a memoir she wrote about her kidnapping twenty years ago, I was continually surprised by how defiant she was, how willing she was to push back against rules and ideas that made no sense to her. I’ve struggled in the past with how non-confrontational I can be, so it surprised me to see Astrid take shape as someone who doesn’t care about what she’s “supposed” to do or what is deemed to be “right.”

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would introduce Fern, the protagonist of Behind the Red Door, to Kirsten Raymonde from Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. Like Fern, Kirsten has chunks of her childhood she can’t remember, so the two of them could bond over that. But Fern, who is afraid of so much, could learn a lot from Kirsten, who has survived a global pandemic that killed 99% of the population. Kirsten has had to be strong and fierce, and sometimes fearless, and has had to adapt to the complete destruction of civilization, but she remains a very hopeful character—and hope is something that Fern could definitely use.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Be kind to yourself and to others. It’s so simple, it’s not at all original, but it applies to almost every situation in the world.

  • 1. Now that it’s summer, it’s not my job to protect the children.
  • 2. There are parts of my story I can only tell now that my parents are dead.
  • 3. When I was little, I pictured God as a jovial white man, Santa Claus in a cream-colored robe, just like the ones that Father Murphy wore. But when I grew older, and my mom explained my period to me as a punishment I must endure for the sin of a woman I’d never met, I imagined God as a scowling black-clad judge, raising his gavel, ready to slam it down on my head.
  • 4. It’s a cliché, I know, for a girl to be softer than a boy, but what do you expect? Women have been taught so well to be pliant.
  • 5. “The Witch from Forest Near” was the only fairy tale I was ever told. It starred Ted as both protagonist and villain. He invented the witch and, through the crackling cadence of his voice, instantly became her. His long wisps of hair, which were gray even when I was a child, transformed into her moon-silver locks. His hands turned convincingly gnarled.
  • 6. “If hell is where the lesbians are,” I said, “then I think I’d like to burn.”
  • 7. “We’re family,” he replies. “We don’t need to be polite.”
  • 8. Still, when I think of my childhood, most of what I remember is a persistent ache. Like a fist pressed against my ribs. Like legs that cramp after sitting in the same position for too long.
  • 9. And suddenly, for the first time, when I looked at the top of the stairs, the red door appeared to shine like light through stained glass.
  • 10. The spindles of the interview chair hurt my back, left vertical impressions on my skin, but the pain did what pain does: it let me know I was alive.
Best date you've ever had?
Early on in my relationship with my now-husband, we drove two hours to a town where an ex-boyfriend of mine used to live because there were so many things I loved about the town. That probably sounds really weird—and I guess it is—but it was such a fun day! We ate my all-time favorite buffalo wings, played darts for a while, sat on this big rock with an incredible view, and on the drive home, we saw fireworks because it was close to the Fourth of July.

If your life was a song, what would the title be?
“Anxiety! (It Can’t Be As Bad As You Think It’s Going to Be)”

What was a time in your life when you were really scared?
I was driving on the highway during a Nor’easter one time, and my car did a complete 180 so that I was facing oncoming traffic. I thought for sure I was going to die. Luckily, there weren’t too many people on the road because of the weather, so they were able to get around me with enough time and I was able to turn around safely and face the direction I was actually supposed to be driving in. Ever since, though, I’ve hated driving in any kind of inclement weather, even rain.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?

It’s not one incident in particular, but a cumulation of things I’ve experienced and people I’ve had the chance to know through teaching for the last twelve years. I grew up in a very small town with very little diversity of any kind, but for the past twelve years, I’ve taught in a school with students from many racial, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds, and it’s opened my eyes to so much beauty and, sadly, so much injustice. It’s made me want to fight even harder against those injustices I see out in the world.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
As long as I didn’t have to stay there permanently, I’d want to go back to my junior or senior year of college. What a gift it was—living mere feet from my best friends, able to walk to their rooms without even putting on shoes! Now, most of my closest friends live in other states so it takes a lot of planning and time to see them, so I miss the days when the people I loved most where so close to me.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Read the following books: (1) Beloved by Toni Morrison, (2) The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, and (3) Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.

The author of the “suspenseful, atmospheric, and completely riveting” (Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author) debut The Winter Sister returns with a darkly thrilling novel about a woman who comes to believe that she has a connection to a decades old kidnapping and now that the victim has gone missing again, begins a frantic search to learn what happened in the past.

When Fern Douglas sees the news about Astrid Sullivan, a thirty-four-year-old missing woman from Maine, she is positive that she knows her. Fern’s husband is sure it’s because of Astrid’s famous kidnapping—and equally famous return—twenty years ago, but Fern has no memory of that, even though it happened an hour outside her New Hampshire hometown. And when Astrid appears in Fern’s recurring nightmare, one in which a girl reaches out to her, pleading, Fern fears that it’s not a dream at all, but a memory.

Back home in New Hampshire, Fern purchases a copy of Astrid’s recently published memoir—which may have provoked her original kidnapper to abduct her again—and as she reads through its chapters and visits the people and places within it, she discovers more evidence that she has an unsettling connection to the missing woman. As Fern’s search becomes increasingly desperate, she hopes to remember her past so she can save Astrid in the present…before it’s too late.

Featuring Megan Collins’s signature “dark, tense, and completely absorbing” (Booklist) prose and plenty of shocking twists and turns, Behind the Red Door is an arresting thriller that will haunt you long after you turn the last page.


“In Behind the Red Door, Megan Collins has achieved something remarkable—a dark, disturbing story that is both elegant and fascinating. Exquisite writing, compelling characters and a story so captivating I finished it in a weekend. Few books live up to the word chilling, but this one does.” —Samantha Downing, USA Today bestselling author of My Lovely Wife

"Spellbinding, poignant and atmospheric, Behind The Red Door is one of those rare stories you can get utterly lost in. With writing so richly evocative I could vividly imagine every detail, this is a mesmerizing tale in which family bonds are broken, lifelong secrets are exposed, and a woman who suffers a debilitating anxiety disorder must find the truth about her connection to a decades-old kidnapping. Intensely moving, beautifully written and thoroughly enjoyable, I can’t recommend this highly enough!" —Christina McDonald, USA Today bestselling author of The Night Olivia Fell

“Behind the Red Door isn’t just a gripping, finely-tuned thriller, it’s a masterful meditation on fear. Dark forests, crumbling cabins, and mutating nightmares all populate this New England landscape where one woman may hold the key to saving a kidnapping victim. But in order to do so, she’ll have to confront a lifetime of terror, including the ultimate fear: not knowing who can be trusted or where the monsters live. I was hooked from the first page.” —Mindy Mejia, author of Strike Me Down

“Collins nimbly orchestrates Fern’s growing sense of terror as she slowly sifts in echoes of long-repressed sounds and sights…a tricky mystery. Even in the final pages, Collins avoids any expected resolution, leaving the reader deliciously unsettled and disturbed. A dark psychological thriller riddled with twisted family dynamics.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Megan Collins is the master of emotionally resonant, deeply personal suspense fiction where the small details are just as chilling as the dramatic turns. Behind the Red Door is gripping and gorgeously-written and, like her stellar debut The Winter Sister, I'm certain this book will haunt me for years to come.” —Layne Fargo, author of Temper

"Taut, provocative, disturbing—Megan Collins' sophomore novel is more than a thriller; it's a dark and deeply compelling examination of the knife's edge between trust and fear. With muscular prose and richly wrought characters, Behind the Red Door grabbed me, startled me, and didn't let go until I'd torn through every chilling word." —Andrea Bartz, author of The Lost Night and The Herd

“Atmospheric and haunting, Behind the Red Door is at once a chilling tale of complicated family dynamics and a riveting mystery. Elegant prose, intriguing characters and taut pacing make this book unputdownable.”  —Daniela Petrova, author of Her Daughter’s Mother

“[H]arrowing... Collins plays her cards carefully to maximize suspense.” —Publishers Weekly

"Behind the Red Door is stunning in every way. Fern Douglas digs her fingers into your brain until you’re hooked and want more. I’m still reeling from this. Megan Collins is a masterful writer and this novel is full of twists you didn’t expect. It will leave you breathless and shaking in the best way." —Amina Akhtar, author of #FashionVictim

Collins has delivered an intensely well-plotted mystery, with every character under suspicion as we plunder the depths of memory in BEHIND THE RED DOOR. Fern, whose emotional fragility never feels forced or cliché, sees a familiar-looking woman on TV, a former kidnapping victim, and realizes she maybe can't trust her own childhood recollections of those events. Enter a sadistic psychologist father, a mother who builds a floor out of the fragments of broken pottery, and a slew of suspicous hometown acquaintances, and you have a mindbending psychological thriller that asks questions of identity, of morality, and of the trustworthiness of our own experiences. It's a book to read and then read again. —Wendy Heard, author of Hunting Annabelle and The Kill Club

You can purchase Behind the Red Door at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you MEGAN COLLINS for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Behind the Red Door by Megan Collins.


  1. Congratulations to the author for a great-sounding new book!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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