Kara Thomas shares with YEM how reading more non-fiction helped her approach creating characters in a more authentic way

Kara Thomas is the author of That Weekend. That Weekend is a thriller that follows Claire when she wakes up alone and bloodied on a hiking trail with no memory of the past forty-eight hours. Kara is a mystery enthusiast who lives on Long Island with her husband, son, and rescue cat. YEM was able to speak with Kara about what she learns every time she writes books, her writing process, and her interest in mysteries.

Young Entertainment Mag: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

Kara Thomas: I was pretty young– basically as soon as I could read books on my own, I knew I wanted to create my own stories.

YEM: What can you tell us about your book That Weekend?

Kara: That Weekend is about three friends who skip their prom and take a secret trip to the Catskills. When Claire wakes up, bruised and bloodied and alone on a hiking trail and with no memories of the past forty-eight hours, she must unravel the mystery of what happened to her two missing friends while suspicion lands on her.

YEM: What is it about thrillers that make you want to write them?

Kara: I love how thrillers and mysteries explore the darkness within human beings, and how they challenge the reader to ask difficult questions about how they would act when pushed to the limit. I always want to capture this feeling in my writing and challenge my readers to consider the moral dilemmas my characters face and wonder how they would respond if they were in the character’s shoes.

YEM: Do you learn something new every time you write a book? And if so, what did you learn this time?

Kara: I think that every time I write a book, I learn things about pacing, character, plot, etc– I think the best way to improve your craft is not by taking a class or reading books on writing, but by actually writing and problem-solving between drafts. With That Weekend I learned a lot about how to reveal information to the reader in a mystery when the character does not have the information herself– Claire is experiencing memory loss, so it was very challenging to balance what she knew or did not know with what the reader knew at any given point.

YEM: Who are some of your writing inspirations?

Kara: Dennis Lehane, Gillian Flynn, and Jane Harper are some of my favorite crime writers, and I’ve read all their books. On the YA side, I admire Courtney Summers and Gillian French for writing the type of mysteries that feel raw, human, and believable.

YEM: What is some advice you have for those who want to become writers?

Kara: Read widely! Opening myself to reading nonfiction and memoir helped me grow as a writer on a technical level because of the way non-fiction writers and journalists are forced to approach writing about people. I think reading more non-fiction helped me approach creating characters in a more authentic way.

YEM: Is there a message or something you hope your readers learn from reading That Weekend?

Kara: I hope that readers are entertained, first and foremost, but if they leave the book feeling unsettled, or have strong feelings of love/hate toward some of the decisions the characters made, then I think I have achieved my goal. I just want readers to feel something, and that will be different for every reader, whether positive or negative. I never want to write a forgettable book.

YEM: What does your writing process look like?

Kara: I usually start with an outline to map out all of the twists and turns in a story. Then, I will start to dig into the characters and their motivations, and merge this with my outline to try to form a cohesive story before I start drafting.

YEM: Have mysteries always been something that you were interested in?

Kara: I’ve always loved mysteries, whether it was Nancy Drew novels or the mass market thrillers I snuck from my mom’s bookshelf.

YEM: What is the most important part of writing a thriller in your opinion?

Kara: You need to make the reader care about the characters. I can be reading a book with incredible twists that surprise me, but I won’t be invested unless I truly care about the character, even if they are unlikable or difficult to root for. There has to be something interesting about the protagonist to keep me turning the pages.

YEM: Who is the first person that reads your writing?

Kara: These days, my drafts go straight to my editor. I never share my stories with family or friends until a book is published. I’m very self-conscious and weird like that!

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