“I don’t necessarily think that there are any villains or any true heroes in life. I think that there may be villainous moments or heroic moments in maybe everybody’s lives, you know? Like, some of us make good choices all the time, and some of us make bad choices all the time, and most of us make some combination of good and bad choices most of the time.” Author Lisa Unger discusses her book The Stranger Inside with host J.T. Ellison on NPT’s A Word on Words.
Lisa Unger Recommends
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott
The Goldfinch, Donna Tart
The Incarnations, Susan Barker
The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance, David Epstein
Music for Chameleons, Truman Capote
About Lisa Unger
It’s hard to compare Lisa Unger to any of her contemporaries. Unique, inventive, and often experimental, her writing is impossible to categorize. She combines her extensive knowledge of the human psyche with an understanding of trauma and fear to create novels that have earned her a reputation as one of the most skilled practitioners of the psychological thriller around today. Throughout her career, she has deftly walked the fine line between literary novels and commercial thrillers all the while hitting The New York Times_ _bestseller lists and earning both critical acclaim and millions of fans worldwide.
- [Lisa] Hi, I’m Lisa Unger, and this is, “The Stranger Inside.” Most books start with a germ. It could be anything. You know, might be a line of poetry, or it could be a news story or photograph. And if it then maybe connects to something deeper that’s going on with me, then I start to hear a voice or voices. And those voices lead me through the narrative. I don’t have an outline, and I don’t know what’s gonna happen day to day. I don’t know who’s gonna show up or what they’re gonna do. I just have this kind of faith that the story’s there, and I just have to find the story.
- [Ellison] You’ve said that there are no real villains. And that every character, no matter how deranged, deserves a multi-faceted portrait that reveals layers.
- I don’t necessarily think that there are any villains or any true heroes in life. I think that there may be villainous moments or heroic moments in maybe everybody’s lives, you know? Like, some of us make good choices all the time, and some of us make bad choices all the time, and most of us make some combination of good and bad choices most of the time.
- [Ellison] You were asked when you were going to stop writing about the horrors that happen to women, and I loved your answer. “When they stop happening.”
- We do get like sort of this conversation, and it’s a good conversation to have, is the why are we writing about these things? Why are we exploring these things? And, you know, to be frank, most people turn to crime fiction as writers because they’re trying to metabolize fear. And, I think that readers turn to crime fiction as well for a lot of the same reason; they’re also trying to metabolize fear. And there’s fear because the world is chaotic. But within the pages of the book, there will be some kind of justice. Maybe not exactly the justice that you want, but there will be some type of at least poetic justice, or some type of resolution where you feel like everything fell into the place where it needs to be. And that is not so in the real world.
- This has been absolutely fascinating, thank you so much for being here today.
- Oh my gosh, thanks for having me. This is a fantastic show.
- And thank you for watching “A Word on Words”. I’m J.T. Ellison. Keep reading.
- [Lisa] The women in my novels, they may have been victimized. They may have experienced trauma or crime; but not one of them is a victim. Every single one of them is somebody who’s on the other side of trauma, in her way, trying to achieve a new normal.