In Her Skin
By: Kim Savage
Publication Date: March 27th, 2018
Sixteen-year-old con artist Jo Chastain is about to take on the biggest heist of her life: impersonating a missing girl. Life on the streets of Boston these past few years hasn’t been easy, and Jo is hoping to cash in on a little safety, a little security. She finds her opportunity in the Lovecrafts, a wealthy family with ties to the unsolved disappearance of Vivienne Weir, who vanished when she was nine.
When Jo takes on Vivi’s identity and stages the girl’s miraculous return, the Lovecrafts welcome her back with open arms. They give her everything she could want: love, money, and proximity to their intoxicating and unpredictable daughter, Temple. But nothing is as it seems in the Lovecraft household—and some secrets refuse to stay buried. As hidden crimes come to the surface, and lines of deception begin to blur, Jo must choose to either hold onto an illusion of safety, or escape the danger around her before it’s too late.
1) What is on your desk or where you write? What do you need to write? Do you have a writer’s survival kit?
My desk is in my office, which has secret cabinets in the fireplace where the original owners hid liquor during the Prohibition Era. My dad passed away shortly after Beautiful Broken Girls was released, and he was my greatest supporter. I keep the mantle clock he gave me on my windowsill. It doesn’t matter that it hasn’t worked in years; it works for me.
2) What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a panster? Which do you prefer: drafting or revising?
I plot and pants, laying down the bones of a story until I get too impatient and have to start writing. Then I hardly look back.
And, absolutely revision. Is there anyone who enjoys drafting? Shiver.
3) A book goes through a lot of different versions and rounds of editing before it’s complete. What are some “fun facts” or behind the scenes info you can share about the characters from your book or the world you created for it that may or may not have made it to the final draft of the book?
In Her Skin didn’t get a major revision, but I always have timeline issues, and this novel was no different. For Temple’s fictional Parkman School, I had to follow a private school calendar, using realistic school-start dates, holidays, and vacation weeks. I also had to create Temple’s jam-packed weekly after-school activities schedule and stick to it, week after week. For whatever reason, nothing ever lined up. Scenes set at school would inevitably fall on Sundays. Temple would have fencing lessons on the wrong day. That sort of thing. Nothing high-tech at work here: I print the months I want in iCal and pencil in plot points on each day. Just thinking about the amount of eraser dust makes me sneeze. It was a logistical nightmare!
4) Do you have a special story, a discovery you made while doing research, or an innocuous thought that grew into something bigger that is behind your inspiration for IN HER SKIN?
I’ve been a journalist and an actor in addition to being a novelist, so I found myself drawing on my own skill at getting inside other peoples’ skin while writing Jo. That was unexpected.
5) Who was your favorite character to write and who gave you the most trouble?
Favorite: It’s a tie between Temple at age nine and the bodyguard Gerry, the former child soldier who is a mirror character to Jo (as Jo says, “People dependent on monsters know one another, whether those monsters live in Back Bay or the Bush.”).
Most troublesome: maybe Wolf, Jo’s one true love, if only because I loved him too, but I knew from the start what I was going to do to him.
6) If you could ask a character of your choice from IN HER SKIN one question what would it be?
Temple, marionettes are creepy, girl. You think bringing Jo/Vivi to see marionettes at the library is going to put her at ease on her first day? Hell no!
7) What scene from the book are you most proud of (because of how you handled the atmosphere, characters, dialogue, etc)?
When the Lovecrafts first bring Jo home, she wants to believe she’s made it. But she can’t stop thinking they might be just like all of the other adults in her life who have let her down (her mother, her mother’s boyfriend, social workers, etc.). Darker still, she can’t stop thinking they might molest her. I knew Jo would “go there” in her head but it was hard to write it in a way that didn’t assault the reader’s senses and take them out of the story. I think the first night in the Lovecraft’s brownstone scene works because you see pragmatist Jo acknowledging that possibility, and making the choice to stay anyway.
8) Is there a scene that you had difficulty with and just had to “power through” to finish the book? Or a scene that made you very emotional?
When Jo is at her most vulnerable, and starts to see mothers everywhere she looks:
Mrs. Lovecraft’s kindnesses have pried open the fist I’ve made of myself. She opens me up in other ways, too. Everywhere, I see mothers. In the growing belly of the housecleaner. In the waiting room at the dentist Mrs. Lovecraft takes me to. On the streets of Boston, push- ing strollers that look like drones. Everywhere, mothers tending to daughters. I begin to remember.
Jo may be a con, but all she really want is a family.
9) What are the top five things we should know as a reader before starting IN HER SKIN (about the main character, their love interest, the antagonist, their world/home town, their situation, background, etc)
- Fifteen-year-old Jo’s Momma taught her every con—impersonation, swindling, blackmail—but the one thing she didn’t teach her was how to live on the street.
- After Momma’s boyfriend kills her, Jo flees Imokalee and finds herself living in Boston’s Tent City with Wolf. Wolf loves Jo, but he can’t give her what she wants most: the safety of a family.
- When Jo spots Temple Lovecraft, she considers stealing her identity until she learns Temple’s father is a big local developer: too recognizable, she thinks. Jo finds an article connecting the Lovecrafts to nine-year-old Vivienne (Vivi) Weir, who disappeared from the Lovecrafts’ Back Bay brownstone seven years earlier. Jo decides Vivi is her ticket off the streets. Jo goes to the cops with a story of being held captive.
- Henry and Clarissa Lovecraft arrive and accept Jo as Vivi without question. The detective is skeptical, but the social worker is impressed. Jo/Vivi is placed in the Lovecrafts’ custody and moves into their luxe home.
- The Lovecrafts seem like the perfect parents Jo never had, and Temple the perfect sister, despite her dangerous pranks, love of rave parties, and the unpredictable rages she refers to as her “bloodlust.” What could go wrong?
10) What is next for you? What are your currently working on?
I’m writing two books. One is a straight-up thriller where two girls are about to exact the perfect revenge. Kendall Cross and Harley Riggs have discovered they’re seeing the same boy. Kendall—on scholarship, ivy-league bound, and about to be the first member of her hard-working family to go to college—is his steady. Harley—raised rich in Silicon Valley, with a knack for coding, drinking too much, and flunking out—is the girl he sees on the side. He’s Julian Knox, and he has a secret only Kendall knows. The essay that got him into Yale was written by someone else. Twists ensue, big time.
The second is a gothic contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s Richard III, the greatest villain ever written. So. Much. Fun.
I was born and raised in Massachusetts, on the South Shore, which sounds beachy, even luxe. Think Winnebagos and chicken coops. My three brothers, 16, 10, and 8 years older, were teens by the time I became a person. Happiest around adults, who often forgot I was there, I spent days eavesdropping on gossipy moms in lawn chairs and nights listening under the table during tipsy Scrabble parties.
My dad read to me nightly. Eventually and early, I read to myself, everywhere. On top of an enormous freezer chest stuffed with meat. On drives until I grew nauseous. In bed until my eyes gave out. I read anything I could get my hands on. V.C. Andrews and Dickens. Black Beauty and the Bible. The Economist. Madeline L’Engle and Margaret Atwood. National Geographic.
I got a bachelor’s degree in English from Stonehill College and a Master’s in Journalism from Northeastern University. For a while, I worked as a business journalist. Instead of waiting for the Federal Reserve to release the Beige Book, I pitched story ideas along the lines of “Stigmatized Properties: When Murder Kills Property Values”. You see where things were headed.
Today, I live with my family northwest of Boston in a town a lot like Shiverton, near the real Fells reservation of AFTER THE WOODS. Born with dysgeographica—I’m directionally challenged—the fear of getting lost in that lovely, dark forest lives close to my skin.
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