Accidental Author

September 2018 View more

Photo by Sarah Jastre

Although her current career was completely unplanned, Mary Kubica now has plenty of reason to believe her calling worked out: The award-winning writer has landed on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists with all four of her previous novels, and the Naperville resident unveils her fifth book, When the Lights Go Out, September 4.

Before staying home to raise her children, Kubica was a high school history teacher. The freedom of being able to leave that position allowed her to pursue a childhood passion: publishing.

“I’ve been writing since I was a little girl, usually in secret,” she says, “but I didn’t think I would be an author some day. When I left my job to start my family, I began writing Good Girl in earnest. I fell in love with it pretty quickly, and wrote it mostly for myself.”

To make her characters as real as possible, Kubica’s novels deploy a strategic construction using multiple first-person narrative voices in alternating chapters. “It gives the reader a more comprehensive view of what’s going on,” she says, “and leaves the reader to wonder who they can and cannot trust.”

The main character in When the Lights Go Out is 20-year-old Jessie, whose mother is dying from cancer, and she loses her in the first chapter of the book. After spending five years caring for her mother in Roscoe Village, Jessie decides to create a life for herself—and makes some startling discoveries, leading her to wonder if she is who she thinks she is.

Kubica always sets her novels in Chicago, she says, because it’s home for her. “Sometimes I do research in the city when I need to see something for myself. I think that nothing is quite the same as seeing it with your own eyes.” She says her plot ideas come in the quiet moments—while driving, or having her morning coffee—usually when she least expects them. “Little by little it comes to me. The twist came to me first for When the Lights Go Out, so it was a different writing process having the end in mind and working my way to it, instead of it being the other way around.”

Although Kubica is excited to team up with other mystery and suspense writers on her fall book tour, she’s flying solo at her hometown stopmeet her at Anderson’s Bookshop on Friday, September 7, at 7 p.m.