Chris Pavone is a New York Times and internationally-bestselling author, whose debut The Expats, won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. His work since then includes The Accident and The Travelers. He was kind enough to answer a few questions.
You’ve said elsewhere that a move to Luxembourg inspired your novel, The Expats. What about specifically about Luxembourg provided inspiration?
When I was 40 years old, we moved to Luxembourg for my wife’s job. I left behind my whole life in New York City and moved to a place where I didn’t speak the language, didn’t have a career or any friends or family—my whole identity—and instead found myself cooking and cleaning and taking care of our four-year-old twins. I needed to reinvent myself entirely, in middle age, on another continent. This is what I wanted to base the book upon; that’s why it’s titled The Expats.
The Paris Diversion is coming out in May 2019. How has your writing changed since The Expats?
With The Expats, my primary goal was the verisimilitude of the expat experience—the sense of dislocation, of loneliness, of uncertainty that can lead you to second-guess your life’s biggest choices, become paranoid, lose trust in your friends, your spouse, yourself. It’s a very psychological thriller, told entirely from one close POV as the protagonist solves the mystery of a complicated conspiracy. The Paris Diversion, on the other hand, was inspired by my experiences on 9/11, when we lived just blocks from the World Trade Center: our neighborhood became a war zone, and for a long time the terror seemed permanent. I wanted to try to capture that experience in this new book, with terror and peril in the forefront of the narrative. Paris is a much more tense story, suffused with the certainty that people will die. In the decade since I started writing The Expats, as a reader I’ve become much more familiar with the conventions of mysteries and thrillers, so as a writer I’ve become focused on working within those conventions while also subverting readers’ expectations—I want to write books that at first look comfortably familiar, but then undergo a dramatic paradigm shift. The thing that at the beginning of the book you think is going on? That’s not really what’s going on.
What’s the premise of The Paris Diversion?
Early one morning, a man arrives at the Louvre wearing a suicide vest, while other terror threats arise throughout Paris. Over the course of one long dangerous day, a woman discovers that this massive attack is not at all what it seems. And that it involves her family.
You worked for two decades on the publishing side of things. What did you learn during that time that most affected your career as a writer?
Everyone who works in commercial publishing is acutely aware that publication means for the public—books for some specific segment of the reading audience that can be identified and reached. That’s how business works, and commercial publishing is above all a business. If a writer is writing just for himself, that’s by definition not for the public, and that’s what a diary is for. So when I’m writing, I always have the reader in mind.
What are you working on next?
I’m fiddling with a few ideas, but I think the most promising of them takes place in Lisbon, where an American woman wakes up in a hotel room and discovers that her new husband is missing.
Chris Pavone’s first novel, The Expats, was a New York Times bestseller, with twenty foreign editions and a major film deal, and received both the Edgar and Anthony awards for Best First Novel. The Accident (2014) and The Travelers (2016) were also national bestsellers. The Paris Diversion, a sequel to The Expats, will be published in May 2019.
Chris grew up in New York City, attended Midwood High School in Brooklyn and Cornell University, and was a book-publishing editor for nearly two decades. He is married and the father of twin boys, and they all live in New York City with an Australian Labradoodle named Wally.