Ally Condie
June 27, 2024

Ally Condie is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Matched trilogy and its companion novel, The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe. She is also the author of the novel Summerlost, an Edgar Award Finalist for Best Juvenile Mystery, the New York Times bestselling novel Atlantia, and the co-author of the Darkdeep middle grade series. A former English teacher, Ally lives with her family outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She has an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is the founder and director of the nonprofit WriteOut Foundation.

Interview by Elise Cooper

Q: You are known for your YA books. Is there a difference in how you approach writing for YA and adult audiences?
Ally: Yes and no. I always come from the character initially. This is where stories start for me, having an idea of a person doing something in a situation. When writing adult books, I can write themes and issues not as relevant to younger people. But sometimes it was from a different perspective. This was not my first mystery. I had previously written a juvenile mystery that was nominated for the Edgar Awards, titled Summerlost.

Q: What draws you to writing mysteries?
Ally: I have loved mysteries since I was a child. I read some Agatha Christies on a trip to England with my dad and sister. I have been a big reader of mysteries my whole life.

Q: Does your personal experience with divorce influence the plot of your book?
Ally: In 2019 after I got divorced, I went on a trip by myself. I was sad since I had not expected the divorce and did not want it. I went on a trip to center myself and get away from everything. On the trip I found I was so lonely. I was paying attention to everyone there.

Q: Did your solo trip inspire the idea for your story?
Ally: Yes. There was a wedding there. I thought if there was a murder here, I would be the only person who could solve it. I am the only one paying attention to everyone else. This is how I came up with the book idea. The rest of the week I plotted out the book and thought about a character in this situation. My experience was very different but some of the feelings between Ellery and myself are the same, particularly when the children are away. Suddenly I was missing out on a large chunk of their childhood. This feels painful. My ex-husband is not Luke.

Q: Do you focus more on plot or characters in your writing?
Ally: Both. Agatha Christie is the master of this, with a fantastic plot. The characters were also real. I hoped the readers felt that the characters were flawed people who make mistakes but there is something appealing about them as well.

Q: Is there a character you struggled to like?
Ally: I wanted to like all of them in some way. I was not sad when I figured out who the killer was. Each of them had a motive and a secret.

Q: How would you describe your main character, Ellery?
Ally: She is caring, anxious, an observer, and someone who connects the dots. She is very strong and has encountered a lot in her life, which comes to bear in the story. For example, she was involved in an accident that made her who she is. She felt after it that her hard experience was behind her, and then she finds a dead body here at the hotel. But by the end of the book, she is happy to see there is joy that comes from unexpected places.

Q: Besides Ellery, do you have a favorite character?
Ally: Ravi. He is smart, sarcastic, and has a heart of gold. He is very urbane. He compliments her because he has some life experiences she does not have and vice versa.

Q: Can you tell us about the inspiration for the hotel setting in your book?
Ally: It is based on a few hotels in Big Sur. I have not stayed at them because they are so expensive but did eat dinner there. There is one called Post Ranch Inn and another one Ventana Big Sur.

Q: Why did you choose Big Sur as the setting for your story?
Ally: It is gorgeous and beautiful. The weather does play havoc there just as in the story. Mudslides have taken out roads, bridges, and people had to be helicoptered out. The murder I added, but people have been trapped there for several days.

Q: What are you working on next?
Ally: I am working on another adult and young novel plus four picture books coming out.

Review by Elise Cooper

The Unwedding by Ally Condie is her first attempt at adult fiction after being a successful young adult novelist.  There are themes of grief, loss, family, trust, and healing. The plot is a locked mystery since the characters are “locked” into a hotel.

The setting is a remote luxurious hotel in Big Sur, California.  Even though the main character, Ellery Wainwright, is surrounded by a cast of supporting characters she feels very much alone and lonely.  The characters are stuck, “locked,” at the hotel after a huge storm hits, closing off the guests from the rest of the world.  They are isolated with roads and bridges closed and no one able to rescue them for a few days.

Ellery decided to be a guest at the Broken Point resort since she had the reservations.  She and her husband, Luke, were supposed to spend their twentieth wedding anniversary together until he tells her he wants a quick divorce since he already has a girlfriend. Unfortunately for her, after deciding to go swimming in the pool she discovers a dead body.  It seems also at the resort is a wedding party.  But the “un-wedding” is real since the dead body was that of the groom, dying under suspect circumstances.  After another guest dies soon after, also under mysterious circumstances, she teams up with two guests who befriend her, Ravi and Nina. They become amateur sleuths trying to find the killer before more guests drop dead.

Readers see Ellery as relatable since she is suffering from heartbreak and a past trauma after witnessing the death of a bus accident victim. Her own life will never get the happily ever after.

The setting was very interesting, creating a sense of foreboding.  There were twists to the plot and the main character’s emotional state will tug at readers’ heartstrings.

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