Lisa Unger
October 28, 2022

Lisa Unger is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of twenty novels, including SECLUDED CABIN SLEEPS SIX (coming Nov 8), LAST GIRL GHOSTED, and CONFESSIONS ON THE 7:45 — now in development at Netflix, starring Jessica Alba. With books published in thirty-two languages and millions of copies sold worldwide, she is regarded as a master of suspense.

Interview by Elise Cooper

Q Where did you come up with the idea for this story?

Lisa: Usually I can pinpoint one moment. This one was more of a jumble of things that coalesced into the story. I read an article in Modern Love that was about a man who in his youth was a sperm donor. He later in life got curious and searched for his kids on an Internet site. He met with two of his children who had the same mom. He fell in love with the mom, and they got married. It got me thinking of family, how people are treated, and the idea of relationships. This was a much lighter and fluffier story than my plot. It then propelled me to do research on DNA testing.


Q Did you partake in any DNA testing?

Lisa: I would not do the DNA testing and did not do it, not even for the purpose of research for this book. There is no way I would do it. I read this interesting book about it, The Lost Family by Libby Copeland. It is about DNA testing and the history of it. It is kind of Wild West the way this DNA evidence can be used. The worst part of it: even if you decided not to do it the chances someone in your family has. Peripheral information becomes less and less private all the time.


Q Where did you get the idea for the setting?

Lisa: My husband and I during Covid took these vacations in a remote part of Georgia. We stayed in a cabin. Even though we really enjoyed it I could not get over the isolation. I wondered about the lock code: does everybody have the same one or do they change it? As a thriller writer I must think about all these crazy things that could happen. I also enjoyed putting the nature scenes in the book, especially with the storm, since anything can happen.


Q How would you describe Hannah?

Lisa: She really cares a lot about her family, a devoted mother, wife, and sister. She values the role of being the family caretaker. She picks up after the mess left by someone in her family. She makes things right as things go wrong and keeps the family secrets. Hannah is responsible, a rule follower, and very determined.


Q How would you describe Bruce?

Lisa: A mystery. We see him only through Hannah’s eyes. Stoic, highly ethical, highly intelligent, and repressed emotionally. He is devoted to Hannah but will never deviate when he sees a wrong even though it may come at a risk to his wife and her family. Bruce is quiet, calm, and caring.


Q What is the role of the family?

Lisa: A central theme of the book is what makes up a family? What binds them together: is it blood DNA, a shared experience, or a sub-conscious contract with the family of origin. Does these ever conflict? Hannah’s good friend is considered part of the family because she is as close and meaningful as any family member, the feeling of a family bond. Her friend Cricket and Hannah have a sister-like relationship. They can forgive each other’s flaws and support each other. She did rise to the occasion as she acted more like Hannah.


Q You delve into the accountability of an enabler. Should they be held accountable?

Lisa: It is a theme in the book. There are so many layers to that collusion between perpetrator and enabler or addict and enabler. Those layers are often formed within the family of origin. Someone can have a difficult personality, addictive personality, or abusive personality and so often the enabler-type has been formed in childhood. Many times, they do not know any other way to be in a relationship. For example, if you know someone is drunk and allow them to drive, are you culpable? This includes looking the other way. This could be a question without an answer because the enabler is held accountable for the actions of someone else. I personally do not think we are responsible for the actions of others. If a drunk person drives and kills someone you should not be held responsible because you are not the one behind the wheel. Legally, there is after the fact aiding and abetting. If you helped that drunk driver escape to Mexico to evade justice, then you are an accessory after the fact. It is so layered.


Q You’ve now published 20 great novels. How does it feel?

Lisa: I am grateful because I never wanted to do anything else in my life. I have been writing since I was a child. I had this dream for as long as I can remember, and it came true. I feel blessed that I can make my living doing something I love. I formed long time relationships with book sellers, librarians, editors, and readers. I feel a lot of gratitude that I can continue.


Q You put out a statement around the attack on Salman Rushdie. What’s the story there?

Lisa: I am the co-president of International Thriller Writers and we put out a statement. We support Rushdie along with the freedom to write and speak what you want. The responsibility of a fiction writer is to imagine all different perspectives and one should be free to explore it without fear of injury.


The statement,On August 12, Salman Rushdie was slated to give a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution as part of their literary and arts programming. Before he could speak, he was assaulted on stage and stabbed repeatedly. According to the Institute, Mr. Rushdie was planning to lead “a discussion of the United States as asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression.”


International Thriller Writers denounces this attack, which goes beyond the ten to fifteen stab wounds Rushdie received. It is also an attack on two of our core values—freedom of speech and freedom of artistic expression. ITW represents nearly 5,500 authors from 53 countries who have sent 3.3 billion books into the world. Collectively we praise Mr. Rushdie’s courage and resilience and send every wish for his recovery and continued literary endeavors. 


Q Are there any screen adaptations on the horizon?

Lisa: My book Confessions on the 7:45 has been optioned by Netflix with Jessica Alba due to star. The person working on the screenplay as we speak is Charise Castro Smith. There is no release date as of now although it is moving faster than I thought. I recognize once it leaves my hands it is not my baby anymore. I did get a chance to see the screenplay and early on was asked a lot of questions about my visions. It will be a six- or eight-episode series.


Q What’s next?

Lisa: My next book is done and will come out fall of next year.


Review by Elise Cooper

Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six by Lisa Unger plays on people’s fears as a good thriller should. Included in the plot is genealogy research, DNA tests, murder, and jealousy. The characters must struggle with these while visiting a secluded cabin.

Six people close to each other with dirty secrets are going to a secluded cabin for an R & R weekend. The main character is Hannah, a good wife and mother who is determined and a problem solver. For her birthday, her brother Mako and his wife Liza are paying for a vacation getaway for a cabin that has a spectacular view, a hot tub, and a private chef. Also invited is close family friend Cricket and her new boyfriend, Joshua, and of course Hannah’s husband Bruce.

But mother nature plays a role when a terrible storm rolls in causing all the electricity to go out in the cabin. To make matters worse Liza has gone missing. Hannah feels something sinister is happening and does not think these mishaps are a coincidence. What started as a dreamy weekend turns into a nightmare. It appears someone is determined to exact payback for an event long buried.

This book has multiple layers that come across through the different narrators and time periods. The story is suspenseful and intriguing.

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