Rebecca Kelley is an author and graphic designer whose first novel, Broken Homes and Gardens, was published in 2015. Her second novel, No One Knows Us Here, will be released by Lake Union Publishing in January 2023.
Rebecca holds a master’s degree in Creative Writing from Portland State University and a BA from Southern Oregon University. She taught writing for 15 years and has written articles for Bustle, The Rumpus, Metro Parent, Scholastic, and Parent and Child.
Q No One Knows Us Here comes out on January 1, 2023 by Lake Union Publishing. Can you give us a brief summary?
Rebecca: It’s a novel about Rosemary Rabourne, a 23-year-old whose recently-orphaned half-sister, Wendy, shows up at the apartment Rosemary shares with four other roommates. Guilty for having left her sister in an abusive home, Rosemary takes Wendy in. She winds up becoming the paid girlfriend of an eccentric young tech billionaire in order to make ends meet.
Q We’ve read that you were inspired to write No One Knows Us Here when you realized there are not many books written about women being cold-blooded killers. Why did you make your main character, who is female, a murderer?
Rebecca: I’m interested in writing about women characters who are the main actors in the story, not just playing the role of the girlfriend to the hero or the victim of the villain.
Q As you were writing No One Knows Us Here, did you know from the start what the murder weapon would be, and how the events would play out?
Rebecca: I came up with it fairly early on, knowing that she was going to work in a kitchen store. I knew how I wanted that whole scene to happen, but it took some experimenting to figure out how all the events would lead up to it.
Q Your book’s been called “Pretty Woman gone wrong” – do you think this is accurate, why or why not?
Rebecca: Accurate! In Pretty Woman, a rich guy hires a sex worker and they end up falling in love. In No One Knows Us Here, a rich man hires a sex worker and … well, I hope it’s not a spoiler to say they don’t end up happily ever after.
Q How do you draw out the suspense in your writing? Are there tips and tricks to make the reader keep turning pages?
Rebecca: My writing group meets every week. We read our pages out loud, and that process is very helpful for hearing how the pacing works—what seems to drag and what could use a few more beats.
I’m not sure if I thought very consciously about building suspense, but I did think a lot about creating creepy moments. If a scene didn’t seem suspenseful enough, I’d just have Leo do or say another one of his creepy things!
Q What’s the drafting process like? So often, I imagine there is a lot of returning to various scenes to add layers and additional clues.
Rebecca: I try to plan everything out ahead of time, but for No One Knows Us Here, the process was much messier. I wrote a very long draft—over 500 pages—and then cut a lot out, tightening it up, before I showed it to my agent. The “tightening up” created some strange holes and I patched in forty or so new pages. I kind of enjoy the editing process more than the drafting process, so this ended up working out for me, though it’s probably not a super efficient way to write a novel.
Q What are some Google searches you looked up when writing No One Knows Us Here that are unusual and incriminating, or just odd?
Rebecca: I did a lot of sketchy Google searches about high-end escorts—what they charge for what service, what they do and don’t do, how they set up their businesses, etc. Most of this research doesn’t even appear in the book, as Rosemary gets caught up with Leo instead of pursuing the whole escort idea.
Q There’s a bit of a feeling like Big Brother is Watching in No One Knows Us Here. Can you tell us about this fictional tech company you created? How did you come up with the idea, and do you think the app would work in real life? If not, why not?
Rebecca: I thought about existing apps—how the idea is usually pretty simple and makes use of already existing technology. Instagram is just posting pictures from your phone, for example. That made me think that I didn’t have to be any sort of tech genius to come up with a plausible idea. I also knew I wanted the app to be disturbing in some way, so Leo could use it to manipulate Rosemary. So, that’s how I came up with the idea of people signing up to be monitored by these cameras that would be installed everywhere. Could it work in real life? I think it could work. But I hope it never does!
Q Your previous books include a non-fiction baby guide and a book that is described as When Harry Met Sally for the Millennial generation, presumably with no murders. Do you think you will stick with writing suspense and murder mysteries for future books?
Rebecca: I do have another psychological suspense novel in the works. It’s in the early stages, so I can’t say much more about it yet. If that doesn’t work out, maybe I should go in a completely different direction again to really mix things up. An automotive engineering manual, maybe?