Todd Strasser's 'Kill You Last'
For the past 35 years Larchmont resident Todd Strasser has made an art form of getting into the mind-set of the teens for whom he writes. As a best-selling author, with 140 published novels to his credit, Strasser has done it again; his teen thriller, Kill You Last, has been nominated for the prestigious 2012 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Young Adult literature.
Kill You Last’s heroine, Shelby Sloan, is a carefree, over-privileged teen living in the affluent town of Soundview, NY. Then her father’s sudden alleged involvement in the disappearance of teenage girls leaves her family in crisis. Shelby puts her pampered persona aside and dives into the case with her own brand of high-tech teenage sleuthing.
Strasser has created a deliciously paranoid world of suspense, unpredictable plot twists and teen angst. He will learn if his novel wins the Edgar Award on April 26, at the Edgar Awards Banquet in New York City.
Here, Todd Strasser gives us the inside scoop on his novel:
Patch: Receiving a Poe nomination is quite a distinction. Did you know that Kill You Last was special while you were writing it?
Todd Strasser: I honestly didn’t know it was going to be any different than any of my other books. I’m not sure you ever know. You do the best you can; sometimes the results are below your hopes and sometimes they exceed your hopes.
Patch: Does Shelby rank as one of your favorite characters?
TS: My favorite character is usually whoever I am inhabiting at the current moment.
Patch: Speaking of inhabiting characters, how were you able to perfectly personify a texting-savvy, angst-ridden, teenage girl?
TS: I had an 18-year-old daughter and a son (now 28 and 24). When I was working on the first draft of this thrillogy I was talking to one of my kids about the e-mail exchange in the book. My kids said, “Dad, kids don’t e-mail, they text. E-mailing is so uncool!” A big part of it is staying in touch with my kids.
Patch: Kill You Last is set in Soundview, NY. Is this a real town?
TS: Soundview is the fictional town that I’ve been writing about for many years that is based on the Larchmont area.
Patch: What’s next for you?
TS: I’m actually working on my first fictionalized memoir—a coming-of-age story about growing up in the early 1960s during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was 12 when the crisis happened, and my father decided to build a bomb shelter. This caused a lot of interesting concerns for me; I was always worried about what would happen if our neighbors wanted to get in our bomb shelter, or how would I get home to the shelter in time if I was at school?