Author Interview: Thin Air by Kellie M. Parker
For fans of YA thrillers, Thin Air by Kellie M. Parker is releasing soon, and today we are chatting with the debut author about her book and writing processes. Check out our interview below and add this locked-door (plane!) suspense thriller to your TBR for the October 17th release.
Thank you Penguin Random House for the advance copy!
Thin Airby Kellie M. Parker
Published by: Razorbill / Penguin Random House
on October 17, 2023
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult
Eight hours. Twelve contestants. A flight none of them might survive. A flight to Paris full of teenagers seeking opportunity turns deadly in this suspenseful, locked-door YA thriller. Perfect for fans of Diana Urban, Karen McManus, and Jessica Goodman.
Seventeen-year-old boarding school student Emily Walters is selected for an opportunity of a lifetime—she’ll compete abroad for a cash prize that will cover not only tuition to the college of her choice, but will lift her mother and her out of poverty.
But almost from the moment she and 11 other contestants board a private jet to Europe, Emily realizes somebody is willing to do anything to win. Between keeping an eye on her best friend’s flirty boyfriend and hiding her own dark secrets, she’s not sure how she’ll survive the contest, much less the flight. Especially when people start dying…
As loyalties shift and secrets are revealed, Emily must figure out who to trust, and who’s trying to kill them all, before she becomes the next victim.
Author Interview: Kellie M. Parker
1. How did you choose to center the story around Emily rather than one of the other
The writing advice I generally follow is to choose the person with the most at stake to be
the point-of-view (POV) character. When it came to picking my narrator for THIN AIR, I
knew I wanted to use first person present tense to give the story more immediacy, and I
wanted to stick with only one POV. I also wanted that character to become a better
person because of the events in the story. Emily popped into my brain first, and the
details of her backstory fell into place for me almost right away. With her motivation to
win and the secrets she’s hiding, I knew she’d have lots of conflict to resolve and plenty
of room for growth. But she’s also sympathetic and relatable, which is so important in a
POV character. The rest of the characters were created afterward, but it was only while
drafting that I discovered some of their connections to Emily and the conflicts between
them. So, in a way, the story grew around her rather than me choosing her.
2. 12 contestants is a lot of characters to keep track of while writing. How did you
organize your writing process so that you didn’t lose track of where the characters were
and what they were doing?
What’s funny is that THIN AIR originally had 16 contestants! Thankfully, my wise
editorial team recommended I cut several of them. Before I started the first draft, I
created a Pinterest board and chose a picture for each character so I could “see” them
in my mind. I also created an Excel spreadsheet, which listed each character along with
pertinent information like school, uniform colors, physical appearance, secrets, and
motivations. As I was writing, I sketched the two levels of the plane to use as a
reference. Having that extra visual helped me keep in mind where my characters were
as they moved about the plane. I also created a timeline (the timestamps on each
chapter helped with that) to keep track of where each character was when major events
happened. I still had a few moments during revisions where I’d facepalm and realize I
had the same person in two different places at once. One reason we must do so many
rounds of edits!
3. As a young person, what stories did you read that inspired you to write a thriller?
My very first foray into reading “real” books was one I picked up as a seven-year-old
because it had a horse on the cover. The book was The Secret of Shadow Ranch by
Carolyn Keene—a Nancy Drew book. Within pages, I was hooked, and I read every
Nancy Drew story I could get my hands on. I still have a large collection of the hard
covers downstairs on a shelf in my basement. Later, as a teenager, I discovered
Michael Crichton’s science fiction thrillers, Preston & Child, Agatha Christie, and Mary
Higgins Clark. Thanks to Nancy Drew and the many times she got knocked out with a
chloroform-soaked rag, I’ll always love a good cliffhanger chapter ending.