Interviewing Sherri Smith

Last week I reviewed The Retreat by Sherri Smith

It’s a well plotted character focused tale of four friends on a trip to ‘find themselves’ that goes horribly wrong. Thanks to Titan I’ve been very lucky to have a chance to interview Sherri about the book.

1. What led to the idea the idea of a health retreat as a perfect place for a thriller? 


My inspiration for The Retreat was a news-story about a Canadian, Joshua Stevens, who attended a spiritual retreat in Peru in hopes of remedying a skin condition.  During the ayahuasca ceremony, something went horribly wrong and Stevens stabbed to death Unais Gomes, 26, a British engineer. I was intrigued by the ceremony itself and the requirements to stop all medications before partaking. I thought hallucinogen tea and a group of people all wanting to purge their ‘demons,’ would be the perfect setting to get away with murder. 


2. I really enjoyed the multiple character viewpoints you used.  What led you to that approach and what’s the best and worst bits of using different perspectives?


Thank you! It is certainly more difficult to keep track of a timeline with multiple viewpoints. I used four points of view because I wanted each character to have their own response to the retreat. As well, I liked the contrast between how the characters presented themselves and their inner workings and motives. 


3. With Katie was it important to show a potentially quite unlikeable character as the lead?


Likeability is something I never consider when reading or writing. I don’t at all understand the need to ‘like’ a character. I prefer flawed characters as they are often more realistic and I personally need a sense of realism in order to escape into a book as a reader. That said, I was also mindful that three out of the four characters would be dead by the end of my book. If I were to make each as loveable as a golden retriever then the final chapters would be depressing and sad rather than thrilling. 


4. What for you makes the best kind of thriller?


Anything that quickens the pulse enough to draw a reader into the story.


5. When you want to get away from it all where would you go?


The bathtub. I have two young children, so I can’t go far! 


6. Was there a soundtrack to writing the book or did you work in tranquil silence?


I definitely need music and will listen to anything. 


7. If there was one thriller (not written by you) that you wanted everyone to read what would it be?


There are way too many to choose from. Some good thrillers I’ve recently read are Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman, Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, The Escape Room by Megan Goldin and They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall.  


Matthew CavanaghComment