Read this exclusive Q&A with Kristen Orlando, author of You Don't Know My Name, and make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of her debut YA thriller!
Kristen Orlando's debut You Don't Know My Name is a captivating and page-turning YA thriller that follows 17-year-old trained assassin Reagan Elizabeth Hillis as she struggles to choose between a life she was born into and a love she can't turn away from. Ms. Orlando was kind enough to answer some of CrimeHQ's questions about her new teenage assassin, her favorite crime/mystery novels, and her debut novel!
Tell us about some of your favorite crime and mystery series, both YA and adult.
I love a good mystery, and I’m a huge fan of all things Sara Shepard. I think she’s an absolutely amazing plotter, and I have always really enjoyed her books—especially the Pretty Little Liars series. I also absolutely love Gillian Flynn. I cannot put down her books. I tore my way through Gone Girl, but I think Sharp Objects may be my absolute favorite. Her plots are so twisty-turny, and she’s just a fantastic writer.
In your book, Reagan is a master of mortal combat and weaponry. What type of research did you conduct to make sure Reagan's life was as realistic as possible?
I did a ton of research for this book because, even though it’s a high-concept contemporary novel, I really wanted readers to walk away thinking, “Well … maybe there is a super-secret underground group like the Black Angels in the CIA. Maybe teen spies-in-training like Reagan really do exist!”
I did my own research, but I also spoke with people in the military and law enforcement about the types of weapons my characters would carry in everyday life, on a mission, etc. I even went to a gun range and learned how to shoot a gun for the first time because I wanted to know what it felt like. I wanted to accurately be able to describe the weight of it in Reagan’s hands, the way it knocks you back when you pull the trigger, and the way the sound rattles against your chest. I have to say, guns scare the crap out of me! But, I thought it was really important to learn so that I could really help capture all of those important moments in You Don’t Know My Name.
As far as the mortal combat, I have watched more Krav Maga and martial arts videos than I can count! I even had a friend who does Krav Maga teach me some moves so I could describe them better in the novel. Hopefully, I’ve been able to capture how and why Reagan Hillis is such a badass.
What do you want readers to think or feel after finishing this book?
The ending is really dramatic, so I certainly hope people read the last page with their hearts still pounding. You Don’t Know My Name is full of action and suspense, but it’s about much more than that. There is a ton of emotion in the book, as well. I really hope people fall in love with the characters and root for Reagan as she tries to figure out the next move in her life (and as the plot takes her down a very thrilling, dangerous, and dark path). I think everyone in the world has been in Reagan’s position at some point—torn between what your heart wants and what is expected of you. I loved writing this character, and I hope people fall in love with her strength, flaws, and vulnerability.
What would be your murder weapon of choice?
Oh my gosh! I have never even thought about this. Ummm … I guess a gun. I feel like that’s the best way to get the job done, right? (P.S. If I ever am arrested for murder, Dateline’s Keith Morrison is totally going to pull up this little gem, isn’t he?)
What are you currently reading?
I’m always a year behind on my reading, so I’m just now reading Victoria Aveyard’s The Red Queen. It’s awesome.
What are you currently bingeing on Netflix?
Does Amazon Prime count? The show is from the early 2000s, but my husband and I are catching up on old episodes of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit. Yes! The magicians. It’s actually a really interesting show where they debunk all types of topics. I enjoy the documentary-style component of it along with their commentary (which is hilarious).
Describe You Don’t Know My Name in 5 words.
Trapped in dangerous, double life.
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Kristen Orlando’s life is writing, and she has been lucky enough to make it her living, first as a television producer, then as a marketer and now as a novelist. Kristen graduated with a B.A. in English literature from Kenyon College. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with the other great love of her life, Michael. You Don’t Know My Name is her debut novel.