According to Chinese tradition, 2016 is the Year of the Monkey—but for thriller fans, it could turn out to be the Year of the Drake. After publishing three thrillers between 2006 and 2008 (Don’t Be Afraid, The Next Killing, and The Dead Place), Rebecca Drake is back and better than ever, after an eight-year hiatus, with Only Ever You—a heartrending, adrenaline-fueled fusion of psychological thriller and women’s fiction that also marks her highly anticipated hardcover debut.
A masterfully plotted domestic thriller that will captivate both male and female readers, Only Ever You chronicles every parent’s worst nightmare: the abduction of a child.
By all outward appearances, Jill and David Lassiter are living an idyllic existence; they reside in an affluent neighborhood just outside of Pittsburgh, and both have successful careers. David is a lawyer, and Jill owns a photography business. With a precocious three-year-old daughter named Sophia, Jill is finding it increasingly difficult to balance the responsibilities of being a supportive wife, nurturing mother, and dedicated entrepreneur.
When Jill and David find Sophia missing from her bed one morning, their lives are instantly turned upside down when the police, local news media, and members of the community turn their suspicion on them. As the circumstantial evidence inexplicably mounts against her and David, Jill begins a desperate quest to uncover the truth behind Sophia’s disappearance—and what she finds is far more soul chilling than her daughter’s abduction.
Powered by breakneck pacing, an impressively knotty storyline, and a cast of authentic characters, Only Ever You is one of those rare stay-up-all-night-until-your-eyes-bleed novels. Readers who enjoy stories written by authors like Lisa Scottoline, Karin Slaughter, and Lisa Unger will find Drake’s newest to be a wildly entertaining, emotional rollercoaster of a thrill ride that is, in a word, unputdownable.
Criminal Element asked Drake a few questions about the motivation behind Only Ever You and her long-awaited return to the shelves.
CE: It has been eight years since your last novel, The Dead Place. How do you compare the level of your writing in your first three novels to Only Ever You?
RD: I think I’ve evolved as a writer. My first three books were serial killer novels, which were really interesting to research and write, but they weren’t as deeply personal and emotional as Only Ever You. I think I had to write those books to get to this one. While Only Ever You is obviously a crime thriller, at its core, it’s really a story about the abiding love that parents have for their children. I had to mature as a writer in order to delve beyond universal fears to bring to my fiction the deeply personal and emotional experience of parenting.
CE: The premise of Only Ever You is literally every parent’s worst nightmare. Where did the seed of inspiration come from?
RD: I actually dreamed what became the opening chapter in this novel—a child disappearing at a park only to reappear with a puncture mark on her arm. I woke in the middle of the night, still feeling the adrenaline rush, and quickly scribbled the scene down. I knew it was a great beginning to a story, but it took some time to find the rest.
While dealing with the trauma of helping my then 15-year-old son through serious surgery and the subsequent hospitalization, I met another mother whose 6-year-old son was undergoing treatment for a particularly aggressive form of cancer. We shared the same sense of being part of a club that no parent wants to join, and we talked about having been willing to travel any distance and sacrifice everything in order to get the best possible care for our children.
Soon after we met, her son passed away. I was deeply affected by the suffering of this child and his mother, as well as my son’s suffering and my own. I realized that this was the story I’d been waiting to find—a story of mothers and their enduring love for their children, but also of grief and its power to poison as well as transform lives.
CE: One of the most remarkable aspects of Only Ever You is how you manipulated tension throughout. There is some form of tension on every single page. Coupled with the pacing and the jaw-dropping plot twists, this was an undeniable page-turner. How difficult was it to keep the level of tension so incredibly high throughout?
RD: Oh, it’s always hard, so I’m glad it worked! I spend a lot of time playing with pace and when and how to reveal information to try and get the maximum amount of tension.
It can be really tough, since obviously I know how the story ends, and therefore, I’m not feeling the tension that I want readers to feel. It helps to be emotionally invested in the characters—I try to fully imagine what I’d feel like in their shoes. I have a low boredom threshold and I love suspense novels that keep upping the tension, so I try to deliver what I like to read.
CE: Jill Lassiter was a perfect lead character for this novel: a wife, a working mother, the proverbial outsider on so many levels. Although Only Ever You is a psychological thriller, it’s also being marketed as women’s fiction (and rightly so) because of the lead character and narrative content. Do you think Jill Lassiter will resonate with your readers—be identifiable—and who do you think your core audience is for this novel?
RD: I hope Jill will resonate with readers because she’s like so many working parents—struggling to juggle career interests with taking care of her child. Also, she’s suffered some real pain in her life, which is obviously universal. While not everyone has lost a child, we all know somebody who has suffered that tragedy, and nobody gets through this life without experiencing loss in one form or another.
I think that readers will identify not just with Jill’s pain, but also her devotion and determination. The core audience for this book is not just parents, but anybody who has ever loved a child.
CE: One last question for you. I loved the underlying theme of this story: “Life was more about what happened outside of the frame, on the margins. But love happened in the margins, too, and in the end, love was the only infinite thing.” What do you hope readers will take away from this novel?
RD: I hope readers take away that message of infinite love. In a life that is often unfair and always changing, we’re given this amazing gift, which is the love we feel for one another. I hope readers take away the reminder that we should always cherish the ones we love.
Rebecca Drake moves to hardcover with her breakout psychological thriller, Only Ever You. She is the author of three other suspense novels, Don’t Be Afraid, The Next Killing, and The Dead Place, as well as the short story, “Loaded,” which was featured in Pittsburgh Noir. Rebecca is an instructor in Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction M.F.A. program. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband and two children. Find more at RebeccaDrake.com.