The Strand had a chance to sit down with Chris Pavone to find out the thought process behind his new thriller novel, The Paris Diversion, released on May 7.
When it comes to accolades, Chris Pavone has experienced a variety of riches. From ranking on the New York Times Bestseller list to being honored with an Edgar Award and an Anthony Award, Pavone’s star is continually rising. But his achievements haven’t curbed his desire to write a compelling thriller, and his latest novel, The Paris Diversion, only builds upon his trajectory as one of the masters of the craft.
Q: How long after writing The Expats did the idea for The Paris Diversion start to make its way into your head?
A: When I was finishing up my first draft of The Expats in 2010, I realized that when the story came to an end, I didn’t want these characters’ relationships to completely close the loop. I knew at the time that I wanted to leave certain things open so there was potential for writing a follow-up. I didn’t want to continue that story back then, though, so I set it aside for a long time. I wrote The Accident and then I wrote The Travelers, and I was at work at a completely different novel when, in the summer of 2016, I went to Paris. The city had just undergone a horrible terrorist attack and the whole feel of the city reminded me so much of New York in 2001. Just a sense that something else was coming, and knowing that it could be coming now. That week in Paris was when the whole idea of a terrorist attack involving Kate Murray came to fruition. So it was four and a half years before I came up with the idea.
Q: Last time we saw Kate, she was trying to leave her double life behind her. What is it like coming back to the character now? How were you able to show that what happened in Luxembourg changed her?
A: One is that Kate is strangely enough the character I’ve written that is closest to me. The experience that she had in Luxembourg was heavily based on my personal experience of moving there following my wife’s career. So much of what went into that book came from my own life. Obviously I changed a lot of it, but all that, to some extent, was superfluous to who that person was and what she wanted from the city and what she was going to do with the rest of her life. As a forty-year-old who had just given up a career in book publishing, Kate and I were both asking ourselves the same questions. So it was easy to come back to Kate, because so much of her voice is mine. When we find Kate in The Paris Diversion, she’s older, slightly less relevant, and she’s trying to figure out how to maintain her career. She’s confronted by the problem that a lot of adults are met with in that she feels she has a lot of career left in her, but in a lot of other ways, it might look like she’s hit her peak.
Q: The book had a really authentic portrayal of marriage that we don’t see all that often in thrillers, especially when the stakes are as high as they are in your books. How did scenes like that help to shape the characters, and how did the relationship between Kate and her husband develop?
A: Well, I’ve been married a long time, and I know a lot of married people, so I’ve witnessed a lot of marital spats. I think writing a book about a marriage is really what I set out to do with both The Expats and The Paris Diversion. To a large extent, a lot of what goes on in the plot is supporting work to have the book be about the characters. I think for married people, one of the defining aspects of your character is your marriage. Marriage is a relationship where no matter how great your marriage is, or how bad it is, you always know that you’re in it, and it is possibly the most defining aspect of what your life is. I think it’s a very universal circumstance to examine. What are the tension points in a marriage? What are the levels of trust and how are they shattered? How are they rebuilt? These questions are much more interesting for me to read about than most of what goes on in thrillers. I would much rather know more about the characters than know more about a gun’s ballistics, so I don’t write about guns’ ballistics.
Q: This book is juggling three intersecting stories at once; how do you map something like that out in your head?
A: I map out my story fairly rigorously and I work with an outline. I think one of the most complicated parts of writing is that there are two different stories I need to hold in my head. One is the story of what really happened. The other is the story is the one I’m telling you, the reader. At first, I write out everything that happens for myself. Here are the twists, here’s why they did this, etc. Once I know that, I can map out an outline of what I’m going to tell the reader. This is hard work, but to me, this is what’s most fun about writing these books.
Q: Is this the last that we’ll see of Kate Moore?
A: To keep it short, no, it is not.