Mischa Thrace talks about her inspiration, writing process, and her favorite characters from her upcoming YA novel, Bury the Lead, plus a teaser for her next project! Bury the Lead is out June 10, 2021! Preorder your copy today.
Sherlock Holmes may not have been a journalist, but that doesn’t stop high school senior Kennedy Carter from embracing his methods. With her sights set on becoming an investigative reporter, Kennedy lives by the famous detective’s rules: observe the obvious, eliminate the impossible, and avoid romantic entanglements at all costs.
Kennedy has her heart set on winning the $10,000 Excellence in Emerging Journalism award so she can finally escape her small town and see the world with her very own kind-hearted Watson—best friend and school photographer Ravi Burman.
But research into a local urban legend and a murder investigation she can’t resist are threatening to derail her plans. To find the killer preying on her graduating class, she and Ravi team up to investigate the deaths and work to uncover the story of a lifetime—if it doesn’t cost them their lives first.
BURY THE LEAD was a well written quick read that had a compelling mystery, and a very satisfying conclusion.Taylor Clark, NetGalley Reviewer
Q&A with Mischa Thrace
Are you a fan of the genre that you write in, or does what you read differ from what you write?
I read broadly across genres, but crime and thrillers are what I always come back to. There’s just something about a good murder sometimes!
Are there any authors you’ve been particularly inspired by?
I grew up listening to my mother’s Patricia Cornwell audiobooks, so my love of crime fiction owes a lot to Scarpetta and later, Thomas Harris. Cody McFadyen is one of the few thriller writers I’ve read who can really make you FEEL the murder scenes and their inherent tragedy and that was something I tried to keep in mind while writing the climax of Bury the Lead.
Your book is a YA mystery. Are there specific challenges that come with writing an authentic, thrilling story in which the protagonists are still in high school?
I knew I wanted to write about someone who was influenced by Sherlockian fan culture and since no one does that better than teen girls, it made YA a natural fit. There are definitely some logistical limitations with writing YA crime since teenagers inherently lack access to certain elements of an official investigation, but the flip side of that is that they have ample access to things adults might overlook, such as school gossip or social media, so it’s about letting them use the resources they have at their disposal.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? When it comes to a book like Bury the Lead, it seems a certain organization would be necessary to connect the dots and keep the mysterious deaths straight.
Definitely a planner, but my outlines aren’t super-detailed, more like a timeline or series or signposts I need to write toward. I find pre-planning is what allows me to fast-draft so it’s absolutely worth the effort for me.
What is the origin point of Bury the Lead? Did the curse come to you first? The characters? Or maybe the killer?
The killer, for sure, although the original murder method was a bit different. The curse naturally followed, then it was a matter of figuring out who was the best person to investigate.
Writing a mystery requires some collateral damage. When it comes to character deaths, is it a necessary evil, or do you relish writing the morbid turns in the tale?
I like the murder probably more than I should!! Like I said above, the original murder method was different and ultimately felt more suited to an adult novel, so I did tone it down a bit to fit the YA audience – my Google searches during that bit of plotting would definitely raise some eyebrows!
Kennedy Carter is an honest and unique character, as well as a believable high school journalist. How did you create such a realistic eighteen-year-old with drive and professionalism baked in?
When I wrote Kennedy I knew I was running the risk of having her labeled “unlikeable” because she’s not sweet and cuddly—she’s a girl on a mission. For every kid with a pile of hobbies and interests, there’s another one who is laser-focused on their one obsession and for Kennedy, that’s journalism. She also has a fairly strict code of behavior she follows, so even if she’s blunt and occasionally tactless, she also truly cares about the people closest to her—even if that love is sometimes displayed through teasing and mock insults!
Kennedy’s sister, Cassidy, is a partially paralyzed competitive horseback rider. Talk about the decision to include Cassidy’s disability in the book, deciding how much focus it receives, and normalizing her disability. There were times I almost forgot to envision Cassidy in her wheelchair because of her spirit and independence.
As a riding instructor, I’ll take any opportunity I can to add a horse girl to my books! The para-equestrian world is incredibly diverse and I liked being able to show a small slice of it here. Like Kennedy, Cassidy is a girl on a mission—to be at the top of her field. The fact that she uses a wheelchair has no bearing on that goal which is why it’s mostly mentioned only when it’s logistically relevant—it’s part of who she is, but it doesn’t wholly define who she is. Because it’s a disability she’s been living with for several years, she and her family and friends are well accustomed to dealing with it, so for them it doesn’t require any deliberate normalizing.
“one of those ones I just couldn’t put down. The characters are believable, the growth is real, and it was a good time…”LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Which character was your favorite to write? And which character do you have the most in common with? Maybe they are one in the same.
I love Ravi for his sweetness, but I’m definitely most like Kennedy!
Kennedy is asexual. Tell us about writing an asexual character—especially an asexual teenager in the midst of other hormonal teenagers—and conveying an accurate depiction of Kennedy’s experience. Kennedy prides herself in being objective, and it seems that this, in some ways, could go hand in hand with how she processes being different than her peers.
While it’s definitely better, it’s still fairly uncommon to see good ace rep in the media, so I really wanted to highlight this aspect of Kennedy’s character. She’s very secure in her identity and it felt important to explicitly put that on the page. I don’t know that she would necessarily connect her ace-ness with her journalistic objectivity, but perhaps that objectivity helps her explain her relationship parameters in a way that can’t be misinterpreted.
Ravi is allosexual and sexually fluid. In this way, he is the opposite of Kennedy. Talk about creating that juxtaposition and why these qualities were important in the crafting of their characters.
Ravi is deliberately Kennedy’s opposite in many aspects, even beyond their sexualities. He is very much the Watson to her Sherlock. But in terms of sexuality, so much exists on spectrums that I think it’s important that we don’t default to the heterosexual end of things just because it’s what is most commonly portrayed.
The Donut Hole is a frequent stop in Bury the Lead. It becomes a familiar place of warmth for the reader. Was the donut shop inspired by a favorite spot of yours or completely fictional? Did you draw inspiration from real-life places for other areas of the book?
Completely fictional, but I wish it was real! Kennedy’s hometown of Maplefield is inspired by any number of midsize Massachusetts towns, but no single one in particular. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only real-life place I included was the farm Cassidy competes at in Maine and that was only a small mention.
Kennedy and Ravi’s friendship runs deep. It’s impossible not to feel the love between them, which in some ways is the backbone of the book. What went into developing such a strong bond between the characters?
I wanted them to have a very Sherlock and Watson kind of bond, something forged by shared interests and a mutual love and respect for each other’s methods. Like Sherlock, Kennedy can be bossy and prickly at times, but Ravi’s warmth and kindness helps balance her out. I wanted them to be a pair that functioned better together than on their own while still being very much their own people.
After reading Bury the Lead, your readers will be clamoring for more. What else do you have in the works?
Another mystery that’s still in the super-secret stages of development, but I can say that it takes place on a college campus and involves a friendship that isn’t what either person thinks it is.
Can’t wait until your copy arrives to sink your teeth into this mystery? Check out an excerpt here!