The writer writes: meet Chevy Stevens
In 2010 Allen & Unwin published a remarkable debut thriller, Still Missing
We knew this was white-knuckle, read-in-a-single-sitting material, and
we wondered how we could build up the excitement that we were feeling so
that the Australian book trade would be buzzing with anticipation too.
We decided – in a slightly sadistic manner – that we would print the
advance reading copies sans the final three chapters. Instead, readers
were left on the most precipitous of cliff hangers and were required to
sign an online ‘secrecy pledge’ in order to access those last chapters.
Well! The messages we’d come in to on our answering machines in the
morning, from readers who’d run out of book at 3am and were jonesing for
the ending… let us just say they were passionate. By the time the book
was released we knew the word was out there: this is a writer to watch.
(And we were right. Still Missing won the Best First Novel award at the International Thriller Awards in 2010).
Chevy’s latest book – and just as gripping as her debut – is Never Knowing,
the story of an adoptee searching for her birth parents and coming up
with some truly disturbing answers. Chevy kindly took the time to answer
some questions we had for her – read on!
What was the first crime novel or story you can remember reading? How old were you?
I’m not sure if it would be classified as crime, but I do remember
reading the series by VC Andrews when I was still quite young, under
twelve-years-old, because I “borrowed” them from my mom when she wasn’t
looking. I was captivated by the dark and twisted stories. They were
disturbing, but in an intriguing way. Heaven in particular had an impact
on me. VC Andrews wrote about a lot of taboo subjects.
Do you have a favourite crime series (be it book, TV or film)? What do you love about it/them?
I’ve read a lot of Ed McBain and I loved all the 87th Precinct
novels. They’re just so gritty and real. With TV, I enjoy ‘Dateline’ or
‘48 Hours Mystery’ but I can’t watch too many of them or I start getting
depressed about all the terrible things people do to each other.
Tell us about writing Never Knowing – what inspired you?
Did you have all of the story worked out when you began writing? Did the
finished book end up as you’d imagined it would?
Never Knowing was inspired by a conversation I had with my
editor about what it would feel like, if you were adopted, to find out
that your birth father was an infamous serial killer—who’s never been
caught. While researching some other story ideas, I’d learned about a
horrific crime in Wells Gray Park that occurred years ago and was still
haunted by the image of this lonely provincial park and the brutal
murder. I started thinking about all the parks across BC and the
terrible things that could happen in them. The story took root and grew
from there. I had an outline before I started, but many things unfolded
organically once I began writing. The finished book is still very close
to my original concept.
What was the last book you read, and did it live up to your expectations?
The last book I read was an early copy of Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes, a UK writer. I thought it was fabulous, very dark with a gripping plot. Before that, I read Afterwards
by Rosamund Lupton and that was another excellent read. Rosamund writes
wonderfully gripping literary thrillers that have a strong emotional
When did you realise you wanted to be a writer? Are there any authors in particular who you would cite as inspiration/influence?
For a while growing up I was convinced I was going to be a lawyer,
which my father thought fitting because I argued with him constantly,
but writing books was certainly one of my dreams. I was raised on a
ranch and spent most of my time trying to avoid chores by hiding out in a
shed, or in the woods, reading books, usually accompanied by a dog or
cat. One of my first attempts at a book starred a mouse with pink cheeks
and a bike, but that’s all I remember, which is probably a good thing.
In high school I enjoyed my writing class, but when I graduated my
plan was to go to art school, which I did for a brief time before
getting into business. Through my adult life I worked in sales, but in
the back of my mind I would daydream about writing a book. My
grandfather wrote a memoir about his escape from Russia and I bought a
copy off the Internet. Sometimes I would fantasize about setting my book
next to his, but I never had anything I wanted to write about until the
premise for Still Missing came to me.
I’ve always read books by many authors in all kinds of genres,
anything I could get my hands on. But Stephen King is an author who I
really respect and admire. His voice is incredible, so distinct, and he
isn’t afraid to write about anything. His book IT haunted me for weeks. I didn’t just read that story, I lived it. He’s truly a master storyteller.
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions for this year? Are you sticking to them?
I made a resolution to stop eating junk food and I did very well for a
couple of weeks, but the lure of a bowl of popcorn was just too strong
for me to resist for long. [AU: Popcorn is junk food? oops...]
Tell us when, and where, you do your writing?
I have an office at home. I work all day—and usually every day in
some capacity—but mornings are my best time. I am not a night person at
If you could meet any historical or real-life person, living or dead, who would you choose?
I would love to meet Stephen King. In my own family I would’ve loved
to have met my grandfather, who was a writer. He died in a plane crash
when my father was four.
If you could meet any fictional character, who would you choose?
Peekay, in The Power of One, which is another of my favorite
books. He was a fabulous character, noble and brave, but so real and
flawed and vulnerable at the same time.
And finally, what are you working on now? Can you tell us a little about your next book?
Always Watching is about Nadine, the psychiatrist who’s in
my first two novels. I’ve enjoyed working on this story as most of it
takes place in Shawnigan Lake, where I grew up, and I’ve found the
research on cults and psychology fascinating. It’s also been fun to
explore a character who played such a pivotal role, though a silent one,
in my previous books.
Keep up with Chevy at chevystevens.com