Catherine McKenzie’s latest novel, Fractured, follows a novelist named Julie Apple, whose best-selling first book, The Murder Game, was loosely based on her own experience in law school. But when she finds out a stalker is obsessed with her — and with proving that The Murder Game was more fact than fiction — Julie moves from Tacoma, Washington to Cincinnati, Ohio and becomes fast friends with her new neighbor. Just when she thinks things may finally be settling down, a series of misunderstandings occurs, and Julie and her family seem to find themselves in more danger than ever.
What makes Fractured especially fascinating is that McKenzie didn’t just write that novel (out now from Lake Union) — but she also wrote Julie Apple’s entire contentious debut, and self-published it for curious readers who want to go deeper. Below, McKenzie tells EW what made her want to embark on such an endeavor.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Plenty of novels mention a book within the book — but few people actually write that interior book, like you’ve done with Fractured and The Murder Game. What made you want to write the The Murder Game?
CATHERINE MCKENZIE: I actually wrote The Murder Game before I wrote Fractured. I wrote it ten years ago and someone I should not have listened to told me that no one would buy a book with an unreliable narrator! So I put the book in a drawer. When I was writing Fractured, I knew that Julie’s (the main character’s) book would be a character in the book and I was having trouble anchoring that in something that didn’t exist. So I decided to base it on The Murder Game. Once Fractured was complete, I decided it would be fun to put The Murder Game out as Julie Apple.
But after I wrote Fractured, I needed to edit the book. There were some pacing problems with it and I needed to cut about 12,000 words. Which is much easier 10 years after you’ve written a book than when you are still close to it!
Why did you want to self-publish it?
I think one of the great things about being a writer now is that you can do both at once. Self-publishing The Murder Game gave me the flexibility to put it out when I wanted and how I wanted, but I am still working closely with my publisher, Lake Union, on it.
How long did it take to write?
I wrote the first draft very quickly in about six months. And then have tinkered with the book off and on for almost 10 years!
What was difficult about it? Was anything unexpectedly easy?
It takes place over two timelines with the same character, 12 years apart. The challenge of this book was finding a way to have a different voice for Meredith—the innocent she was in law school versus the hard-nosed person she’s become 12 years later.
What did writing The Murder Game help you uncover or teach you about Julie’s character?
I think there is something perverse about treating murder like a game. So that definitely says something about Julie’s character, that she would do that in law school…then again, I wrote The Murder Game, so what does that say about me?
Do you think you’d ever do something like this again?
Not sure! Even though the book was “written” it was a lot of work to get two books ready for publication at the same time. That being said, I have had an idea for another “Julie Apple” book, so maybe I’ll put out another book as her sometime in the future!