By Isabella Biedenharn
Updated April 08, 2016 at 03:16 PM EDT

How well do we really know the people we love? That’s what Hollywood writer and executive Nina Sadowsky explores in her tense, wild fever dream of a debut, Just Fall. Below, Sadowsky tells us what made her leave Hollywood — and shares her theories about why we love crime fiction and true crime.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: After years of working in film and TV, why tackle a novel?

NINA SADOWSKY: I’d come off a particularly debilitating TV pitching season where I sort of felt ill-used and, frankly, too old and too female to be in the room. I thought, I’m going to write a book. Just for me, just for my own sake.

What made you want to write a thriller?

I decided I was going to do a thriller because it’s a genre I’ve loved to read ever since I devoured my first Agatha Christie at the age of ten. I’ve read Agatha Christie and P.D. James and Dorothy Sayers, and I love Kate Atkinson. All these writers just spoke to me, and I thought, “Well, if I’m just doing this for myself, I might as well do a genre that I like.”

Why are you drawn to thrillers?

I have these feelings and theories about crime fiction, and why we are so obsessed with it — everything from Making a Murderer to the retelling of the O.J. trial. Both in the documentary and also in the fictionalized world, we parse over these things as a culture, and I think it’s because we’re trying to make sense of a world that is frequently terrifying. There’s genocide, and brutality, and torture! Everywhere you look, there’s awful things all the time. I think crime fiction helps us process those feelings, have a cathartic release about our own fears and move on.

In Just Fall, a young couple go on the run… but not for the usual reasons. What inspired you?

We had gone down to Laguna, my husband and I, for this romantic weekend. We were supposed to have cocktails and hotel sex and we were gonna reconnect, you know? But it was a disaster. At one point my husband was in bed with one arm flung over his head, and just for the briefest moment, I imagined he was dead. So I scribbled down the scene, which ended up being the opening of the book.

Are you writing another novel?

Yes! It’s called The Burial Society. Writing keeps everyone around me safe—I work it out on the page. My husband jokes he sleeps with one eye open now.

A version of this story originally appeared in the April 15 issue of Entertainment Weekly. Pick it up on newsstands Friday, or subscribe digitally at