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February 20, 2018 at 04:00 AM EST

Laura Lippman is no stranger to drama. The New York Times best-selling author has made a career out of page-turning crime novels, using her background as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun to tell stories of murder and adultery and everything in between. She’s perhaps most famous for her Tess Monaghan novel series, which follows a former reporter in the Charm City (sound familiar?) as she investigates a murder and delves into Baltimore’s seedy underbelly.

This month she is out with Sunburn, one of EW’s own most-anticipated books of 2018 that follows a love affair gone wrong. There isn’t much to be said about the plot — of the spoiler-free variety that is — besides the fact that the two main characters meet at a small-town bar in Delaware, start an affair, and end up staying way longer than they planned. Oh, and there is a mysterious death and many, many secrets between the two.

Below, Lippman lets EW in on her writing process and more.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What is the first thing — ever — that you remember writing?
LAURA LIPPMAN:
When I was 5, I sat down at my father’s typewriter and wrote a book in “caveman” language. Because I didn’t know how to spell anything except “pig,” I just typed random combinations of letters and symbols and hoped that my illustrations would carry the day. I then stapled the papers together. My mother saved it and I have it framed in a shadow box above my desk.

What is the last book that made you cry?
The Hundred Dresses, by Eleanor Estes, which I was reading to my daughter. Such a subtle book about bullying and so unsentimental in its resolution.

What is your favorite part of Sunburn?
The scene in which a grilled cheese sandwich is used as a tool of seduction. With the help of Michael Ruhlman, a chef who also happens to be a terrific writer, I put a lot of thought into how to make the perfect grilled cheese-bacon sandwich with ingredients on hand in a Delaware tavern kitchen, circa 1995.

Lesley Unruh

Which book is at the top of your current To-Read list?
Gilbert King’s Beneath a Ruthless Sun.

Where do you write?
I have a lovely office, but I can (and do) write everywhere — coffee shops, the dining room table, planes, trains.

Which book made you a forever reader?
Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace.

Pick a GIF that you think, in this moment, best describes you.

This sums up the writing process pretty well.

What is a snack you couldn’t write without?
I almost never eat while writing, yet I find it impossible to write without coffee or sparkling water.

What was the hardest plot point or character to write in this book?
The main character, Polly, is withholding a very important piece of information from everyone, including the reader. I like to play fair, so it was quite a dance to plant tiny little clues about her biggest secret without giving it away.

If you could change one thing about any of your books, what would it be?
The errors — and there are errors — seem obvious, but I’m really comfortable with being imperfect.

Write a movie poster tagline for your book.
She has nothing to lose — and everything to hide.

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