By David Canfield
August 14, 2018 at 01:30 PM EDT
Alison Rosa; William Morrow

She’d given up on the movies. Author Karin Slaughter may have seemed an ideal fit for adaptations, given the addictive nature and sheer popularity of her work, which has sold more than 35 million copies worldwide. But for 17 years, she was told her novels were “too female-centric” by producers and execs, and eventually she stopped trying to get them on screen. “I was just so disillusioned,” she says.

Then, as if with a snap of the fingers, everything changed.

Earlier this year, Slaughter’s books The Good Daughter and Cop Town moved into development in film and TV, respectively; in July, the rights were acquired to her new stand-alone novel, Pieces of Her, with scribe Charlotte Stoudt (House of Cards) and Emmy-nominated director Lesli Linka Glatter (Homeland) aboard to executive-produce a splashy series adaptation. In the vein of Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies), and most recently Megan Abbott (Dare Me), here was yet another long-proved thriller writer of a feminist bent finally getting the Hollywood call.

The trend didn’t come out of nowhere. Slaughter has been tackling key #MeToo themes — domestic violence, sexual harassment — her whole career. “When I write a novel, I’m always cognizant that I’m writing about crimes that happen to women, somewhere in the world, every second,” she explains. “These are real stories to people, and I want to honor them.”

Slaughter continues: “Crime writers catch a lot of flak because we write a book a year, but I’d argue that with the immediacy of our work, we’re really touching the pulse of society. With every page that we write, we’re holding up a mirror and saying, ‘This is what’s going on right now.'”

Pieces of Her is filled with Slaughter’s trademark twists and turns, but it’s moving in a different direction, focusing on a troubled mother-daughter relationship and their terrifying fallout over a secret. (Her books usually center on fathers.) She wanted to take on the most common aspects of such a dynamic — “Your mother can say your hair looks good and what you hear is, ‘Your hair has looked awful every day until now,'” as Slaughter describes it — and explore it within a suspenseful context, beating to the rhythm of how we gradually come to know our parents more fully. “There’s a moment as an adult when you realize that your parents were actual human beings before you were born, and that they had lives. I think a lot of kids cope with that information by ignoring all of it,” she argues. “They don’t want to know that I was this horrible teenager and I treated my mom like sh— and I actually hurt her feelings, and there are real-life ramifications for hurting another human being.”

That this is somewhat new terrain for Slaughter is very much by design. “It doesn’t get easier because I always want to be doing something new,” the author says of her career’s evolution. “I don’t want to write the same book over and over again.”

Slaughter wants to stay current, too — reflecting the culture in ways that matter. “I want to talk more about what’s going on in society … You need to really intrinsically feel the subject matter,” she says frankly. She sees an innate advantage in doing so, given the types of books she writes. “I don’t think there’s a sense of justice in the world right now,” she admits. “But I have a great benefit in the fictional realm: I get to punish the bad guy, every time.”

Pieces of Her publishes Aug. 21, and is available for pre-order.