By Seija Rankin
June 30, 2020 at 10:00 AM EDT
Laura Prescott
Credit: Trevor Paulhus; Knopf Doubleday

Not many spy novels have another novel at the center of their spycraft, but such is the wonder with The Secrets We Kept, which tells of a young CIA secretary tasked with the mission of smuggling Doctor Zhivago into the Soviet Union. The tome was an instant bestseller when it hit shelves in 2019 and it's out in paperback this week. To celebrate, author Lara Prescott is reflecting back on how she got her writing start and her best memories of making the feminist tome.


ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What is the first thing — ever — that you remember writing?

LARA PRESCOTT: In third grade, I wrote a mystery about a detective tasked with finding a farmer’s missing eggs. I called it “The Cracked Case.” That same year, I wrote a rather lengthy poem about a nervous monster that I sent off to Highlights Magazine. It was my first taste of literary rejection.

What is the last book that made you cry?

There There by Tommy Orange.

Which book is at the top of your current To-Read list?

A Burning by Megha Majumdar and Ottessa Moshfegh’s Death in Her Hands.

Where do you write?

I write on a secretary desk in a small, yellow shed in my backyard in Austin. It used to be a tool shed, but my husband helped transform it into a writing studio complete with A.C. for those hot Texas summers.

Which book made you a forever reader?

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White was the first novel I remember reading that made me cry. It was a powerful experience to read a story that didn’t have the traditional happy ending of children’s books. I was blown away that a story could move me to tears.

What is a snack you couldn’t write without?

I need coffee to write and use my daily fix as a form of motivation to help keep me at the desk. If I need some extra motivation, I’ll add a croissant.

If you could change one thing about any of your books what would it be?

In The Secrets We Kept, part of me wished I’d also written from the perspective of Boris Pasternak’s wife Zinaida. But a writing friend once gave me this solid piece of advice: “Once it’s done, never go back, go on to the next one.”

What is your favorite part of The Secrets We Kept?

The Halloween party where Irina and Sally first connect. It’s a beginning — the point where everything changes for both characters. After that, there’s no turning back.

What was the hardest plot point or character to write?

Without giving away any spoilers…the New Year’s Eve party was the hardest scene for me to write.

Write a movie poster tag line for The Secrets We Kept:

The original tag line for David Lean’s classic adaptation of Doctor Zhivago was: “A Love Caught in the Fire of Revolution.” So mine would be: “Love and Literature Caught in the Cold War.”

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