Vera Kurian is a writer and scientist. Her short fiction has been published in magazines such as Glimmer Train, Day One and The Pinch. She’s lived in DC for most of her adult life and has a PhD in social psychology. Never Saw Me Coming is her first novel. Visit her at www.verakurian.com
Girly Book Club: How did you get into writing and what inspired you to write your first book?
Vera Kurian: I got into writing as a child honestly because I was bored at school and would start writing stories in my notebooks. My debut, Never Saw Me Coming, was not actually the first book I wrote. I wrote a vampire book in high school because of course I did, then a young adult novel, and then wrote my first novel as a real adult in 2013. My initial inspiration for NSMC was that I felt like there was a hole in the thriller market: I wanted to see a female main character who was clever and drove the action, and also I loved the idea of a college campus as a setting, as opposed to an older female character who was married. As a psychologist, I’ve always been interested in psychopaths even though it was not my area of study. The book combines my love of thrillers with my love of true crime, with some hints of horror and humor thrown in.
GBC: What makes a book great, in your opinion? What elements does a great story possess?
VK: Character more than anything. If you’ve finished a book and can’t stop thinking about the characters—even if the plot sort of went awry—the author has won. To me, the best books are the ones that feel epic, like you have gone on this massive journey with the characters and the ending feels bittersweet as a result because you are sad to say goodbye to them. The books that I admire the most are the ones that have something emotionally devastating about them, or something funny, or that point out something about the human experience in a way I have not seen before.
GBC: What are you doing if you’re not writing?
VK: Working, reading, lifting weights, walking my dog, and to be honest, I watch a lot of trashy TV. Pre-COVID I went to the movies far more than the average American, now I just watch them at home, but hopefully that will change soon.
GBC: Name your favourite bookshop in the world.
VK: This is really hard to pick, but I’d have to say Powell’s in Portland, Oregon. Where I grew up, we didn’t have a great independent bookstore, so I spent a lot of high school lurking around the local Barnes and Noble—depending on where you live, sometimes that or the library is all you have.
GBC: Physical book, e-book, or audiobook? – and why.
VK: Don’t make me choose as I am an advocate for all three! There is something about a physical book that just can’t be replicated: the smell and feel of it. I also have a better memory for physical books: I will have a memory of where a particular phrase or scene fell in the layout of the book, on what part of the page—it makes it a lot easier to find things when you’re flipping around. But ebooks are great for vacation, when you are reading massive tomes that would be heavy, or when you want to try out books from the library without much commitment. I also listen to a ton of audiobooks because I’m incapable of not multitasking: when I’m lifting weights, or walking the dog, or doing the dishes, I’m listening to an audiobook.
GBC: What was your favourite book as a child?
VK: When I was very young, probably the Ramona Quimby books. I reread one recently in one sitting while waiting for my friend to put her kid to sleep and was surprised to see how emotionally resonant it still was. Beverly Cleary was so good at capturing the emotional life of a child.
GBC: We’re always on the hunt for our next great read. Recommend us a book to add to our TBR pile!
VK: If you’re looking for more campus books, I’d recommend Ashley Winstead’s In My Dreams I Hold a Knife or Becky Cooper’s We Keep the Dead Close for a nonfiction investigative story of a murder that took place at Harvard.
GBC: What is one movie, TV series, or podcast that you’re loving right now?
VK: I just finished The White Lotus, which I loved because it’s hard to even say what it is or what genre it is. People have radically different opinions of it, which means it least it provoked a reaction.