It was worth a mid-week trip to Toronto to meet A.J. Finn at the Harper Collins office (and special thanks to Sarah who drove since I could not manage public transit on crutches)! The Woman in the Window hit the shelves on January 2nd and by the 21st had made the top spot on the New York Times list! This is an amazing accomplishment by a first time author! The novel is so popular that there are over 60 holds for this title at my local library! Thanks to a donation by Harper Collins, the lucky patrons of the Franklin Street Little Free Library, can borrow a copy!
Growing up reading Agatha Christie, Sherlock Homes and The Hardy Boys, Finn wrote his first novel in New York (despite its’ large population, he feels it is the loneliest city). It is a psychologic suspense inspired by his love for old films and his experience spying on a neighbour after seeing a light on across the street. This motivated him to write a 21st century take on the 1954 movie Rear Window, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly.
Finn wants readers to experience other lives by reading and his protagonist is a woman, with agoraphobia, who is housebound by trauma and self-medication. He disclosed his own mental health challenges to the audience which was timely since January 31st had been Bell’s Let’s Talk day (a day to promote awareness of the importance to talk about mental health). At the age of 21, Finn was diagnosed with severe clinical depression. After 15 years of treatments, including ECT and ketamine, he met a new psychiatrist and was re-diagnosed with bipolar disease. With the correct diagnosis, he felt well enough to start on this creative endeavour.
In a time when there are many books with “girl” in the title, he knew that he did not want to “infantilize” Anna. She was a woman, living her own mess and he wanted her to be credible and well-rounded. Anna was unable to leave her home, but she did study French, watch old movies and support other individuals with agoraphobia. In writing from a female perspective, he asked both his sisters and his agents to review it for authenticity.
As Anna participates in chat rooms, she keeps tabs on her neighbours through her camera lens and via social media. It is a voyeur that she witnesses an act of violence in a neighbouring home. This premise is intriguing and I am looking forward to reading this book and watching Rear Window. The Woman in the Window will be our March book club pick as suggested by Robyn Harding (author of The Party).
Finn’s was employed, in publishing, as he wrote his first novel – he has since retired! He would write in the evenings and on weekends, listening to electronica or pop (in another language so he would not get caught up with the words). He noted his habit for “coke”, laughing and clarifying the “delicious poison” was a drink and that he had adapted to earl grey tea.
This extremely energetic author told the group that he had been heading out on vacation when he received a call from Fox with an “exploding offer“. His book had not even been published and he had a one million dollar offer that he needed to accept or reject on the spot!
He signed books and chatted with readers after the discussion, sharing that he is working on his second novel. It will be set in San Francisco and is in the “vein of Agatha Christie”.
I am always curious about what authors like to read and his favourite authors include:
- Henry James
- Sherlock Homes
- Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl)
- Donna French
- Kate Atkinson
- Charles Dickens
- Graham Greene
- Patricia Highsmith (who he loves as she convinces readers to “root for the bad guys”
It was a fantastic evening and worth the trip into Toronto. Harper Collins hosts terrific events and I have been privileged to meet great authors like A.J. Finn, David Nicholls (Us) and Nadia Hashimi (When the Moon is Low, The Pearl that Broke its’ Shell). I love that participants leave with a copy of the book and a Harper Collins mug.
Thank you Harper Collins for both the great evening and the extra copy of The Woman in the Window for the LFL!!