Interview with Haley Harrigan, Author of Secrets of Southern Girls

Today, we’re chatting with Haley Harrigan about her novel Secrets of Southern Girls.

Please describe what your book is about. 

Secrets of Southern Girls is about a woman who believes she killed her best friend when they were teenagers. When she learns there could be more to the story, she leaves her home in New York and returns to her Southern hometown to get to the truth of what really happened that night. But she finds more than she bargained for.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

It’s not your fault she’s dead. It’s the same thing Julie has told herself, over and over, for ten years. But it’s a lie, and she knows it.”

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

So many things! I learned that being a writer has nothing to do with whether or not your work is ever published. I learned that I have to write in order to feel complete. I also learned to be more comfortable with writing storylines and scenes that aren’t all hearts and unicorns and butterflies. Writing some of the grittier, more “grown-up” content (hello, sex scenes!) of SOSG pushed me way out of my comfort zone, and yet, I think the scenes I was less comfortable with writing turned out to be some of the best in the book.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

It’s complicated! I first started toying with the idea that became SECRETS OF SOUTHERN GIRLS about ten years ago, but I went through phases where I got distracted (or decided it was terrible) and put it away for months—even years—at a time. I finished an imperfect version about five years ago, polished from there, got my agent in spring of 2015, and sold my book in December of that year.

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

Character interviews. I love getting to know my new (imaginary) friends!

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

Eavesdropping on my mother, who was gossiping with a friend of hers about a girl they’d known in high school who was involved in a scandalous relationship.

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

On vacation or relaxing in the sunshine, when my day job and other distractions feel far away.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I’m a sucker for good fanfiction. I’m huge Joss Whedon fan, and I’ve even written a few Whedonverse fanfics. It’s a fun stress reliever.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

Stop talking about it and do it. Put it on paper.

What’s next? 

My second novel is currently in the works. It’s about a woman who becomes obsessed with the suicide of a local college boy. It’s a little dark and creepy. That’s all I can say about it for now!

SECRETS OF SOUTHERN GIRLS

Ten years ago, Julie Portland accidentally killed her best friend, Reba. What’s worse is she got away with it. Consumed by guilt, she left the small town of Lawrence Mill, Mississippi, and swore nothing would ever drag her back. Now, raising her daughter and struggling to make ends meet in Manhattan, Julie still can’t forget the ghost of a girl with golden hair and a dangerous secret.

When August, Reba’s first love, begs Julie to come home to find the diary that Reba kept all those years ago, Julie’s past comes creeping back to haunt her. That diary could expose the shameful memories Julie has been running from, but it could also unearth the hidden truths that Reba left buried…and reveal that Julie isn’t the only one who feels responsible for Reba’s death.

Available June 6th from Sourcebooks Landmark.

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