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Most Read Interviews

All TopShelf Interviews


Cate Holahan is the USA Today Bestselling author of domestic suspense novels. She just released her fifth novel, Her Three Lives, in April. In a former life she was an award-winning journalist. She was also the lead singer for a rock band in NYC.

Please tell us about your latest release, Her Three Lives.

Her Three Lives tells the story of Jade Thompson, a 32-year-old Jamaican American interior designer and social media influencer, whose seemingly perfect life is shattered after a home invasion injures her fiancé Greg Hamlin, a 52-year-old prominent architect. As he recovers from a traumatic brain injury sustained during the attack, Greg installs Web-connected cameras outside and inside their home to keep them safe. But obsessively watching the live feeds results in him spying on his wife-to-be. Soon he is wondering if Jade may have had something to do with the attack. Jade has her own secrets, but are they to preserve her pride or because she really is the woman whom Greg’s adult kids fear her to be?

Can you share something with us about the book that isn’t in the blurb?

I drew upon some of my own heritage to craft the character of Jade. I am American of Jamaican and Irish descent, and I have citizenship in both Jamaica and the U.S. Jade, as a lifestyle blogger and designer, highlights foods and décor from Jamaican culture in her work. The character of her mom, Abigay, also speaks some patois.

If you had to describe Jade in three words, what would those three words be?

Jade is determined, creative, and somewhat insecure character.

What was the hardest scene for you write?

The hardest scene to write was the finale—not the epilogue, but the chapter before the last one. I sympathize with all my characters, even the villains. I think you have to as a writer. Whenever my bad guys face the natural consequences of their actions, part of me wishes it could be different and there was some way to redeem them beyond the pages.

How do you select the names of your characters?

I try to find names that speak to individual character’s backgrounds. For example, if I am writing someone who was born in America in 1987, I’ll look up some of the popular names in America that year. If the character has a cultural background that would draw upon different influences, I’ll look up the popular names for the country’s kids in that same year.  

What does literary success look like to you?

I think anyone who has made the NYT bestseller list has MADE IT. So, that’s my goal. But I think ultimate measure of literary success is having the freedom to write stories in different genres and different mediums and be financially compensated for it. The ability to tell a story and have people trust you to tell that story, even if it doesn’t fall into a box that you typically write in, is the pinnacle of success.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I think it gave me the confidence to truly pursue fiction writing full-time.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

I wouldn’t know how to do anything else but write. If I weren’t writing fiction, I believe I would still be a journalist writing non-fiction articles.

What books are on your book shelf?

I have many books in my favorite genre of psychological thrillers and domestic suspense. There are novels by Wendy Walker, Liv Constantine, Kimberly Belle, Vanessa Lillie, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Riley Sager, Joe Clifford, Jennifer Hillier, Gillian Flynn, Harlan Coben, etc. I also have a ton of more literary work and non-fiction, which is what I read when I am writing so as not to unintentionally adopt any character voices. I recently read “Less” by Andrew Sean Greer which won the Pulitzer in 2018, and I thought it was fantastic. I also read “Yes, Chef,” a memoir by Marcus Samuelsson, which was amazing, and Marlon James’s “A History of Seven Killings,” which was challenging but worth it. There’s a bunch of Margaret Atwood and Stephen King on my shelves, too, because I like folks who scare the bejeezus out of me while teaching me new words and making me marvel at their mastery of craft.

 If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why?

Trevor Noah, Stephen King, and Margaret Atwood. I think Trevor Noah’s memoir “Born A Crime,” was one of the best I’ve ever read. He was able to educate his reader about what it was like to be born bi-racial in South Africa during apartheid as well as speak about the ways people all over the world are the same, and how individuals will behave given various motivations. He has a real deep understanding of humanity, I think. Stephen King and Margaret Atwood have that same well of knowledge concerning what it means to be human, how people act and react given certain stimuli and experiences, as well as what they think about in quiet—plus an absolute mastery of craft. I think the three of them would have a fascinating discussion about the human condition. I’d want to be a fly on the wall serving wine and cake.