A Conversation with Novelist Chevy Stevens
Chevy Stevens became a New York Times Best-Selling author with her first book, Still Missing. Since then she has steadily built a large and loyal following of enthusiastic fans as she released three more of her signature thrillers. Her latest book, Those Girls, will be published in July 2015 and continues to plumb the depths of two of her favorite dark themes – desperation and unseen evils. Chevy Stevens' career is the embodiment of every aspiring writer who dreams of leaving their day job and becoming a best-selling author. Stay Thirsty Magazine was very pleased to visit with Chevy Stevens at her home on Vancouver Island in Canada for this revealing Conversation.
STAY THIRSTY: What happened that made you change course from a career in sales to become a New York Times Best-Selling author?
CHEVY STEVENS: I had daydreamed about being a writer when I was a child and always loved reading, but I didn't have anything I wanted to write about until the idea for Still Missing came to me when I was working at an open house (in my thirties!). After that I became consumed with the story and felt as though I had finally found my life's purpose. I quit my career as a real estate agent a few months later and wrote full time.
STAY THIRSTY: You have written five novels to date. Those Girls is your latest and will be released this summer. When you began your journey as an author, what were your expectations? Did you ever dream that you would have such success?
CHEVY STEVENS: I definitely believe you need to "Shoot for the moon, and even if you fail, you'll land among the stars." I have been fortunate enough to make a career out of writing, but I still hope to have many more books in my future. I would love to see one (or all) of my books made into a movie or a TV series. That is my biggest dream!
STAY THIRSTY: Growing up on a ranch on Vancouver Island, Canada, seems like a remote upbringing, far from the violence and terror in your books. What led you to want to write this type of thriller and aim it at a female audience?
CHEVY STEVENS: Death and crime often happen where people least expect it. I think that is what makes it so terrifying. You can't protect against the unknown.
Writing thrillers really wasn't a choice for me. I had an idea and started writing and then cut out all the parts that I thought were boring or that slowed down the pace. It was my agent who told me I had written a thriller! Then I had a book contract for more, so I just kept writing. There are other genres I'd like to explore in the future but for now I'm happy. I like writing books that give me a chance explore my own fears and sorrows.
STAY THIRSTY: Your books have garnered superb reviews from the public, the press and from other New York Times best-selling authors like Gillian Flynn and Erica Spindler. Do you have a strategy when you sit down to write a thriller?
CHEVY STEVENS: I work from an outline. Initially I have an idea or a concept for a novel, then my editor and I will speak a couple of times, and I will put together a three to five page outline. Once we're both happy with it, I start the research and writing stage.
STAY THIRSTY: Your books explore subjects as diverse as abduction, claustrophobia, running away, murder, rape and desperation as well as the bonds of sisterhood. How do you personally view men and how do you view them as characters in your books?
CHEVY STEVENS: I think there are good men and bad men, just like there are good women and bad women. In my books, I have had both women and men who are villains. Most sex crimes do tend to be committed by men, though. In the future I hope to write a couple of books with a strong male lead because I think it would be a great challenge.
STAY THIRSTY: Are there things in your childhood or your family's history that drove you to explore such dark subjects and themes?
CHEVY STEVENS: My father struggled with substance abuse and depression so that has fueled some of my stories and characters.
STAY THIRSTY: What is the back-story behind how you chose your pen name?
CHEVY STEVENS: Chevy was my father's nickname and it's also one that some friends gave to me, based on the pronunciation of my real last name. I have a brother named Steven. When it came time for my agent to submit my first book to editors, I mentioned that I had another name I used for online forums. My agent liked it, so we decided to submit under that one. My real last name is very long and complicated.
STAY THIRSTY: In the quiet of the night, who is the real Chevy Stevens?
CHEVY STEVENS: Zombie Slayer!
STAY THIRSTY: When you participate in writer's conferences, what advice do you give to new writers? Have you ever mentored young writers and helped them with their careers?
CHEVY STEVENS: I think it's important to learn everything you can, be willing to take feedback, listen to your own voice, and make your book a priority. You need to get up early, write when you can, and always wonder how you can make it better. I think many writers get caught up in the love of writing and forget to improve their craft. It's okay to just experience the joy of making up a story but if you want to be published, you have to be willing to rewrite over and over and over again so it's perfect.
I have given advice and information if people email me, and point them in the right direction, but with a family and my writing schedule, I unfortunately don't have time to help others with their careers. The Internet is such a valuable resource. There are many great online forums and conferences for writers.
STAY THIRSTY: Are you working on your sixth book and if so, can you reveal anything about it?
CHEVY STEVENS: Yes, I am working on a new stand-alone novel. This one is about a home invasion, but I don't want to reveal much about it until I'm finished. That's a superstition of mine!