Talking Thrillers with Author Erik Therme: If She Dies

Erik Therme has thrashed in garage bands, inadvertently harbored runaways, and met Darth Vader. When he’s not at his computer, he can be found cheering on his youngest daughter’s volleyball team, or watching horror movies with his oldest. He currently resides in Iowa City, Iowa—one of only twenty-eight places in the world that UNESCO has certified as a City of Literature.

TFx: Where did you come up with the idea for this book, and what can you tell us about the plot?

Therme: My greatest fear, as it must be with most parents, I imagine, is the death of a child. How do you live through that moment, let alone the days, months, and years that follow? Tess, the protagonist of If She Dies, has no answer to this question: only pain, grief, and a struggling marriage.

Her one solace is following and watching Eve Becker, the 12-year-old daughter of the man who killed her daughter, as a way to come to terms with her own loss. When Eve goes missing, Tess is the likely suspect and must learn the truth to prove her innocence.

TFx: What attracts you to write dark stories?

Therme: I like to think I’m a normal guy for the most part. I have a wife, two daughters, and three cats; we live in a nice town in Iowa; and our weekends consist of board games, movies, and—depending on the season—volleyball tournaments. As I said: fairly normal. Yet, for some reason, I’ve always been drawn to the dark side of human nature.

I think it’s because I’m endlessly fascinated by people’s motivations and the choices they make. Life is complicated and messy, and even the best of us have dark moments. Do the ends justify the means? Do two wrongs make a right? These are the types of questions that drive my characters, and many times, I’m as surprised as the reader by the answers.

TFx: How did you choose the setting(s)?

Therme: If She Dies mostly takes place in the fictional city of Newton, but it’s the tiny town of Harlow—where Tess and Josh move after their daughter’s death—that holds the most significance. Tess claims her dislike of Harlow stems from nosy neighbors and nothing to do, but the real reason is because the town is a reflection of herself: trapped in time, forgotten, and hidden away from the world.

Whether or not she realizes it is another story, as deep down, she wants to break free of her self-imposed prison, but she doesn’t know how. Because of this, she only sees loneliness and isolation in Harlow, instead of the things it might have to offer, like hope or a new beginning.

TFx: What are you reading now, and what books are you looking forward to?

Therme: I recently finished Malorie (Bird Box #2), which I found as excellent as the original story, although I have to agree with other reviewers who said the ending felt oddly rushed. I’m also listening to Gone Girl for the umpteenth time, as I never tire of hearing the story. Outside of that, I’m anxiously awaiting Mary Kubica’s Local Woman Missing, as she’s a brilliant storyteller who always creates compelling (if not flawed) characters you love to root for.

Get Therme's latest release, If She Dies, out now on Amazon.

If She Dies, by Eric Therme

How far would you go to right a wrong?

Nine months ago, Tess’s five-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident. The driver, Brady Becker, was sentenced to two years in prison. It didn't make Tess’s pain go away.

Brady also has a daughter: A twelve-year-old named Eve who walks to Chandler Middle School every day. Tess knows this because she's been watching Eve for the last three weeks. It isn’t fair that Brady’s daughter gets to live, while Tess’s daughter does not.

When Eve goes missing, all eyes turn to Tess, who doesn’t have an alibi. But Tess isn’t guilty.

Or so she believes.

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