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1 Author, 7 Questions: Wendy Heard

If you know Wendy Heard, you know she is a thriller killer queen! Dead End Girls is a twisty thriller about one teen trying to fake her own death and her cousin who comes along for the ride. Well Wendy is back with another twisted mystery! We’ll Never Tell is about a group of four teenagers behind a true-crime YouTube channel, but while on site for their last investigation into the infamous Valentini “murder house” only three of them come out! We sat down with Wendy to talk about her latest novel, the real-life inspirations behind the fictional “murder house,” and maybe just a little sneak peek into her next project!

What was your initial inspiration for We’ll Never Tell?

I originally imagined this troupe of Youtubers getting stuck in a time loop in CityWalk, but then it merged with the true crime fascination around the Los Feliz Murder Mansion, and thus, the idea was born! 

In our last interview (click here to read), you described a little bit about your writing process. Was there anything about the process of this book in particular that was challenging or different?

Actually, yes! This time, I was really focused on emotional beats. There’s a certain part of the story that I wanted the reader to feel very deeply (it takes place in a parking lot near the end of the book). I wanted this book to have a certain emotional resonance, and I had not ever pursued that before with such dogged persistence. Toward the end of my first draft, I ended up booking a hotel and spending about 3 days doing a ton of writing and revising with that in mind. The venture ended with me crying in the hotel room as Casey cries in the parking lot.

The Valentini house seems inspired by real events in Los Angeles history. What drew you to that as the subject and setting for this story?

Well, I’m from here, and I have a passion for depicting Los Angeles as it actually feels to live here, not as we so often see it on TV and in movies. Also, I’ve lived in Hollywood, and living there is much more gritty than you’d imagine based on media. I wanted a chance to show real teens going about their lives in this context, taking the bus, living in the type of apartments I lived in. Also, the nod to the Los Feliz Murder Mansion is just my little nod to my fellow Angelenos. It’s a local legend.

It’s not on the page, but I was also inspired by the dark stories surrounding Hotel Cecil. I’ve been forever fascinated by the idea that something so evil can happen that it turns a location into a sort of magnet or hotbed for other dark and/or supernatural happenings.

This book attempts to de-romanticize true crime and draw attention to the perspective of the victims. Why did you decide to focus on those themes? 

Well, often these crimes happen to women and girls, and we forget everything else about them. It robs victims of their agency, their personhood, when we frame their legacy in terms of things done to them by someone else. I have a lot of feelings about this, and I felt the urge to write about them.

I was legitimately scared reading this book – particularly because of the supernatural implications! Why did you decide to include the possibility of the supernatural in this story? 

I have been DYING to write something like this for YEARS. I absolutely love stories where there’s a question of supernatural activity, but we don’t completely trust our own eyes, our own senses. Could we be imagining this? Could there be a rational explanation? I’ve personally had a few encounters in this vein.

What are some books you’ve been reading recently, or would recommend?

I just read When You Least Expect It by Haley Cass and absolutely loved it. I also just devoured Kit Frick’s upcoming The Reunion, and that one will have you turning pages and staying up all night. I also recently read The Black Queen by Jumata Emill, and that book kept me completely hooked from beginning to end.

What are you working on now? Any exciting ideas you can share?

I have another YA book coming out after We’ll Never Tell and it will again be about complicated girls, twisty mysteries, danger, and maybe a little bit of romance, but I think that’s all I’m allowed to share. (winky face) I also have an adult thriller coming out in June called You Can Trust Me about two con women who get trapped on a billionaire’s private island when a scam goes astray. 

We’ll Never Tell

by Wendy Heard

No one at Hollywood High knows who’s behind We’ll Never Tell—a viral YouTube channel where the anonymous creators trespass behind the scenes of LA’s most intriguing locales. The team includes CASEY, quiet researcher and trivia champ; JACOB, voice narrator and video editor, who is secretly dating EDDIE, aspiring filmmaker; and ZOE, coder and breaking-and-entering extraordinaire.

Now senior year is winding down, and with their lives heading in different directions, the YouTubers vow to go out with a bang. Their last episode will be filmed at the infamous Valentini “murder house,” which has been left abandoned, bloodstained, and untouched since a shocking murder/suicide in 1972. When the teens break in, they capture epic footage. But someone trips an alarm, and it’s a mad dash to get out before the police arrive—at which point they realize only three of them escaped instead of four. Jacob is still inside, slain and bleeding out. Is his attack connected to the historic murder, or is one of their crew responsible?

A week of suspicions and cover-ups unfolds as Casey and her remaining friends try to stay alive long enough to solve murder mysteries past and present. If they do, their friendship may not survive. If they don’t, the house will claim more victims.

About the Author

NOVL - Author image of Wendy Heard

Wendy Heard is the author of the acclaimed YA novels Dead End Girls and She’s Too Pretty to Burn, which Kirkus Reviews praised as “a wild and satisfying romp” in a starred review, as well as two adult thrillers: The Kill Club and Hunting Annabelle. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and Mystery Writers of America, and is a contributor at Crimereads.com and Writer’s Digest. Wendy lives in Los Angeles, California. She invites you to visit her online at: wendyheard.com