Riley Sager

How did you become a writer?

Like pretty much every writer, I started out as a reader. As a child, I always had my nose in a book. At some point in high school, I started writing, mostly out of curiosity. I wanted to see what it was like to create a story rather than consume it. That curiosity remained all through college, which is when I made my first attempt at writing a full-length book. Never did I think it would become my career. It was more of a challenge to myself -- write a book. Once I did that, the challenge changed to trying to get published. Even now, I continue to set challenges for myself. It keeps me motivated. 

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

Well, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY by Roald Dahl was the first book I can remember sinking into so deeply that the real world just fell away. The same thing happened with Agatha Christie's AND THEN THERE WERE NONE. Stephen King was definitely a huge influence, as was my English teacher my senior year of high school. Kind and wonderful Mrs. James, who encouraged me to keep writing.

When and where do you write?

I can't for the life of me write at a desk. I just can't do it. So now most of my writing is done in a plush chair in what I call my book nook. It's a small room at the top of the stairs of my townhouse filled with bookshelves and comfy furniture. I try my best to write in the afternoons, even though I've always been a night writer. I tend to do my best work in the darkness and quiet of the middle of the night.

What are you working on now?

I'm nearing the end of my next psychological thriller, which I can't say too much about at the moment. But it's a little bit of a departure from my previous books. I'm simultaneously nervous and excited about how it will be received when it's done.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

Definitely. There's always a point in every book where I hit a wall and just have no idea how to continue. But I always find my way out of the weeds somehow. The key is to just work through it. 

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

There's a quote attributed to E.L. Doctorow that I've always loved. "Planning to write is not writing." And it's so true. I spend so much time thinking about my book that it borders on the ridiculous. I always have to remind myself that thinking doesn't get words on the page. Nor, quite frankly, does it pay the bills. Only finished books can do that.

What’s your advice to new writers?

There's so much advice out there that I'm reluctant to add to it. I guess it would be to ignore what others are doing. Their success or failures don't matter to you and your writing career. Everyone works at a different pace. Everyone has a different idea of success. Identify your goals first and then figure out a method for achieving them that works best for you.

Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer who previously published mysteries under his real name. Now a full-time author, Riley's first thriller, FINAL GIRLS, became a national and international bestseller and won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Hardcover Novel. Translation rights have been sold in more than two dozen countries, and a film version is being developed by Universal Pictures. His latest novel, THE LAST TIME I LIED, was a New York Times bestseller. A television adaptation is being developed by Amazon Studios. A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.