Q&A With Victoria Helen Stone

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Q&A With Victoria Helen Stone 

Publicist Samantha Lien was kind enough to connect me with author Victoria Helen Stone. Victoria is the author of At The Quite Edge, The Last One Home, Problem Child, Half Past & her new novel Follow Her Down which is released today on June 4th! I was so lucky to get an early copy and read it back in May! Victoria, also wrote several novels that were on the USA Today Bestsellers List under the name Victoria Dahl. 

Q: Victoria, would you like to give a brief description of Follow Her Down?

A: Thank you for asking! In Follow Her Down, decades of doubt, fear, and suspicion complicate Elise Rockwood’s attempts to overcome her past when she returns to the hometown where her teenage sister was killed. At age thirty-five, she’s finally trying to move on and make peace, but her newly stable life is threatened when a former lover is found dead, and her brother insists the death is related to the long-ago murder of their sister.

Elise initially rejects her brother’s conspiracy theories, but as the evidence begins to pile up, she finally finds herself willing to listen. As the traumas of the past are reemerging, it seems the nightmare is far from over. 

Q: What do you enjoy the most about writing suspense? 

A: I love that I have the freedom to do anything with these characters. I used to write romance, and protagonists could make mistakes, but their actions had to be redeemable at the end. But in suspense? Anyone can make terrible choices right up until the very end. In fact, characters can behave in ways that are downright unforgivable and illegal, if the story is compelling and suspenseful. It’s thrilling, honestly.

Q: Where did the idea for Follow Her Down & your other novels come from?

A: Nearly all my books start with a deep dive into a character’s backstory, and Follow Her Down is no exception. When I hear a true crime tale, my first question is “What happened to the people left behind?” 

In this book, Elise is the sister of a teenage girl who went missing twenty-five years earlier. The family had no idea what happened to her for a decade. Imagine being a ten-year-old in a household whose frantic focus is, rightly, on the kidnapped sibling. Imagine the terror and the quiet suffering and the permanent effects of that. This is where I started with Elise, imagining her in a lifelong state of fight-or-flight that won’t let her find peace. Then, when she finally returns to her hometown to face the past, another murder brings all that trauma right back. 

Q: With the way Follow Her Down ended, are you writing a sequel to the book, or are you writing a standalone novel with a different plot and characters? 

A: I didn’t have any follow-up plans when I wrote this book. But after hearing the response to that ending, I might have to start thinking about it. Elise is certainly up for more adventure, so I guess I should be as well! 

I’ve just finished the first draft of my next book, which is also centered on a woman trying to escape childhood trauma, though this one is tied to the Satanic Panic. The working title is Bald-Faced Liar, though I’m not sure that will stick. It will be out in 2025! 

Q: Do you use bits and pieces of real people and places to create the worlds & people within your books?

A: I do! I listen to a lot of true crime podcasts and read stories from victims and their families. And, of course, I draw from the personalities of my own family and friends. 

But my favorite brainstorming tool is road trips. At home, I’m rarely content to sit still without a book or headphones, but on our long road trips, I stare out the window and observe. What would it be like to live in that tiny town in the desert? What is that giant abandoned building in the middle of nowhere? What kind of trouble do the teens here get into? It really helps open up my imagination to the possibility of any story. 

As for setting, when I’m not able to do a research trip, I set my stories somewhere familiar like Denver or Minneapolis. If the characters are living somewhere I haven’t been, I like to spend at least a few days in that place exploring and taking notes.

Q: You used to write under the name Victoria Dahl. What made you choose Victoria Helen Stone as your current pen name that you write your books under now?

A: Victoria Helen is my real name. I chose to include my middle name because it’s my mother’s first name. She’s the person who taught me to love reading, so I wanted her to see her name in a book. Stone is a family name that I thought was nice and firm and easy to spell. 

I chose a new pen name because I didn’t want my Victoria Dahl romance readers to accidentally pick up suspense and be disappointed at the lack of a happy romance! There are sometimes romance subplots in my suspense books, but you never know if they’ll end in murder. 

Q: If Hollywood were to get the rights to your work, who would be your dream cast to play the characters you created?

A: Oh my gosh, I’m terrible at visualization! In fact, the physical descriptions in my books are bare bones, because I’m more focused on personalities. I’m also a complete failure at remembering actors’ names. So, I lean on GareIndeedReads on Instagram to cast my books for me! He’s much better at it than I’d ever been. But I love hearing who readers are picturing when they read my stories. 

Q: How does it feel having your books under the USA Today Bestsellers List under your Victoria Dahl name?

A: Oh, it’s still exciting, even if I no longer write under that name! I was lucky enough to win an American Library Association award for best genre book too, and that might be one of my favorite accomplishments. But since switching to suspense as Victoria Helen Stone, I’ve been an Amazon Charts and Wall Street Journal bestseller. Funny enough, that doesn’t necessarily mean those are my highest selling books. Sometimes sales develop more slowly for a book over time, eventually building up to higher numbers. That’s what happened with my most popular release, Jane Doe.

Really, it’s just amazing to be able to continue writing for so many years and find that people still want to read tales of imaginary people in my head!