The Next Chapter·Proust Questionnaire

Shari Lapena hated being a lawyer — but being a bestselling thriller writer suits her just fine

The internationally bestselling thriller writer takes our version of the Proust Questionnaire.
Shari Lapena is the author of bestselling thrillers such as A Stranger In The House. (Aparita Bhandari/CBC)

Ontario lawyer Shari Lapena's writing career took off when she turned to thrillers. Her first, The Couple Next Doorwas a runaway hit when published in 2016, making the New York Times Best Sellers list.

Lapena has since made a name for herself in the world of domestic noir, publishing the bestselling books The Couple Next Door, A Stranger in the HouseAn Unwanted Guest and The End of Her.

Lapena stopped by The Next Chapter to take its version of the Proust Questionnaire. 

If you could change something about yourself, what would it be? 

Oh, that's easy! I wish I was much better at technology. I'm so frustrated these days with all of the technological challenges I have in the course of a given day — switching among different platforms and forgetting my passwords. I wish I was a natural with technology and I could just flip between these different platforms with ease. But I can't — I have to learn them all over again every week, it seems. 

What phrase do you most overuse? 

Probably in everyday speech it would be, 'I'm just gonna…" and I then preface everything I'm going to do. In my writing, I think I overuse the word "almost" as a qualifier. I have to go back and cut a lot of those out. 

What is your greatest regret? 

It's probably that I didn't start following my thriller path earlier in life. I didn't write my first thriller until I was in my mid-50s. I wish I'd started 10 years earlier. I'd been writing literary fiction and I'd always been a fan of thrillers, but I'd never written one because I couldn't plan. I thought you had to plan out a thriller. That kept me from trying to write one for a long time. But I finally thought I'd give it a go even without a plotline. I found I was able to do it that way.

Shari Lapena on her bestselling thriller.

What is your favourite occupation? 

I'd have to say being a thriller writer. I can't think of a better job than the one I've got right now. I've been other things: I've been a lawyer, which I hated. I've done lots of different jobs, but this is the only job I really enjoyed, to be honest. You get to read, all the time, and you can tell the kids you're working. You can read for pleasure, but it's part of your job, which I think is brilliant. You could even watch various crime shows on TV and call it work.

Where would you like to live? 

I'm very happy living in Canada, especially right now. I don't think I'd want to live anywhere else. We bought a farm north of Cobourg, Ont. We're getting that fixed up and we're going to live out there in the country when it's done. I'm probably happiest living in farm country Ontario, where it's beautiful. I love being Canadian and I don't think I want to live anywhere else right now. 

What is your greatest achievement? 

I would say becoming an internationally bestselling thriller writer. It's not that easy to hit The New York Times every time and hit the UK Sunday Times. It's super competitive. To have hit that level of where I am, I'm pretty proud of that. I think that's probably my greatest achievement, other than raising my kids. But everybody says raising their kids is their greatest achievement!

Shari Lapena's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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