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A Publisher Turns
There are a number of surprising twists to first-time
novelist A.J. Finn’s psychological thriller, The Woman
in the Window (Morrow, Jan. 2018), which chronicles
several weeks in the life of a female psychologist isolated in a Manhattan townhouse with a serious case
of agoraphobia. Not least of those is the identity of
Finn—the pen name for Dan Mallory, v-p and executive
editor at William Morrow.
In the novel, Anna drinks a lot, spies on her neighbors,
and is certain she has witnessed a murder. Parallels to
Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window are hard to ignore,
but the protagonist here is no James Stewart: she’s a
middle-aged woman traumatized by recent events in
her life. Rights to the book have so far sold in 37 territories, and a major film is in development at Fox.
Mallory says that he chose a pseudonym in order to
keep his writing separate from his other work. At his
day job, he is well positioned to understand his chosen
genre; he has edited and published a range of mystery and thriller writers.
He began his editorial career at Ballantine, then moved to Little, Brown UK,
where he specialized in crime fiction. He was brought into Morrow
in 2012 to work on crime fiction and thrillers.
Like many writers, Mallory says he was a bookish kid. He aban-
doned the idea of being a writer as a teenager and became a
reader instead. “I loved Patricia Highsmith,” he says. “As a gradu-
ate student at Oxford I anointed her for the subject of my disserta-
tion.” He discovered that detective fiction has manifested itself in
all sorts of stories, from Bleak House through The Ambassadors to
The Talented Mr. Ripley. “We don’t think of these books as sus-
penseful, but they are. Many, many novels can be said to travel in
the tropes of detective novels even if the writers didn’t say that that
was what they were doing,” Mallory says. What excites him is see-
ing how thrillers, like Gone Girl, can attract readers to the genre.
As for writing a thriller, he learned that it could be hard. “I
thought plotting would prove the tricky part, but that flowed,” Mal-
lory says. “The actual writing, getting those words on the page, I
had not appreciated the effort it takes, and I came to appreciate
how effortless many writers make it seem.”
On the other hand, writing in first person from Anna’s point of
view came easily. “Contemporary psychological suspense novels
are usually told from the point of view of a woman,” he says. “I
thought, if that’s what readers want, that’s what I’d like to do. I’m
savvy enough as a publisher not to go against the grain.”
Today, 10–10: 45 a.m. A.J. Finn will appear at the Adult Author
Buzz Panel on the Uptown Stage.
Today, 11 a.m. Galleys of Finn’s book will be given away at the HarperCollins