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Q&A with Bonnie Kistler, Author of The Cage

Q&A with Bonnie Kistler, Author of The Cage

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Bonnie Kistler is author of The Cage, which is available now.

Bonnie Kistler is a former Philadelphia trial lawyer. Born and raised in the horse country of Pennsylvania, she attended Bryn Mawr College, where she graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in English literature, and she received her law degree from the University of the Pennsylvania Law School, where she was a moot court champion and legal writing instructor. She and her husband now live in Florida and the mountains of western North Carolina. They have two daughters.

The Cage features this standout premise: two professional women—colleagues at an international fashion conglomerate—who enter an elevator together . . . but only one is alive when they reach the ground floor. Here’s the full synopsis:

On a cold, misty Sunday night, two women are alone in the offices of fashion conglomerate Claudine de Martineau International. One is the company’s human resources director. Impeccably dressed and perfectly coiffed, she sits at her desk and stares somberly out the window. Down the hall, her colleague, one of the company’s lawyers, is buried under a pile of paperwork, frantically rushing to finish. 

Leaving at the same time, the two women, each preoccupied by her own thoughts, enter the elevator that will take them down from the 30th floor.

When they arrive at the lobby, one of the women is dead. Was it murder or suicide?

An incredibly original novel that turns the office thriller on its head, The Cage is a wild ride that begins with a bang and picks up speed as it races to its dramatic end.

Let’s get to now Bonnie as she talks favorite novels, writing for the thriller genre, the setting for The Cage and more!

What are some of your favorite novels?

It’s an eclectic list: Wuthering Heights, Lonesome Dove, and Atonement.

Wuthering Heights has been a favorite since I wrote my undergrad thesis on it. (I hold strong, contrarian opinions!)

I love Lonesome Dove for its epic scale and its rip-roaring characters. They almost leap off the page, they’re so richly realized.

And I love Atonement because it’s about the power of fiction to alter history and remake the world.

When did you know you wanted to become an author? 

From early childhood. In 6th grade, I wrote a teleplay for my then-favorite TV show and actually submitted it the studio, which quickly sent it back with a note that they didn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. In my teens, I wrote a novel and submitted it to HarperCollins, which quickly sent it back with the same message. (But in a nice bit of full-circle serendipity, it’s HarperCollins that’s now publishing The Cage).

What drew you to the thriller/mystery genre?

Three things. Creating characters is what I love most about writing, and I think the best way to reveal character is to put people in peril or under extreme pressure. I find stories more compelling if they’re about things that could actually happen, which draws me to realistic fiction as opposed to, say, fantasy. And I like the rapid pace of thrillers. I’m easily bored, but a good thriller keeps me turning pages. That’s what I hope my books do for my readers, too.

Where do you draw your writing inspirations from?

From my own life experiences, of course; from news stories; from overheard conversations; and from surreptitious observation of people in their natural habitats, i.e, spying. But many of my ideas seem to land full-blown in my mind, and I can’t source them to anything.

I think most people have had the fear of being trapped in an elevator at one point in their life. When did you decide that would provide the ideal setting for The Cage?

I spent most of my law career in high-rise buildings, which meant many, many hours riding up and down in elevators. Sometimes I’d have to share an elevator with opposing counsel or someone else with whom I’d recently crossed swords, and I’d dread being trapped with that person. Realistically, the worst that could happen would be an uncomfortable silence or an unpleasant conversation, but my imagination made the leap to homicide.

What are you currently reading and what’s on your TBR (to be read) list?

I’m now reading Lady in the Lake, by Laura Lippman. Next up is Educated, by Tara Westover. Then Jennifer Egan’s follow-up to A Visit from the Good Squad, Candy House, the minute it’s released (April 5).

You can order The Cage on Amazon here. To support local bookstores, buy on Bookshop here.