Cristina Alger is the author of the novels The Banker’s Wife, The Darlings and This Was Not the Plan. A graduate of Harvard College and NYU Law School, she worked as a financial analyst and a corporate attorney before becoming a writer.
I read the The Banker’s Wife earlier this year and I couldn’t put it down! It’s a timely thriller set in the world of finance (be sure to check out my preview, review and book club questions). Get to know Cristina with the below Q&A where she talks favorite novels, story inspirations, importance of strong and intelligent female protagonists in novels and more.
Q: What are some of your favorite novels?
The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe; The Secret History by Donna Tartt; The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood; Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith; A Time To Kill by John Grisham, to name a few.
Q: When did you know you wanted to become an author?
I’ve always written. It never occurred to me to do it professionally. I am, at my core, a very practical person. So after college, I became a lawyer. It wasn’t until after I’d sold a few things that I started thinking of myself as an author in a professional sense. But I’ve always been a writer. Anyone who writes is a writer.
Q: Where do you draw your story inspirations from?
True crime. Newspapers. New York. My own life.
Q: How much research goes into crafting your novels?
A lot. Not as much as historical fiction, perhaps. But my books are typically grounded in financial or legal issues or crimes that catch my interest, and I want to get the details right. For The Banker’s Wife, I did a lot of research into offshore banking and the technology of data leaking. As a lawyer, it always irks me when books and movies get basic legal concepts wrong. So I aspire to write books that professionals (who work in the fields about which I am writing) would read and think, “yes! this rings true.”
Q: Let’s talk about The Banker’s Wife. I really liked that the book featured women who become their own heroes. Can you talk about the importance of featuring strong and complex female protagonists in novels?
I’ve always loved thrillers, but in the past few years, I’ve been troubled by how many thrillers center around helpless or horrible women. It depressed me, honestly. How many books do we really need about women who are blackout drunks or sociopathically obsessed with their ex-husbands? Especially in today’s polarized political climate, I feel like its more important than ever to tell stories about strong, intelligent women. These are the stories I want to read, and these are the stories I want to tell.
Q: The novel is told from multiple perspectives. How does a multi-perspective narrative help shape the story?
Originally, I couldn’t decide who should be the protagonist of The Banker’s Wife – Annabel (the banker’s wife) or Marina (the journalist reporting on the banker’s death). So I started writing the story from both perspectives. I thought after I wrote 100 or so pages of each, one would capture my interest more. But I loved the way they played off of one another: Annabel is looking at the story from the inside out, and Marina is peering in from outside. They were perfect compliments. And it heightened the tension to toggle between them. So I braided them together into one manuscript.
Q: What are some of the key themes you hope readers take away from The Banker’s Wife?
Oh, goodness. I never try to impress certain themes or takeaways on readers. I do think it’s important for people to know how huge the world of offshore banking is, and how corrupt it is, and how interwoven it has become with politics. I had no idea how many billions of dollars were hidden offshore before I began researching for this book. I also hope readers walk away with a sense that they’ve read a good thriller with strong female protagonists, and that’s something they will seek out in the future.
Q: Can you give any hints regarding your next book?
Yes! It’s set in Suffolk County, Long Island and centers on two unsolved murders that turn out to be connected. Like The Banker’s Wife, it features more than one strong female protagonist.
Q: What books are you currently reading and what’s on your to be read (TBR) list?
In the last six months, I’ve read and loved: Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras; Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens; There There by Tommy Orange; A Double Life by Flynn Berry; and The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. Next up: November Road by Lou Berney.
Click here to buy The Banker’s Wife on Amazon.