The Darkness and Light of Author Courtney Summers

This week is a special show. I interview Courtney Summers, the author of the New York Times best-selling novel "Sadie," and learn what it was like to work on a book that also had a podcast component and what inspires Courtney to write such dark novels.

Mignon Fogarty
8-minute read
Episode #645

What follows is a slightly edited transcript of an interview between Mignon Fogarty and Courtney Summers.

Mignon Fogarty: I read your book “Sadie” and loved it, so why don't you tell the listeners what it's about.

Courtney Summers: “Sadie” is about a girl who goes missing on the hunt for her sister's killer, and about the popular radio personality who starts a podcast dedicated to finding out what happened to her.

MF: It was such a neat idea to incorporate a podcast into the book. I know that's one of the reasons I heard about it, and I get the sense that it was based on the podcast “Serial.” Is that true? Did did you listen to “Serial”?

CS: Kind of. I got the idea toward the end of “Serial” because I was completely fascinated by the response that it was generating. Everyone flipped for it and they were just tuning in and bingeing this content. And I remember reading something about Hae Min Lee’s parents—that they were upset by the whole show. And I thought, “What is the potential consequences of telling stories like these in this kind of bingeable format?” and I really wanted to explore that. So it was kind of inspired by “Serial,” but the details weren't anything like that.

MF: How involved were you in the making of the podcast part? Because the book has a podcast element in it in the writing, but then also there was a real fake true crime podcast that Macmillan made.

CS: I wasn’t involved, and I think that's probably for the best. I mean, Maddie, the producer, sent me the voices that would be doing the audiobook, and I didn't have any objections. I thought they sounded great, and then they just took the audio for the podcast portion from the audiobook production and turned it into a podcast, and I was like, wow, that's amazing. It was the coolest thing, I think, that's happened in my career so far, and I was blown away by it. Really, that's my book? 

MF: Well, I don't know if it's the coolest thing, because we scheduled this interview a while ago, and then I just saw that “Sadie” made the New York Times bestseller list, so...

CS: Yes, OK, maybe that was the coolest! Maybe it’s like a confluence of cool things happening. I can’t pick just one. But yeah, that was unbelievable. Yes, I am very excited that.

MF: So you’ve written many novels before “Sadie,” and I saw that they all had won a lot of awards, but is this your first New York Times bestseller, right?

CS: Yes, when my editor and the team called, I was shaking so hard. It was a very brief call. They were like, “Go tell people! Go celebrate!” and after I got off the phone, my hands hurt because I was holding the phone so tightly. I just could not believe it. I was in this clenched position and was shaking so bad.

MF: What did you do to celebrate? I have to know.

CS: Well, the list comes out at 5 p.m., and I don't know if I should admit this, but at 4 p.m I was in my pajamas, so I decided just to stay inside and be happy about it, but the next night I went out for dinner with my family, and it was very nice.


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.