The chills in The Three (Little, Brown, May), Sarah Lotz’s debut novel written on her own and under her own name, begin with the scary description of a plane crash in Japan. Three more crashes of commuter planes around the world occur in quick succession, and in three of the crashes a child survives. Soon, speculation is rampant about the significance of “the three,” especially as the children begin to show increasingly disturbing behavior. Are they harbingers of the apocalypse, as one character insists?
“My career was made because Stephen King read the book and wrote a blurb for it,” says Lotz, “He’s my writing hero.”
The Three plies its eeriness using multiple voices and varied formats. As Lotz describes it, the main narrative is presented in the form of a book within a book—a nonfiction work by a sensationalist journalist who presents interview transcripts, first-person accounts, blog posts, and editorials that progressively reveal the ongoing investigation into the four air disasters, as well as the daily lives of those caring for the child survivors and the growing paranoia of those involved in the “conspiracies” that spring up in the wake of the catastrophes.
Getting the different voices to ring true proved the most challenging aspect of the novel. “There’s nothing worse than if they don’t sound right,” Lotz says. “I got people to read and double check that I wasn’t making mistakes.”Lotz says she’s always wanted to write about plane crashes and the media’s obsession with them. The 1985 crash of JAL 123, among the most devastating in history, was one of her inspirations. “People had enough time to write messages while the plane was going down,” she says. “It was incredibly tragic.”Lotz has written many books before, but always in collaboration and using a pseudonym: young adult fiction with her daughter, who is 22; horror thrillers with Louis Greenberg, who writes under the name S.L. Grey; and erotic fiction with a few other women. The experience of going it solo was exhilarating, she says, and she has just finished a second novel. But collaborating is wonderful and she will definitely continue. “You can talk for hours about plot and characters with your collaborators and you don’t have to worry about boring them.”
Lotz, who calls herself “flight phobic,” braved the flight from her home in Cape Town, South Africa, to participate in BEA. She will be signing her book at Table #TK in the autographing area today at 1 p.m.