YA author Miranda’s first adult novel, All the Missing Girls, explores the disappearance of two young women, 10 years apart, in the same small North Carolina town.
What inspired the novel?
Two different elements jump-started the idea. First, I was interested in telling a story about people who disappeared and the different ways that they can disappear. So not just the literal girls walking into the woods and they don’t come back out, but also how somebody could choose to leave a place and try to become somebody new—and if that was really possible, or if the past inevitably catches up with you. And second, driving home to North Carolina from visiting family in New Jersey, I first got a sense of my main character and her voice. I had this image of a girl driving home and seeing pieces of her past as she goes. And so I had the idea to play with the two different times of what happened 10 years ago, and the person she is now as an adult.
Although you’re writing for adults, quite a bit of the action takes place when the main characters are teens. What pulls you to this time in people’s lives?
When I was teaching high school in a very different area [North Carolina] than where I grew up [New Jersey], I realized we all have very different experiences, but we have the same kind of hopes and fears and dreams for ourselves. I think there is something universal about that time in our lives, when we are figuring out the type of people we are. I’m drawn to those events that happen when we’re 17 or 18 and how that can affect us years later still.
Speaking of time, when did you decide to recount much of the story in reverse? And why?
I’d been wanting to tell a mystery in reverse, where readers would be working back through the pieces, almost experiencing it for themselves. But I wanted the structure to be there for a reason. So when I thought of this story idea and the main character, Nic, I saw the structure as really tied to the theme of going back into the past and getting an understanding of things.
Do you see any recurrent themes in your work?
I’m drawn to the idea of memory, how we see events and how that changes over time.
Any connection between the interest in science that took you to college at MIT and writing mysteries?
I loved reading Michael Crichton growing up. I loved science, and I also loved writing. I guess I’ve just always been really drawn to the things we couldn’t explain.