In Fram’s thriller ‘No Road Home’ (Atria, July), a father tries to protect his queer son from his evangelical in-laws.

What inspired this story?

I grew up in a church not quite as demented as the one in the novel, but pretty rough. So much of the American evangelical movement depends on this feeling that they’re being
persecuted—it’s how they drive growth and money. I was fascinated with the real people inside. What motivates them to say this incredibly bigoted stuff and convince a bunch of other people to believe it?

When building a story full of secrets that characters know but readers don’t, what makes for an effective reveal?

My editor pointed out that a good secret has an arc of its own. It has to be teased, developed, and then revealed. There’s this principle in video game design where you never allow the gamer to encounter the key before they see the lock. When new writers are figuring out how to write suspense fiction, they sometimes show the key before the lock. You have to have the patience and the discipline to keep them apart from one another, without stretching it so far that the reader has forgotten what the key was even meant to unlock.

“Memory palaces” get a lot of airtime in your novel. Can you explain the concept?

The memory palace goes back to the ancient Greeks. It’s a very old concept of how to retain memories by constructing a building in your head and putting the memories in specific spots. I was interested in the way that I could give two characters in the book two different forms of a memory palace. But also, a gothic novel needs an absurdly huge, crumbling house. Every novelist loves a metaphor that can be both internal and external. By the end of the book, that interplay was really interesting, because as the house degrades, the memory palace degrades with it.

Do you see No Road Home as queer literature?

I had a lot of resistance to the term “queer literature.” It triggered a lot of internal work: “Is this internalized homophobia? Is this not wanting to be associated with the other gays?” But I really don’t think that’s it. I want this book to speak to a lot of people who might feel excluded by that label. I want to talk to people like my mom—smart women in the regular American world who want a good book, but when they see the term “queer literature,” it seems like it’s on a shelf not meant for them.
And it is meant for them. What fascinates me is how can we show that homophobia and racism and classism, these huge prejudices driving this book, don’t just affect the persecuted people, they also damage the people who perpetuate them? It’s a poison that goes everywhere.