It wasn’t Chris Pavone’s two decades as an editor at various houses that ultimately inspired his hotly anticipated debut thriller, The Expats (Crown). Instead, it was becoming a stay-at-home dad for the first time, after his wife, Madeline McIntosh, took a job launching the Kindle overseas that required a family move to Luxembourg.

“I was one of the only men in my world. At the international school pickup, it was all expat wives and three other guys,” says Pavone, 43. He began taking language and cooking classes, again populated by expat wives. “I started to see the world from their point of view and then to write from that viewpoint.”

Once they returned to the U.S., Pavone got serious about finishing his draft, about how expat wife Kate Moore’s normal routine gives way to espionage. Then he spent another year showing the novel to people—mostly professionals who he knew from his time in publishing—and revising.

Once he felt like the book was ready, he approached agent David Gernert of the Gernert Company, who he knew from Gernert’s tenure as Doubleday’s editor-in-chief. After the book was submitted, Pavone figured nothing would happen immediately. An offer to pre-empt came in the next day, from Crown editor Zachary Wagman.

“I was struck by how sophisticated and perfectly crafted it was—a sleek puzzle,” says Wagman.