There’s no question about it in writer-world–sometimes an author has an indisputably  brilliant idea. And today’s guest  Jillian Cantor has had so many of them, and even better,  turned them into bestselling novels.  Here’s proof of her latest great idea: the announcement of her new book. Read this, and swoon.

“Laura Brown at Park Row Books has acquired THE FICTION WRITER in a pre-empt, pitched as THE PLOT meets THE CHRISTIE AFFAIR, in which a fiction writer is hired by a handsome billionaire to write about a stunning family secret—that Daphne du Maurier plagiarized REBECCA from his grandmother—leading her to question the boundaries of creative freedom.”

Like we said. Brilliant, right?   And talk about a perfect pitch! And now that book is on the shelves of bookstores and libraries–and homes–everywhere. We at Career Authors are thrilled to give you an inside look at this provocative, timely, and oh-so-buzzy novel, as Jillian Cantor takes us Behind the Pages.

What’s the title of your book—and was that always the title?

The Fiction Writer. And no, that wasn’t always the title. My original working title as I was drafting was The Last Mrs. Asherwood, but my agent thought I needed a stronger title after she read the first draft and she suggested The Fiction Writer, which I loved.

Who’s the main character of your book—and was that always their name?

My main character is Olivia Fitzgerald, and that was always my name for her. But actually it’s her pen name in the book so it wasn’t always her name. She was born Olivia Finkemeier. She uses a pen name when she publishes her first book at the suggestion of her agent since it’s easier to spell.

At the start of the book, what’s the character’s goal?

Olivia is a struggling writer. Her last novel (a Rebecca retelling) was a flop and she hasn’t been able to publish anything since. So her goal is to resurrect her publishing career, sell another novel, and turn everything around. When she gets the offer to go to Malibu to ghostwrite a sexy billionaire’s story about his grandmother’s connection to Daphne du Maurier, she jumps at the chance (ignoring every red flag!).

What was the core idea for this novel—a plot point? a theme?—and where did it come from?

The Fiction Writer explores whether a writer can truly own any story, and whether any story can truly be original. These were themes I wanted to explore after writing a retelling myself for my last novel and after coming across an article about the inspirations for Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. The article discussed the fact that she may have been inspired by Jane Eyre, but also that she was accused of plagiarism after Rebecca came out. One of the claims even went to trial in New York. (du Maurier was ultimately cleared), but it got me thinking more and more about what makes any work of fiction original.

At what point did you come up with the final version of the first line? What is it?

My first line is “Last night I dreamt I went to Malibu again.” This was actually the very first thing that came to me when I first considered writing about a struggling writer (who’d just written a failed Rebecca retelling). It popped into my head one night, I jotted it down on a piece of paper on my desk, and then all the ideas of the story came from there!

Did you know the ending of the book when you started?

I didn’t know the ending of the book when I started. I figured it out about halfway through writing the first draft.

What’s something in this book that you’ve never done before?

The Fiction Writer is a modern-day gothic mystery, and it’s the first time I’ve ever written a gothic mystery. It’s also the first time I have a main character who is, like me, a fiction writer.

What part of your tour (or launch week) are you most excited about?

I got to do an event at my childhood library this week. It was really amazing to go back to the place I spent many days as a kid checking out books, but this time I was actually there talking about a book that I wrote.

Who in your #writingcommunity deserves a special shout-out for supporting you in writing this story? Why?

My agent, Jessica Regel, at Helm Literary. She is always supportive, but really encouraged me to write this story when I got excited about it even when I started to doubt whether I could or should do it myself.

How do you want readers to feel when they close the book? 

I hope they think, wow, that was a cool twist at the very end.  

What did you learn from this book? About writing, or life, or the writing life?

I veered away from historical fiction in this novel, which was something my last six books had been before this. I wrote it during the pandemic, and I found I was struggling to write about interesting times in history when we were suddenly living through quite interesting times ourselves. This novel was an escape for me to write. I wrote it because I wanted to, because it was fun for me to get up every morning and work on it. And not because I thought it was necessarily what I *should* be writing. I honestly wasn’t sure if anyone would ever read it but me! In the end it worked out, and it has been amazing to see so much enthusiasm for this book. So I think what I learned is that it was really okay to follow my heart and write what was calling to me in the moment, even if that was different than what was expected.

Questions for Jillian? Let’s chat on the Career Authors Facebook Page!


Jillian Cantor is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of eleven novels for teens and adults, which have been chosen for LibraryReads, Indie Next and Amazon Best of the Month, and have been translated into thirteen languages. She has a BA in English from Penn State University and an MFA from the University of Arizona. Born and raised in a suburb of Philadelphia, Cantor currently lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons. Her 12th novel, THE FICTION WRITER, was published in 2023 by Park Row Books.