Picking someone up from the airport is always a drag, but sometimes it’s downright dangerous. 

He’ll Be Waiting (Willow River Press) by Liz Alterman tells of a spunky teenager who does a favor for her significant other by retrieving his traveling friend. Next thing she knows, she knows nothing; she’s lying in a hospital bed with no memory of the past two days. Her boyfriend and best friend are both noticeably absent from her sickbed, and her parents seem off. What in the world is going on? What in the world happened

Someone knows the answers, but she’s bound and gagged: metaphorically speaking, of course. It’s the author herself, Liz Alterman, who crafted this cunning thriller and is here with us to provide some details (but not too many!) about her suspenseful YA-driven He’ll Be Waiting and the inspiration behind it. She’s also working on another project that’s a little more personal and hits close to home, and has some thoughts about the takeaways she’d like her readers to consider when reading the book.

Q: Where did you get the idea for the book He’ll Be Waiting?

A: Decades ago, someone shared a story about helping out a friend. Though that favor seemed simple and straightforward, it took a very strange turn. I used that concept as a starting point and built the plot around the interconnectedness of our actions and how they can have a ripple effect: for better or worse.

Q: Why did you decide to target the YA market?

A: I love to see my teens reading and enjoying a book, so I wanted to craft a story that might hold their attention. (No easy feat!) I thought a thriller would be the best genre to do that. As I wrote each chapter, I gave it to my middle son, Ben, who is a tough critic and, admittedly, a reluctant reader. As he finished each section, he’d ask if I had more pages. His interest kept me going through the rough spots and periods of self-doubt. 

Q: What are some of the considerations you have to keep in mind when writing to this sector?

A: I wanted the characters to feel real, which meant paying particular attention to voice, dialogue and word choice. With so many things competing for readers’ attention, I tried to sustain the element of suspense in an effort to keep them guessing and, hopefully, turning pages. 

Q: Tell us about Tess. What inspired this character, and what are some of the traits that define her?

A: Tess is a seventeen-year-old high school senior who’s eagerly waiting for her boyfriend to return from college for winter break. She’s smart but not the best student. She has a big heart yet she’s a bit sarcastic. Though she probably wouldn’t think of herself as strong, when she’s faced with the unthinkable, she digs deep to try to move forward as best she can. I think of Tess as a composite of the traits I admire most in friends; sense of humor, authenticity, a healthy dose of skepticism, and, most of all, resilience.  

Q: You raise the interesting concept about memory loss; in this case is it better to remember or better to forget? Without giving too much away, tell us about the storyline and how readers are presented with Tess’s choice.

A: Tess wakes up in a hospital unable to remember what happened to her. A psychologist suggests she try journaling to spark her memory. Through diary entries, pieces of that night begin to return. But as family secrets unravel and chilling details begin to resurface, Tess wonders if she was better off not recalling what happened.

Q: While the story is a pure thriller, what messages do you have for readers about coming of age, grief, trauma, and love, and anything else for that matter?

A: I’d like readers to come away from the story thinking about the importance of resilience. Even though terrible things may happen that upend your life, it’s crucial to believe that there are still good days ahead. There’s a character Tess meets later in the story who tells her, “Don’t dwell in the darkness. Linger in the light,” and that’s one of the main messages I hope readers absorb.

Buy this book!

A storyteller at hear, Liz Alterman lives in New Jersey with her husband and three sons. She spends most days repeatedly microwaving the same cup of coffee and looking up synonyms.