Exclusive Interview: “No Second Chances” Author Rio Youers

 

One of the running themes of the last couple years is that the power dynamic between people can easily become problematic, and never more so than when one or both of them are rich and famous. But what’s terrible in real life is often great in fiction, which brings me to the power dynamic at work in Rio Youers’ new thriller No Second Chances (hardcover, Kindle, audiobook). In the following email interview, Youers discusses what inspired and influenced this story, including its geography.

Rio Youers No Second Chances

I always like to start with a plot overview. So, what is No Second Chances about, and when and where does it take place?

No Second Chances is a modern-day thriller, set primarily in Los Angeles, with all of the glamor and chaos that the city is known for. Though the narrative ventures out of L.A. in the second half, where things really heat up in the desert.

Kitty Rae is young, beautiful, and determined, and has moved to Los Angeles — like so many before her — to pursue her dreams of superstardom. Unfortunately for Kitty, she runs afoul of a charismatic drug dealer and Viking wannabe by the name of Johan Fly. Kitty’s neighbor, Luke Kingsley, steps up to help Kitty…although Luke has problems of his own. He’s a former actor whose career was derailed when his wife, R&B sensation Lisa Hayes, disappeared without a trace. Everybody believes Luke killed Lisa — theirs was a public and turbulent relationship — and he’ll do whatever it takes to get his life back on track.

It’s while helping Kitty that Luke uncovers a clue about his wife’s disappearance. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, Luke and Kitty set out across the Mojave to find Lisa…but Johan Fly — dangerous, vengeful, and armed with a replica Viking ax — is not far behind.

Where did you get the idea for No Second Chances?

It started with the characters. Luke and Kitty had been living in my head for a couple of years, just hanging out, waiting for me to give them some time and attention, which I duly did, knowing that they had a story to tell. Concurrently, I’d been thinking about the highs and lows of celebrity, and how we perceive it in this age of social media. I batted around a few ideas, but the story didn’t take shape until I added Johan Fly into the mix, this over-the-top YouTube star, whose true and dangerous self is obscured by a pristine online persona.

I sketched out a variety of scenarios, and from these distilled a workable plot and several key scenes. That was all I needed. I started writing, trusting my seat-of-the-pants instinct to fill in the blanks. 110,000 words later, I had a novel.

I love when that happens.

You kind of just answered this, but is there a reason why you had both Luke and Lisa be public figures? Because it seems like the story would work if there was a similar dynamic but not the public aspect, like if Luke was a formerly successful doctor and Lisa was a hotshot prosecutor.

I could have made it work, sure, but Luke being a disgraced celebrity was certainly a big part of his early character — the thing that gave him shape and breath in my mind — and those initial concepts were influenced by the way fame is viewed through the lens of social media (which isn’t always a true lens). Celebrity, and the pursuit of fame, play a big part in No Second Chances, and although the story, in itself, could have functioned without it, there’s no doubt it would have developed into a thematically different novel.

Also, I wanted to amp the Los Angeles vibe up to eleven: Palm trees, movie stars, Hollywood parties, champagne drugs. Most of my fiction is set in the northeastern United States, and I wanted No Second Chances to feel different from anything else I’d ever written. That was a driving force for me — and a good challenge, too.

It sounds like No Second Chances is a thriller. Is that how you’d describe it?

It’ll sit on the thriller shelf, no doubt, but there’s more to No Second Chances. The way I feel about it…it’s a character piece, plot-driven, certainly, but — as with my previous novel, Lola On Fire — it has depth, nuance, and emotion. It’s also a love story, of course (Luke and Lisa may not be the last of the great romantics, but they’re still crazy about each other). At its core, though, No Second Chances is a balls-to-the-wall action thriller, with a generous scoop of heart and soul on top.

No Second Chances is your fifth novel. But you’ve also written the comic books Refrigerator Full Of Heads and Sleeping Beauties, the latter of which is an adaptation of the novel by Stephen King and his son Owen. Was there any thought to writing No Second Chances as a graphic novel?

I’m a novelist, first and foremost. 98% of the ideas that jump into my head are geared toward prose fiction, and this was certainly the case with No Second Chances. So no, I never thought of it as a graphic novel.

That’s not to suggest it wouldn’t work in comic-book form. It has color and pace and some great visuals, so I think it could be adapted, and work extremely well in that medium.

In regard to your other books, are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on this story but not on anything else you’ve written?

There’s a fantastic novel: American Dream Machine by Matthew Specktor. It didn’t influence No Second Chances, per se — they’re very different books — but the author’s representation of Los Angeles (Hollywood, in particular) is so rich, colorful, and textured, that I remember thinking if I could do even half as good a job, I’d be onto a good thing.

How about movies, TV shows, or games? Did any of those things have a particularly big influence on No Second Chances?

I’m not sure I can point to any one thing here. I love Tarantino’s movies. I love Elmore Leonard’s novels, and I think you can see their influence in No Second Chances. There are shades of L.A. Confidential, subtle notes of The Big Lebowski and The Long Goodbye. I read so many great novels set in Los Angeles: The Crosskiller by Marcel Montecino, The Devil May Dance by Jake Tapper, Die A Little by Megan Abbott.

And there’s always music, right? “California Soul” by Marlena Shaw, “The Night” by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, “Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder. I played these songs on a loop while working on this book. So yeah, my inspiration came from all directions — from news stories and conversations and social media, too, all of it playing a part in shaping No Second Chances and helping it breathe.

Speaking of the movies that influenced No Second Chances, it sounds like it could work as a movie as well.

Call me biased, but yeah, No Second Chances would make a great movie. It’s plot-driven, with plenty of edge-of-the-seat action and strong, endearing characters. Kitty and Luke form an engaging, heartfelt partnership, and there’s a wonderfully wicked bag guy (“The best villain since Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels,” according to Stephen King). I mean, what more do you need? No Second Chances was built to hit the big screen.

Has there been any interest in that?

These things take time. I’m sure there’s a package doing the rounds in Hollywood — or not. I don’t know. I try not to think about that stuff too much. I write the books. That’s my job.

But if someone did want to adapt No Second Chances into a movie, who would you want them to cast as Luke, Lisa, Kitty, and Johan?

I often cast the books I read, but rarely cast the books I write. Most of my characters have a version of my face, which is unfortunate for them.

But what heck? I’ll play along: Lovie Simone as Kitty; Walton Goggins (or maybe Steven Ogg) as Luke; Zoe Saldana as Lisa; Jason Momoa (or maybe Charlie Hunnam) as Johan — they’re both a little too old (Johan is only 28 years old), but they could make it work.

I’m just glad you didn’t say J.Lo and Ben Affleck. You know what happened the last time they made a movie together, right? You did see Gigli? Oh, no, of course you didn’t; you’re a person.

Ha! No, I haven’t seen Gigli. But actually, now that you mention it, Ben Affleck would make a pretty great Luke Kingsley.

Rio Youers No Second Chances

Finally, if someone enjoys No Second Chances, which of your other novels would you suggest they read next?

I’d certainly point them toward Lola On Fire, because, like No Second Chances, it’s a breakneck action thriller with heartfelt emotion and relatable characters. Though if they prefer thrillers with a supernatural edge, à la Stephen King’s Firestarter or Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes, I’d recommend The Forgotten Girl or Halcyon.

 

 

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