At Team U, we are obsessed with watching the Bayview Four come to life on screen in the new One of Us Is Lying TV show on Peacock. Needless to say, we were thrilled when author Karen M. McManus agreed to answer some questions about the New York Times bestselling novel, her writing process, and her inspiration. And, we were at the edge of our seats when she surprised us with a big reveal . . .
What was the inspiration for One of Us Is Lying?
I was driving to work when “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” from The Breakfast Club, came on the radio. I can never not turn up that song, so I did, and while it was playing I thought about how the concept behind that movie—that if people who seem to have nothing in common on the surface interact for any length of time, they’ll often realize they’re not as different as they think—makes for an always-interesting narrative backdrop. It would be fun, I thought, to do an update on that type of story with a dark twist. The phrase “The Breakfast Club with murder” popped into my head and stayed there the rest of the day. When I got home that night, I started writing.
How did the Bayview Four characters come to life for you?
Right after I got the initial idea, I started wondering who would be in the room. Of course there would be stereotypes—the brain, the jock, the princess, the criminal, the outcast—but I wanted them to have layers that would come to light as the story progressed. I thought about them constantly as the story took shape. I created character worksheets that included not only big-picture items like their hopes and fears but also small details about their lives. And I made playlists for each character, filled with songs that felt like them, and I would listen to those while writing each point of view.
Tell us about the process of turning One of Us Is Lying into a TV series! What do you hope the TV series will bring to the audience that’s different from the book?
It’s been surreal! I remember arriving to the pilot shoot in Vancouver and seeing half a street shut down for production—sets being built, scenes being staged, cast and crew everywhere—and it struck me that all of these very talented people had come together on that particular day because I wrote a book. Writing a book can be fairly solitary, whereas adapting that book into a television show takes a lot of collaboration between producers, directors, writers, network and studio executives, the showrunner, and the cast and crew. Many different people and perspectives shaped the creative direction of the series. Ultimately, I hope my readers enjoy watching a familiar story unfold in a new way.
What was it like to see the characters you wrote come to life on-screen?
One of the best parts of this experience has been watching the cast bond with one another in a way that feels very similar to my characters. It’s a true ensemble—not only the main four plus Simon, but a whole Bayview High yearbook: Janae, Jake, Maeve, Keely, Vanessa, TJ, and Evan, along with all the other characters who make up the rest of the world. There are a few scenes that were pulled almost directly from the book, and those are especially fun for me to watch.
Is there anything you can tell us about One of Us Is Lying that not many people know?
There was a subplot in early drafts of One of Us Is Lying that I had to take out while revising with my agent because it was distracting from the main story. However, that narrative thread is still baked into the Bayview DNA, and now it’s serving as the backbone of the plot in what will be the third and final book in the series, One of Us Is Back.