Calling all social scrollers, aspiring writers, and thrill-loving readers! Have you ever felt trapped in the world of social media? Author Kiley Roache was inspired by her own experiences on social feeds, which often left her feeling bad about herself and in an inescapable vortex of comparison. In this interview, Roache opens up about social media and how it inspired her upcoming novel and discusses her writing process.
What is Killer Content about, and what can your readers expect?
Killer Content is a young adult murder mystery set in a house of TikTok stars. In the novel, the six members of the Lit Lair seem to have it all—millions of followers, lucrative sponsorship deals, striking good looks. But behind their perfected social media images, they’re all hiding secrets. When one of them turns up dead in the infinity pool, the rest of her famous roommates immediately become suspects. Readers can expect suspense, budding romance, backstabbing, betrayal, plot twists, and more.
I hated that I was comparing myself to others: Did I look as good as they did in Instagram photos? Was my career as successful as theirs seemed on Twitter?
What inspired you to write Killer Content?
The inspiration for this book came slowly and then all at once. For a while, I’d been thinking about how our lives are increasingly online and how that affects us. Each time I’d get my weekly “Screen Time” stats, I’d be shocked by how much time I’d spent scrolling . . . even though I’d had the same realization the week before. The problem wasn’t just the amount of time I spent online, but that I often left feeling bad. I hated that I was comparing myself to others: Did I look as good as they did in Instagram photos? Was my career as successful as theirs seemed on Twitter? Did my room or daily routine look at all like the “that girl” aesthetic on TikTok? And what did people think when they saw what I posted? How did this version of me compare to the entirety of who I was? I was thinking about the disconnect between what we present on social media and who we really are, and how much pressure social media puts on us to look a certain way, achieve a certain amount of success by a certain age, and so on.
This led me to think about how much worse this pressure would be for people who live in collab houses. If most of us feel drained from social, imagine how much worse the pressure would be if you had millions of followers watching you, if social media was also your job and you needed success to pay your bills, if all your friends were influencers and you lived with all those friends—basically, if you could not escape the constant pressure of social media. That is so much to put on someone, especially a teenager.
And so, even though living in a TikTok house by the beach with famous friends sounds glamorous and fun, when seen in that light, it sounded terrible, too. I wanted to explore the contrast between the glamorous exterior and the pain of constant scrutiny that social media stars experience. I love murder mysteries—from Knives Out to anything by Agatha Christie to One of Us Is Lying. And the idea sort of popped into my head: What if these characters weren’t just famous but suddenly infamous. What if someone was dead? From there, the novel started to take form.
I wanted to explore the contrast between the glamorous exterior and the pain of constant scrutiny that social media stars experience.
What did you find challenging and rewarding when writing Killer Content?
One of the most challenging parts was balancing the various points of view, since each character in the house helped to tell the story. And because everyone was hiding secrets, I had to be careful to remember who knew what when as the story unfolded. I ended up mapping the story on notecards on a dry erase board, and then, when I didn’t have any more room, taping them up on the wall in my dad’s basement. (Dad, if you’re reading this, thanks again for letting me do that.) Interestingly, writing across many points of view was also one of the most rewarding parts of this project. I loved being able to spend time in the heads of such different characters with such distinct voices.
How did you come up with your characters, and is there a character you most relate to?
After I had the initial idea for the book, I made a playlist that explored the themes I wanted to get at—jealousy, the idea of fame, the pressure to keep succeeding after accomplishing something young. As I listened to the playlist, I started to think about who might be feeling these emotions. How did they get here? Why do they want what they want? Why are they influencers? What is their biggest secret? Why might they have killed someone?
I started to develop characters, making a sort of vision board for each, which I hung up above my desk. I kept it there the whole time I was writing and then later through multiple rounds of revision. It’s hard to say which character I relate to most. I think Kat’s experience moving to Los Angeles and her thoughts about the “idea of California” are not dissimilar to my experience and thoughts when moving from the Midwest to California for college, and I relate to some of Cami’s past body image stressors, so I drew on those emotions as I was writing. I do not know how to surf like Beau, but I wish I could, so I think that’s why I wrote that in for him. While each of the characters probably has a piece of me in them, none of them are really based on me. That is part of the fun of writing fiction—getting to spend time in a character’s head.
Why are they influencers? What is their biggest secret? Why might they have killed someone?
What are some of your favorite YA thrillers?
Are there any writing techniques you can share with your readers?
That’s a great question. It really depends on the writer. There are so many writers I admire who have different strategies, from plotting out every detail before going to draft to free-writing and then revising. Weirdly, I think the best strategy is to try different strategies: make a plot outline, but let yourself stray from it when inspiration strikes you; write on the computer sometimes, but when you’re stuck, grab a notebook and sit outside and brainstorm. Write to music; write in silence. This book is the first time I’ve plotted with notecards on the wall. Now I think it will be an integral part of the process for every book I write. I’ve found that shaking things up—even going from writing at my desk to writing on the couch—helps me break past any points where I felt stuck.