Laid-off and ready to quit, Riley Sager bounced back and returns with ‘Survive the Night’ thriller – Redlands Daily Facts
Student Charlie Jordan is in a difficult situation. She rides late into the night in a slate gray Pontiac Grand Am driven by Josh Baxter, a man she has only met briefly on a bulletin board on the New Jersey campus. She desperately needed to return home to Ohio, and this soft-spoken stranger rushed to save the day.
But is he capable of murder?
Author Riley Sager’s latest psychological thriller, “Survive the Night,” released June 29 by Dutton tells the story of Charlie, a film studies student and film buff who studied filmmaking to cope with the traumas of life. ‘childhood. When an incident occurs on campus, her brain goes back to classic movies to the point where she has a hard time figuring out what’s real and what’s going on in a movie in her head.
“I knew from the start that Charlie was going to do film studies – because that’s what I was in the ’90s,” Sager said in a recent phone interview. Sager is the pseudonym of former journalist and graphic designer Todd Ritter, who rose to popularity as Sager in 2017 with his award-winning bestseller, “Final Girls.”
â€œI wanted to have a lot of cinematic references, because it’s fun and readers like it. But one of the problems, “he says,” was how was I going to keep her in this car for such a long period of time without readers going, “Jump out of the car, idiot!” “
Sager addressed this by writing that Charlie’s trauma affects how her brain works, so she struggles to distinguish between fact and fiction. “It was a fun way to play with what was going on and guess what’s real and what’s a movie.”
Sager is a graduate of Penn State University and currently resides in New Jersey. Like the heroine of his book, Sager’s favorite movies are “Jaws”, “Rear Window”, “Silence of the Lambs” and a movie he makes fun of in the book “The Sound of Music”.
â€œThere’s a little joke in the book about it,â€ he laughed, noting that Charlie is warning Josh to â€œstay awayâ€ from people who cite the Julie Andrews classic as one. of their favorite movies. “Okay, I’d be one of those people that Charlie would be, ‘You aren’t worth talking to.’”
He also intelligently uses the music to advance the plot. The story is set in 1991, the year Nirvana’s “Nevermind” dominated MTV and radio. As well as including “Come as You Are” by Nirvana and “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, it references “Kiss Them For Me” by Siouxsie and the Banshees and “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure, both of which play an important role in the book.
â€œI thought the songs would have extra meaning and give a certain vibe,â€ he said, adding that he was in his senior year of high school when â€œNevermindâ€ was released. “Yes, Nirvana was obvious because I blew it up on my tape recorder.”
Sager enjoys writing about strong women, focusing on their will to survive, fight, and persevere. In “Survive The Night”, he sees Charlie move from a secondary character in her own life to her protagonist as she struggles to put together the right scenes in her mind. Sager said his publisher calls this type of makeover â€œmic drop momentsâ€ and it’s something he likes to include in his books.
He knows firsthand what it’s like to be deep down and come out triumphant. With 15 years of reporting and editing under his belt, Sager was fired from the New Jersey Star-Ledger five years ago. With so many people losing their jobs and careers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sager offers some hope. Where one journey ends, another can begin.
â€œIt was really tough,â€ he said. â€œDesperation can be a very good motivator, however. This is how I felt at the time. I had published a few books under my real name and they didn’t do anything, then I was fired and literally couldn’t find another job. I was applying to be an editor for a pet food magazine and couldn’t find a job. I was so angry and frustrated, but I had this idea for a book. My agent loved it and I wasn’t going to rest until I did and then see what happened. I was just lucky that ‘Final Girls’ really blew up.
Sager continued to publish more books, including ‘The Last Time I Lied’ from 2018 and two more, ‘Lock Every Door’ and ‘Home Before Dark’, during last year’s nationwide lockdown. He continued to find inspiration and write during his forties while taking mental breaks to tend his garden and sweat it on the elliptical in his basement while listening to the albums “Folklore” and “Evermore” “by Taylor Swift.
If “Final Girls” hadn’t become a success, Sager said he was going to stop writing for good.
â€œI was going to go back to school and become a librarian,â€ he said. “But something I’m most proud of is that I took these lemons and made lemonade.”