After a random day at the airport, Rea Frey dropped everything and chose to be a writer. She wrote her novel, Not Her Daughter, in just a month’s time. We were thrilled to learn that we would have the opportunity to read it! Check out what we thought of it below:
Review of Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey
Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey is a suspense novel that will have you questioning what is right and what is wrong. While the world might want you to see things as black and white, this novel shows a ton of grey. It’s emotionally intense and will keep you guessing the whole way through.
The novel revolves around Emma, a young girl who is kidnapped by someone who can be a better parent to her than her own mother. Readers see the point of views of both Amy, Emma’s mother, and Sarah, Emma’s kidnapper. The narrative also goes through multiple timelines.
Kidnapping is wrong. That’s a thing we’ve all been told. We understand that. However, this story shows that there’s two sides to everything. Emma isn’t treated in the correct way by her mother. Amy isn’t nice. She’s mean and unhappy with her life and takes it out on her family. Sarah is so different and when she sees how Amy treats her daughter, she does something about it. She takes drastic measures.
This book will frustrate you in the most glorious ways possible. It’ll have you questioning everything about it. Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey is a novel that has many layers to it. Morality isn’t always clear in life and finally, there’s a book that demonstrates that.
Q&A with Rea Frey
After reading Not Her Daughter, we talked to Rea Frey herself! We learned all about how she hates outlines, her tolerance for pain, and that day in the airport that changed her life. Read it all here:
Tell us a bit about yourself! What do you do?
I’m a full-time writer. (You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to say that.)
You wrote a novel called Not Her Daughter. What is it about and why were you inspired to write it?
Not Her Daughter aims to answer one question: is kidnapping ever justified? It’s about a woman who kidnaps a five-year-old to save her from her mother.
I was inspired to write this story once I became a mother and started paying attention to parent-child behavior—especially my own. (Mommy Dearest is real, y’all.) Before Not Her Daughter, I hadn’t written fiction in 10 years, but I started to get the idea for this “reverse” kidnapping story. While in an airport, returning from a work trip from one of my three jobs, I witnessed an exchange between mother and daughter that became the entire premise for my novel.
Your next novel, Because You’re Mine will be released this August! What is it about?
Tagline: The truth will set you free. But it’s the lies that keep you safe.
Because You’re Mine is about a single mom, Lee, who’s raising her on-the-spectrum son, Mason. Her best friend, Grace, convinces her to go on a girl’s trip. It’s 48 hours. What’s the worst that could happen? Mason will be with his occupational therapist and homeschool teacher, Noah. Everything will be fine. Forty-eight hours later, someone is dead. In the aftermath, we learn that nothing is as it seems.
Because You’re Mine is about the image we present to the world and how we often have unimaginable secrets lurking. It also explores loyalty and how far we’re willing to go for our families.
Are you excited for the release of Because You’re Mine?
I’m excited for readers to one, see if they can figure out the twist (because there’s a doozy) and two, connect and reflect on the issues presented in this book.
It’s different than Not Her Daughter—it doesn’t have the hook of a kidnapping that you know from the outset—but I hope readers will still find it addictive.
You have a background in nonfiction writing and personal training. How did you first get into that and why did you decide to change directions?
I’ve always had two main loves: exercise and writing. My father is a brilliant writer and gave me the love of reading and writing from a very early age.
I first learned to read from the TV Guide. On boring summer days, my father would highlight words in a dictionary for me to learn by the time he came home. I was never without a book in hand and started journaling, writing poetry, and writing stories. I kept a journal every day of my teenage life. Trust me: there are some things that just should not be documented!
I became a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and certified nutrition specialist at 17. I had my first book published when I was 22 (it was terrible, so I’m not going to tell you anything about it), and then I decided to “bridge the gap” by writing health and wellness books—four, to be exact.
While I could churn out concepts and ideas and get them traditionally published, I found I never felt ultimately satisfied. If I thought about what I really wanted to do, it was to write novels.
So, after that day in the airport, I promptly went home, quit two of my three jobs, gave myself eight weeks to write Not Her Daughter, and completed it in a month. That single decision has changed the course of my entire life.
Why did you go into thriller and suspense writing? Has that always been your favorite fiction space to write in?
Funny story. When Not Her Daughter got picked up, I was told it was in the domestic suspense genre. I literally asked: what the fuck is domestic suspense? I think Not Her Daughter straddles the line between women’s fiction and suspense. I decided to choose one genre going forward, and I chose suspense.
I was a journalist for three death row cases, so I’m always intrigued by people’s actions and how—and why—they do despicable things. Gillian Flynn and Liane Moriarty introduced me to this genre in two drastically distinct ways. I ultimately decided that I wanted to write books that I enjoy reading.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing process and how you create your novels?
I used to be a total pantser. To sit down and write a novel in four weeks, I think you have to be. However, with the nature of my previous jobs as a content manager and editorial director, writing is something that I have done a lot of in my lifetime, so I tend to be fast and furious about it.
Once I get an idea, I usually know roughly how it’s going to end. I jot down notes in notebooks (never on the computer for some reason) and become obsessed with the idea.
Though I don’t outline, I’ve started writing a line summarizing each chapter on a post-it note and sticking it to my wall so I can see the general arc of the story. I will rearrange, remove, and hack at it until I’m happy, but that’s as close to outlines as you’ll ever see me get. #deathtooutlines
I still like to be surprised by my characters, so while I know what’s going to happen, every time I go back through to edit, something usually changes.
I like to start everyday of writing by going back at least 5-10 pages to get into the story again and then I write.
Some days, I can write 50 pages. Others, five pages. I love routine and am a morning writer, but I often find I need to move my body, meditate a little, drink a shit ton of coffee, and then I can begin my day. I don’t write everyday, though. I think that processing and thinking about your story is almost more important than writing the damn story. You have to build in that time to sit with it.
What has been the biggest struggle for you as a writer?
Finally deciding to be a writer. To believe in myself enough to not give myself a plan B. That was the hardest part. Deciding, on that day in the airport, that I’m going to quit distracting myself and stop complaining about wanting to be a writer and finally just go and be a writer! My entire life, I’ve been writing for other people, and once I decided to write for myself, everything changed.
I will say, I think a writer’s responsibility to take such an active role in the business these days can be challenging. Most writers I know are introverts and just want to write; but now, we also promote, we show up to events, we hustle, and we often put out a book a year to stay in the game. (Some people loathe deadlines; I love them.)
It can be an overwhelming thing to give your attention to all these things—not to mention your family, friends, other jobs, pets, passions, etc.—and still have any sort of balance.
Being a mother and working from home is a challenge. It’s not easy to “turn it off” when I pick my daughter up from school, but I am literally in the process of finishing Catherine Price’s How to Break Up With Your Phone, and it has changed my life.
I think modern technology is the ultimate challenge for every creative person. It’s needy, it causes anxiety, and it steals valuable time you could be using to create. Or, you know, just live your life.
Every time I reach for my phone now, I ask: What do I want to pay attention to? That is a game changer.
Is there a fun fact about yourself, unrelated to books and writing, that might surprise our readers if you were to share it with them?
I was an amateur boxer for about five years! Right before my first competition, I started getting headaches. I went to the doctor and they found a mass on the left parietal lobe of brain that was on the verge of hemorrhaging. (So, in essence, boxing saved my life.) I got brain surgery my freshman year of college over spring break and now sport 4 titanium plates and 16 screws. So, you know, I’m part cyborg. I was back in school on Monday. I also had a 52 hour labor, so let’s just say my pain tolerance is pretty high.
What advice would you give to struggling writers out there who are trying to accomplish their dreams?
I know there are the typical answers like, “read everything!” and “just write,” but I will tell you this: being a published author is a business. Your book is not your baby. Your book is a product. To sell. To people. I repeat: your book is a product. This reality has allowed me to understand this business with a fresh perspective and take emotion out of it. Beyond that, I would say the following:
1. Read Lisa Crohn’s Story Genius. (Thank me later.)
2. Know your market. What books are selling in your genre? Who’s publishing them? Who’s representing them? Do they have anything in common? Do you know the difference between selling a nonfiction book and a novel?
3. Write a damn good story and have more than your friends and family read it. One of the most vulnerable things a writer can do is to give his/her work to a few trusted readers that will be honest, or brutal, or a combination of the two.
4. Learn the business. Do you know what it means to get an advance versus not getting an advance? How that advance is paid? What royalties are? When and how you get paid? Do you know how many books you need to sell before you ever see a dime of royalties? Do you know how to read a book contract? Do you know how important it is to acknowledge booksellers? It is imperative that you are your own best advocate in this business. Yes, you are a writer, but writing is a business, so study it, understand it, ask questions, and make sure you know what it is you are agreeing to—every step of the way.
What do you want readers to gain the most from your novels?
Confliction. Empathy. Emotion. I want readers to feel conflicted about something they may assume they are black or white on. I want them to ruminate long after the last page is read. I want them to empathize with characters they may not like or even understand. Above all, I want to entertain, but I want to start a conversation and have readers say: “You just have to read this.”
Your career seems like it has only just begun! Where do you see yourself going from here?
On a vacation! Seriously, I looked at my husband the other day, after all 25 events were done, after we just moved into our house, after the manic holidays, and I said: “Wait, I have to do this all again in seven months?” I was kidding, of course—to be a writer is such a privilege—but I am learning to set boundaries and to realize that I don’t have to do it all AT ONCE. My career has literally just begun, and I have time to lay the groundwork. But, I would love to be the author who builds a die-hard following; whose books translate to the screen; who shows up for her readers and keeps surprising them. And, you know, to sell a shitload of books. That would be lovely too.
Do you have any final words of wisdom that you would like to share with our readers?
The best gift you can ever give yourself is to honor your creative spirit. Before you identify as a parent, a spouse, or an employee, ask yourself: Who am I? Who do I want to be? What do I want to create? We are all creators. If you’re living, then you’re creating.
So, if you truly go out on a limb to connect with this part of yourself—if you take the risk, if you quit the job, if you write the book—then there is always a reward. Always. This is your life. You better be doing what you want to do. It’s taken me 37 years to really understand that, but now that I know it, I can’t unknow it. And let me tell you: it was so worth the wait.