Author Sandra Block discusses ‘Girl Overboard’ and reading without shame

Our interview with Sandra Block discusses the author’s latest book, Girl Overboard, and her first foray into the young adult genre.

In my Girl Overboard book review from earlier this week, I talked about how I’ve been a fan of Sandra Block’s thrillers since I read Little Black Lies and Girl Without a Name. I loved Zoe Goldman as a character, and the plots were always interesting and easy to jump into.

When I found out she’d be venturing into the young adult genre for the first time, I was more than a little curious to see how her thriller skills would translate to a young audience. (Spoiler alert: There was nothing to worry about.) Girl Overboard was about how easy it is for two girls to become friends, and how easy it was for their entire world to be upended in the span of a single night.

When speaking with Block, I was most curious about the transition into young adult and how that changed the way she tackled her stories. I was also interested in her opinion about the importance of young adult horror and thriller books in general. Needless to say, I was not disappointed with her answer.

I was so excited to conduct this Sandra Block interview, and I hope you’ll enjoy her answers, along with Girl Overboard. Can’t wait to see what’s next!

Sandra Block Interview

We spoke for the first time seven(!) years ago, when I interviewed you for Girl Without a Name. Have you gotten a chance to check an around-the-world cruise off your bucket list yet? Do you still have dreams of writing romance some day?

Ha! Did I really have the around-the-world cruise on my bucket list back then? Well…it’s still on there…someday… As for the romance thing, I think I’ve pretty much accepted that thriller is my jam.

This is your first foray into writing for young adults. What made you want to try your hand at entertaining this new audience?

Honestly, I just got the opportunity. My agent told me an editor was looking for some good YA thrillers…did I have any ideas? The answer to such a question is always yes, so I sent her about five ideas. The cruise one I almost didn’t include because I figured it was too cheesy. Of course, they loved the cruise one, hahaha. So…my agent asked me to write a few chapters, the editor liked it…and we were off to the races!

Are there particular challenges in writing a YA thriller versus an adult thriller? Did you find any aspect of the process easier than writing an adult thriller?

The challenge for me was keeping it light. I gravitate towards dark, but that didn’t feel right for this novel. So, I had to steer away from that. What was easier…they wanted a shorter book. Quick, fun read was the idea. And that shortened that Act II bridge, which I always find the most difficult to write.

One of the biggest strengths of Girl Overboard is that you nailed the teen voice exactly. Was it difficult to jump into the mind of a teenager, or did it come naturally?

Thanks for the compliment. Izzy just starting talking to me. So, oddly, it wasn’t too hard to get her voice. Some readers have commented that her voice sounded young. To be honest, I was pretty naïve and socially immature as a sophomore. And Izzy is too, which may be why she sounds it.

Why do you think it’s important for the young adult audience to have access to the thriller and horror genres?

I just think people should read without shame. Whatever it is, romance, thriller, mystery, etc. Reading in high school means reading a lot of “classics” for English class. There was a twitter joke that “in high school, I joined a male book club by accident, it was called English class.” That rings so true to me. I accidentally joined that club as an English major at Harvard too! I’ll admit that I’m mainly writing for girls. I want them to see themselves in the world. So I don’t care what they read, as long as it empowers them to keep reading.

I love bottle episodes/novels because it forces the setting to become a character in its own right. How much research did you need to do for Girl Overboard?

I did embarrassingly little research because I’ve been on an embarrassing number of cruises! There’s always a “Hang Out” club in one iteration or another, ditto “Guppies.” The claustrophobic spa, overpriced hibachi restaurant, and Broadway-style shows etc.—I’ve done them all, both as the child and the parent.

When you write a thriller, do you always know who the killer/bad guy is by the end, or are you sometimes surprised by which suspect surfaces as the one whodunnit?

I usually know, but in this one, I actually did not. I knew how the crime and the killer/bad guy(girl) would be related. But I ended up changing the ultimate ring-leader, which definitely improved the book.

What was the last great book you read?

I loved Before the Fall by Noah Hawley, and The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore.

Do you have any upcoming projects in the works? Any dream projects you’d like to pursue?

I’m working on another YA thriller…which takes place at a sixteenth birthday party sleep-over at a hunting lodge in the middle of a snowstorm. As for dream projects…I’m still waiting on the around-the-world cruise!

Buy Girl Overboard by Sandra Block from Penguin Random House,, Book Depository, or Amazon. You can also add it to your Goodreads list.

Look for more recommendations on our books page.