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Hamptons Life

Jan 29, 2019 10:41 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Sag Harbor Native Pens Highly-Touted Thriller With Longtime Friend

Elizabeth Keenan and Greg Wands, the writing team behind the pen name E.G. Scott, released their novel, 'The Woman Inside,' recently. The psychological suspense thriller has been optioned for a television series. Mr. Wands grew up in Sag Harbor and is a 1996 graduate of Pierson High School. CAILIN RILEY
Jan 29, 2019 11:06 AM

Throughout the course of “The Woman Inside,” the psychological thriller from the writing duo behind the pen name E.G. Scott, the breakdown in communication between husband and wife Paul and Rebecca has increasingly disastrous consequences.

Which is ironic, considering that the authors—Elizabeth Keenan and Greg Wands—say that in more than 20 years of friendship, they’ve never been more in sync.

The New York City-based writers are currently in the midst of publicizing their debut novel, which was just released on January 22, while also working on the follow-up, part of a two-book deal they received from publisher Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Random House. The rights to the books have been optioned for a potential television series.

Ms. Keenan and Mr. Wands met 23 years ago, when they were freshman theater majors at Marymount Manhattan College, living at the 92nd Street Y. Ms. Keenan originally hails from New Jersey, while Mr. Wands grew up in Sag Harbor, graduating from Pierson High School in 1996.

They became fast friends, they said during a recent interview at Morandi NYC, a cozy Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village. It’s where they would frequently meet during the year-long process of writing the novel, discussing strategy and plot. Their friendship was built, they said, on shared interests, particularly in what they liked to read and watch.

“We both definitely have a darker sensibility,” Ms. Keenan said, explaining their shared love of noir, thrillers and suspense. They’d always talked about working on some kind of “long-form” project together, and said they knew they’d work well as a creative team after years of critiquing each other’s work, often short fiction they would submit to literary journals.

“We knew we had a good creative dynamic,” Mr. Wands said.

The impetus for the novel came roughly three years ago, borne out of painful circumstances in their personal lives. Ms. Keenan was going through what she described as a painful and unexpected breakup, while Mr. Wands had recently lost his father to cancer.

“We were sitting in a bar, talking about grief and what happens if your life gets completely turned upside down in a second,” Ms. Keenan explained. “And what happens with death and breakups. And I said to Greg, ‘I really just want to kill someone.’ I really had all this rage and anger. And we said, let’s do it in a book.”

The result of channeling personal pain and anger into a creative outlet produced a book that has been hailed by Entertainment Weekly as “the next big thriller to get the Hollywood treatment,” and has drawn rave reviews from publications like Booklist and from A.J. Finn, New York Times bestselling author of “A Woman in the Window.”

It checks all the boxes that readers who appreciate the genre will love, telling the story of a husband and wife whose marriage is being torn apart by jealousy, addiction, infidelity, and their inability to confront personal demons and traumatic pasts. It is told from alternating perspectives of husband and wife, and, later in the story, other characters take turns narrating as well. Mr. Wands wrote the male characters, while Ms. Keenan wrote the female characters.

The narrative came together organically, and both Mr. Wands and Ms. Keenan said that they enjoyed and were motivated by the energy that developed in volleying chapters back and forth.

“Liz would write a chapter, and then I would read it, and my chapter would be a reaction to what she’d written,” Mr. Wands said. “We formulated the plot by just reacting and sort of spit-balling and throwing curves.”

“I knew it was a good chapter if Greg would respond, ‘I’m looking forward to ruining the rest of your week because you just ruined mine,’” Ms. Keenan added with a laugh, speaking about the text messages they’d send each other throughout the process.

The novel is split into three acts, and the writing duo said that by the second act they had to, naturally, spend more time mapping out the plot and storyline. They tried to keep that to a minimum to maintain the synergy they’d had from the start, which they felt brought out the best in them as writers.

“It was great having that positive, competitive energy,” Mr. Wands said. “Especially when you really respect the person you’re writing with and want to impress them.”

They succeeded in maintaining that type of creative style and said that they were still unsure of exactly how the novel would end—the end is a very satisfying and delicious plot twist—until the final day of writing.

“It was a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure thing for us,” Mr. Wands said.

The two-book deal they received allowed and indeed required them to quit their day jobs. Ms. Keenan had worked for many years as a book publicist, first at Simon & Schuster, then at Penguin, and was most recently an associate publisher for Flatiron Books, a Penguin imprint. Mr. Wands is a screenwriter who was also working as a bartender and DJ.

The writing duo credits both their book and film agents with helping them shepherd their project along at its various stages of development. The story has been optioned by Blumhouse Productions, one of the most well-respected production companies that focuses specifically on thriller and horror genres. It produced the recent critically acclaimed HBO series “Sharp Objects,” based on the book by best-selling author Gillian Flynn of “Gone Girl” fame.

Mr. Wands and Ms. Keenan are kicking off a five-city book tour in February, and will make a stop at Southampton Books on Saturday, March 2.

In addition to publicizing their book, a big thrill of going on the tour is the reveal of their identities. They chose the pen name based on the initials of their first name, and went with Mr. Wands’s middle name as the last name. Initially, they were going to make the pen name a hybrid of both their middle names—McCullough Scott—but decided against it, for a specific reason.

“Everyone came to the conclusion that it sounded more like a romance novelist name than a thriller writer,” Mr. Wands said with a laugh. “So now we have our romance novel name.”

The coming months will be busy for the two writers, but they are still finding time to enjoy the ride that, in many ways, has been more than 20 years in the making.

“It’s an amazing thing when you think about how many times with your friends you think about doing stuff, and how many times you’re ever actually able to do it,” Ms. Keenan said. “I think it’s a huge testament to commitment.

“Greg is one of the few men in my life who’ve kept a commitment,” she continued. “From the point of view of a friendship and a collaboration, it was incredibly gratifying.”

For more information on Elizabeth Keenan and Greg Wands, and on “The Woman Inside,” find them on Facebook or follow @e.g.scottwrites on Instagram and Twitter.

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