"The Never List," by Koethi Zan

Penguin Group, Pieter M van Hattem
The Never List, Koethi Zan
Penguin Group, Pieter M van Hattem

Jeff Glor talks to Koethi Zan about "The Never List."

Jeff Glor: What inspired you to write the book?

Koethi Zan: I was inspired by the strength and courage of women who have survived abduction and long-term captivity, such as Elisabeth Fritzl, Jaycee Lee Dugard, Natascha Kampusch, Elizabeth Smart, and others. I was awed by their ability to live through such an ordeal -- my worst nightmare -- and wanted to know how (and whether) they could integrate that traumatic experience into the rest of their lives. Their stories inspired me to write a crime story from the victim's perspective -something that was not just a crime thriller but also a trauma recovery memoir told from a feminist point of view. Though it may seem that a book about abduction and captivity would be about women's powerlessness, my goal was to present it as a story of empowerment and resilience.

JG: What surprised you the most during the writing process?

KZ: I couldn't believe it when the characters I'd created wouldn't do what I wanted them to do. Every day I took a three-mile walk and thought about my characters. I didn't plot the book then, I just imagined them interacting. They became so distinctive in my mind -- they were very real to me. Then when I would sit down to write, I might have an idea for a scene, but if my narrative didn't fit the characters, I couldn't get them to behave the way I wanted. They did what they wanted to do.

JG: What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?

KZ: If I weren't a writer, I would still be practicing entertainment law, which is what I did for more than 15 years. While I wrote "The Never List" I was the deputy general counsel of MTV. I negotiated deals with production companies and talent, oversaw series production from a legal standpoint, and worked with producers to make sure we did what we needed to do while still making the best, most inventive shows possible. I'm ecstatic to be writing full-time now, but I do miss working with my great former colleagues at Viacom. One thing's for sure: that job was never boring for even a moment.

JG: What else are you reading right now?

KZ: Right now I'm reading "Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery," by Robert Kolker. It tells the story of five young women presumed murdered by the same killer on Long Island. The book is a harrowing account of the victims' difficult and complicated lives leading up to their disappearances, and the subsequent investigation. Before that, I read "The Silent Wife" by A.S.A. Harrison, a beautifully written, taut psychological crime novel about the disintegration of a marriage.

JG: What's next for you?

KZ: I've been asked by many readers about a sequel to "The Never List." While I would like to return to those characters at some point (they're like old friends), right now I'm working on an unrelated standalone book. It's different, but there are certain themes and ideas that continue to fascinate me. I plan to delve more into complicated psychological questions, moral dilemmas and power relations rather than write forensics-based crime procedurals. I want to explore why people do deviant things, how the victims cope with them, and what forms and distorts personalities to begin with. In any event, readers can rest assured that my next book will be dark, suspenseful and probably a little twisted.

For more on "The Never List" visit the Penguin Group website.

  • Jeff Glor

    Jeff Glor was named anchor of the Sunday edition of the "CBS Evening News" in January 2012 and Special Correspondent for "CBS This Morning" in November 2011.