Up Close: Lee Matthew Goldberg

A Stalker Gets a Dose of Her Own Medicine

By Millie Naylor Hast

The title of Lee Matthew Goldberg’s new thriller gives you a hint of the wild experience you’re in for when you open the cover of STALKER STALKED—but this story has twists and switchbacks you’ll never expect. Goldberg’s gripping eighth novel asks the question What if a woman who routinely stalks people becomes herself the object of a stalker?

It doesn’t help that Lexi Mazur is a depressed, pill-popping, alcoholic wreck of a woman whose only joy in life is binge-watching reality TV shows. It doesn’t help that she yearns to live like the glamorous, confident socialites she sees in all their fashion-forward glory on TV, and it doesn’t help that her job as a pharmaceutical rep gives her access to all the vodka-chased “blue heavens” she can indulge. She can’t understand why her boyfriends bail on her, and she stalks them incessantly, along with anyone else on whom she fixates, including Magnolia Artois, star of Lexi’s favorite show, Socialites.

Lexi will wow you with this story, told in her own inimitable voice. As her obsession with Magnolia heats up, she tries to become real-life friends with the reality star. When the object of her attention spurns her, Lexi turns threatening. At the same time, Lexi suspects she is being watched. At first she dismisses the small clues, but Lexi’s stalker is using the same tactics she uses. Could one of her exes be out for revenge? Could the stalker be her only real friend from childhood, with whom she has a dysfunctional relationship? Could it be the detective who is investigating her? Or is it Magnolia?

The biggest question of all:  Can Lexi beat her stalker at his—or her—own game?

Kirkus Reviews called this book “darkly comic, satirizing a number of contemporary institutions—big pharma, reality TV, social media celebrity—while pulling the reader into more transgressive territory.”

After praise like that, we had to stalk—er, contact—Goldberg to unpack what makes this thriller tick.

Lee Matthew Goldberg

Interestingly, Goldberg began his writing career in the literary realm and is an MFA grad. “I was more of a literary writer when I went to my MFA program,” he says, “but the books I like best tend to be smart thrillers, so I just started leaning into my thriller side more. My writing before had thriller elements, and I just embraced it full-on. My first book that sold, Slow Down, was also a noir thriller. It made sense to keep writing that way.”

Themes of obsession, explored in Goldberg’s first novel, Slow Down, and alcohol and pills, in The Desire Card, combine in this story, which began with an idea. “I wanted to do a twist on a typical stalker plot. I thought, what if the stalker gets stalked? With Lexi, I wanted a full-on unreliable narrator who was so out there, but also endearing at times. For the cast of Socialites, I watched a lot of horrible (but amazing) reality TV and mushed together a lot of the people on those shows.”

An outline came next. “I’m a plotter now. I usually write about a 25-page outline with a paragraph for each chapter and then go from there. I allow myself to veer from the outline, which tends to happen toward the end.”

Goldberg at Top of the Mountain in Scotland.

He does a lot of research for his novels. “My novel The Ancestor took place in the Alaskan wilderness and during the Gold Rush, so that was a ton of historical research. For STALKER STALKED, it was easier. Besides viewing reality TV, I researched addiction, rehab, and pharmaceuticals and watched a bunch of ’90s thrillers.”

It was fun, but also a challenge, to create Lexi. “She’s frenetic, and there’s a freedom in writing her, because she can say and do anything and constantly surprises. But that also makes her difficult to write too. You have to keep her believable.”

Goldberg on the Mentor book tour at Books Kinokuniya.

Readers will enjoy “the mystery of who is stalking Lexi and what parts of it are all in her head,” Goldberg says. “She’s also a fascinating character. She’s like a car wreck, and it’s hard to look away.”

Then there’s the panda scene, where Lexi visits a furry club. One of our favorites, and also Goldberg’s. “I don’t even know where I came up with that! It’s nuts.” Twists and surprises like this one “have to come naturally. I hate twists just to have a twist. STALKER STALKED has a really good twist. Nobody yet has guessed who the stalker is, but everyone has enjoyed the outcome. So far.”

The ending packs emotional wallop. “The very last page was in my outline. I do think Lexi is held accountable and also really grows as a character. One of the other twists at the end was changed after my editor’s last notes. It involved the character of the Detective.”

Goldberg’s stream of ideas runs deep and wide. “I have a YA series called Runaway Train. And I’ve been working on a cult novel that will be a trilogy. Other projects of mine have potential for multiple books too. I’m really good with coming up with ideas, and I have an arsenal of about 10 books that I want to write, so it’ll take me some time to get through all those plots.”

Goldberg reads from his debut novel, Slow Down.

STALKER STALKED wasn’t an easy sell to the publishing world, though. “For this book, some big houses really considered it, but the marketing departments didn’t know what to do with Lexi. They found her too out-there. Its eventual publisher, All Due Respect, liked it for exactly those reasons.”

Goldberg hopes to see his projects come to life on big and small screens. “I’m working on trying to develop all my books into film and TV. I’ve been published with a big press before with my novel The Mentor. Hopefully, my new book that’s going out will land at a big house again.”

The next book after STALKER STALKED is a standalone thriller titled The Great Gimmelmans about a Jewish family of bank robbers in the 1980s that uses its RV to go on a spree after the father loses all their money in the Stock Market Crash of 1987.

Sounds like another wild experience!

 

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