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On the surface, a small, remote island in the Pacific Northwest looks quaint and placid. However, trouble brews deep below the water when the island is rocked by an unexpected, brief, and violent earthquake, and Jamie Michael’s husband, Larry, who has dementia, goes missing.

Det. Sgt. Rob Rimmler, along with Search & Rescue, deploy forces. They scour the grounds and neighborhood only to find a widening gorge on Jamie’s property—a heavily wooded, five-acre rural country plot.

After giving up the search for Larry, three months later, Rimmler begins to track Jamie’s every movement—appearing wherever she ends up whether in town or while alone at home.

One night, he admits he suspects her. Now she must prove her innocence or end up indicted on murder charges.

When you think all seems lost, it usually is.

Susan Wingate recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, WHEN YOU LEAVE ME:

Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?

Character, then setting.

Susan Wingate

What attracts you to this book’s genre?

The psychological twists, the chills, and the shock factor.

What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?

Challenge: Breaking through the biographical aspects. My husband has dementia.

Opportunity: In relation to the challenge this story presented and moving forward with it, it freed up my writing, giving me a sense that this is okay. We write what we know, correct? I know caregiving for people with dementia-related illnesses. First, for my mother who died of Alzheimer’s disease and COPD, and now for my husband who has frontotemporal dementia.

No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?

Personalities in members of book clubs are a key factor in this story.

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse 5, Breakfast of Champions)
Jessica Treadway (The Gretchen Question)
Emile St. John Mandel (Station Eleven, Last Night in Montreal)

What’s the one question you wish someone would ask you about this book, or your work in general? And please answer the question too!

Q: What led you to develop part of the storyline around the foot?

A: The foot is central to the story, but it came from a real story report in our local newspaper in 2009. I remember reading it and thinking, Good lord. What a horrible thing to find while walking along the beach. I knew that someday it would end up in a story. WHEN YOU LEAVE ME is that story.



SUSAN WINGATE writes about big trouble in small towns and lives with her husband on an island off the coast of Washington State where, against state laws, she feeds the wildlife because she wants them to follow her. Her ukulele playing is (as her Sitto used to say) coming along.

Susan Wingate is a #1 Amazon bestselling and award-winning author. Her story How the Deer Moon Hungers has won eight book awards, including a first-place award in the 2020 Chanticleer Somerset Awards, a Silver Award in the 2021 eLit Book Awards, the 2020 SABA Book Awards for the Judge’s Selection “Best Fiction Author,” Best Fiction in the 2020 Pacific Book Award, a Silver Award in the 2020 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, and July 2020 Book Cover in the Book Cover of the Month Awards.

To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.

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