The Senator, His Wife, and the Caregiver. What Could Go Wrong?
Liv Constantine, the powerhouse duo of Lynne and Valerie Constantine, score a paranoia-loaded home run with their fifth novel, THE SENATOR’S WIFE.
D. C. philanthropist Sloane Chase married Senator Whit Montgomery after both of their spouses were tragically killed two years earlier. Now they seem to have the perfect Washington-insider life—except Sloane, who suffers from lupus and needs a hip replacement. To assist Sloane with recovery after her surgery, the couple hires Athena Karras, a home health aide.
Athena quickly settles in and even helps run Sloane’s charitable foundation. Instead of recovering, however, Sloane begins to deteriorate—a complication of lupus, Athena explains.
Sloane isn’t convinced. As her health declines, she begins to suspect the worst of Athena. Why is she asking so many questions? Is she exchanging sultry looks with Whit? Who exactly is this woman—and will Sloan survive her medical ordeal?
Constantine rocketed to fame when The Last Mrs. Parrish became a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick in 2017. Since then, the sisters have written four more novels, two of which have been optioned for film—The Last Mrs. Parrish and The Last Time I Saw You. Both projects have been renewed, and Parrish is in the screenwriting phase of development.
In their latest interview with The Big Thrill, Constantine delves deeper into the inspiration behind what is sure to be the duo’s next blockbuster hit and the themes that drive their work.
What drew you to the world of the Washington elite?
Setting always plays an important role in our stories, and we both felt like D.C. was a fresh place for us. We’ve done two books in Connecticut, one in Maryland, and one in Philadelphia. D.C. has the element of intrigue and insider secrets that we found alluring.
What inspired you to have Sloane suffer from lupus as she deals with all the challenges of her life?
We were familiar with the illness—a close cousin of ours was diagnosed in her early 30s—so we felt we knew enough to accurately write about it. We also consulted with medical professionals to make sure we got it right.
In your novels, single women seemingly threaten established, supposedly stable marriages, with unexpected twists. What draws you to this theme?
The intricacies of friendship and marriage are fascinating and relatable to most people. In all our books, we like to take something that seems clear-cut and obvious and surprise our readers with a completely different outcome.
In your stories, the male characters, like Whit, may appear to be at the mercy of scheming women, although things may not always be as they seem. What is it about the male side of the marriage equation that intrigues?
This is the second book of ours that includes a male perspective, and as a half of the marriage equation in our books, we felt it would be important to delve more deeply into the thoughts and motivations of the husband.
You are known for super twists in your stories. How do you dream them up?
A lot of brainstorming and discussion! We go back and forth for many hours before deciding what to write about and what the major twist will be. Often, we both have an “aha” moment at the same time as we bat ideas back and forth, and we’ll both say—“that’s it!”
The Last Mrs. Parish made you a bestseller. You have five amazing novels to your credit, with more than one million copies sold in 28 languages and in 33 countries. What were your lives like before this success, and how have things changed?
Lynne: After the success of The Last Mrs. Parish, I was able to write full-time, which has been a dream of mine for years. And becoming friends with so many authors that I’ve long admired is something I cherish.
Valerie: Life is definitely busier. It’s been fascinating to see the world of publishing up close. We’ve made wonderful friends, worked with terrific people, and learned so much. Being able to write full-time is the icing on the cake.
Writing as collaborators and sisters must pose some special challenges and opportunities. How do you navigate your collaboration and your relationship?
Lynne: I’d say the biggest challenge is coordinating our schedules so that we are able to set aside the necessary time to write when we’re in the midst of creating. Over the course of five books, we’ve learned how to navigate everything much better.
Valerie: We have our system down pretty pat at this point. We do have different approaches to some things, and that can cause bumps along the way. On the first draft, my tendency is to go back and polish, polish, polish. I find it hard to move on otherwise. Lynne, on the other hand, speeds through the first draft and then begins the editing. I’ve heard arguments for both, and in the end it’s just what best suits the writer.
Did you ever imagine the level of success you have achieved?
Lynne: For so many years, I endured rejection after rejection. It was difficult for me to see beyond the initial goal of being published, much less imagine some of the amazing milestones we’ve been fortunate enough to achieve.
Valerie: There are still times that it doesn’t seem real. A sustainable career in the arts, whether acting, writing, music, or something else, can be tough.
You have said your writing process is to take turns drafting and to pass chapters back and forth until you are satisfied with the results. Is your process still the same, or has it evolved?
Our writing process evolves with each book as we find more efficient ways to work together. We’ve reached a point where we can look at a sentence and see that each of us has written half by the time the book is done.
What’s next for you?
We’re working on the sequel to The Last Mrs. Parish and hope to have that finished by June. Then we’ll dream up something new.
Lynne: I’m also writing a pilot screenplay for the books I write under L.C. Shaw and hoping to find a production home for The Network and continue to write for that.
Valerie: I’m hoping to finish a novel I began many years ago––one that is close to my heart. I go back to it during Liv Constantine downtimes and have promised myself that I’ll finish it this year.