Recommended by Robyn Bonavita
Petal Woznewski is not happy. She’s not happy with her life and even less so when she finds out that someone has based a book on trauma from her childhood. As she reads the book, she realizes that whoever wrote this book is going to come after her and see that she pays for what happened. After the first death, Petal realizes she must figure this mystery out quickly.
I KNOW WHAT YOU DID is an extremely suspenseful thriller. I was unable to put it down. I had to know what was going to happen to Petal. Her tough exterior doesn’t hide a soft interior, which is refreshing. She is who she is, and she makes no apologies for it. A lot of this book is spent in Petal’s head, and her POV is interesting enough to carry us through the story. She’s very sarcastic and caustic at times, but it makes sense considering the things that happened to her. The realism in Petal trying to investigate but hitting walls is spot on. The writing is so smooth that, at times, I was completely in her world. I was surprised by the ending and appreciated how it was done. I highly recommend I KNOW WHAT YOU DID by Cayce Osborne.
Cayce Osborne sat down with The Big Thrill team to give us more insight into her debut, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID.
A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?
I’d been drifting toward writing mysterious elements into my (non-mystery) books for a while, and when I committed to writing a real mystery, it felt so right. I worked hard to craft a unique character voice, and when I could hear her in my head, I knew I was on to something. The writing, revising, and polishing process only solidified that. For lack of a better term, this felt like “the one.”
Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
I’d had it in mind for a while to write a book about a book (because I love to read them), but I hadn’t latched on to an idea yet. After reading Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders, I was intrigued by what he so cleverly did with the book’s front matter/first part (no spoilers). I got to thinking about the experience of opening a new book you know nothing about and flipping through those first few pages, the expectations we have for what should be there: the title page, the dedication, etc. The idea for this book sprouted from there.
When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see a space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?
It was more of an empty space within myself that I wanted to fill in, that I wanted to try something I hadn’t done before. All my previous protagonists were pretty normal, good people with elements of me in them: I would ask myself how I’d react in a given situation and have my character do that. With Petal, I did the opposite. I wanted to create someone who is the opposite of me in almost every way. We grew up in the same time and place, and I used that experience to inform her, but she’s nothing like me otherwise. For one thing, she prefers watching action movies with car chases and explosions to reading a good book!
In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?
This isn’t a message book; there’s no moral, really. (Petal says something very similar to that, in fact, at the end of the novel.) But I wanted to show a character who grows, who put off dealing with her past for a long time because her life was tolerable. But don’t we all deserve more than tolerable? Petal is middle-aged and set in her ways. It takes a mysterious book to force her out of that rut. It’s never too late to make yourself better—to take a risk or do the hard thing or fix a regret or face a demon.
Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?
The Claire DeWitt series by Sara Gran was an inspiration for me, especially for my main character. Petal has a troubled past she’s trying to outrun. She compartmentalizes and has ways of dealing with difficult feelings. She’s not always likable, but I hope even if readers wouldn’t want her as a best friend, at least they’d root for her. I think Sara Gran walks that line really well, where her main characters make questionable choices, or they damper their demons with illicit substances or burn bridges, but you’re rooting for them throughout. You want them to win. Just because a woman is messy and difficult doesn’t mean she can’t be the hero of a novel.
Cayce Osborne is a writer and graphic designer from Madison, WI. When not working on her next book, she spends time hanging out with her husband and two sons, reading library books, playing with her goofy Australian Shepherd, and subscribing to way too many streaming services.