The Big Thrill Discusses THIN AIR with Kellie M. Parker
Eight hours. Twelve contestants. A flight none of them might survive.
A flight to Paris full of teenagers seeking opportunity turns deadly in this suspenseful, locked-door YA thriller. Perfect for fans of Diana Urban, Karen McManus, and Jessica Goodman.
Seventeen-year-old boarding school student Emily Walters is selected for an opportunity of a lifetime—she’ll compete abroad for a cash prize that will cover not only tuition to the college of her choice, but will lift her mother and her out of poverty.
But almost from the moment she and 11 other contestants board a private jet to Europe, Emily realizes somebody is willing to do anything to win. Between keeping an eye on her best friend’s flirty boyfriend and hiding her own dark secrets, she’s not sure how she’ll survive the contest, much less the flight. Especially when people start dying…
As loyalties shift and secrets are revealed, Emily must figure out who to trust, and who’s trying to kill them all, before she becomes the next victim.
Kellie M. Parker recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest young adult thriller, THIN AIR.
Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
My agent actually suggested the main concept for THIN AIR. One day she said to me, “What about a class trip with teens trapped on an airplane with a killer?” I mulled the idea over for a while, but it wasn’t until I thought about incorporating the scholarship/game element (inspired by The Westing Game), that I felt the true spark of inspiration.
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 then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?
Writing this book was almost cathartic for me, as I developed the story and wrote the first draft during summer/fall of 2020 during the pandemic. I was able to channel some of my own anxiety and fears into my characters, as well as transfer that sense of being trapped with an unknown killer into their story. And ultimately, the questions they’re asking were the same ones we were asking: am I strong enough to face all of this? are we going to be okay?
Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?
This story was initially inspired by The Westing Game, one of my favorite reads as a kid, along with Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. I really loved the idea of taking a cast of different characters, all holding their own secrets, and throwing them together into a high-stakes, terrifying situation. Part of the main character’s challenge is figuring out who is desperate enough to kill, and I loved that element of her puzzling over all the pieces to unravel the mystery.
In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?
One of the things the main character, Emily, learns during the story is that she has the power to make her own choices. She boards the plane almost as a sidekick, living through the people around her. But through the challenges she faces, she realizes that she’s the one responsible for her decisions, and she steps into a sense of agency in her own life. I hope teen readers will take away some of her courage and this idea that they, too, have the power to make choices, whether for good or bad.
What can you share about what you’re working on next?
I’m currently working on my next YA thriller, which is another locked-door mystery. This one follows a group of up-and-coming teen influencers invited to spend the night locked in a deserted mansion, where they’ll compete for a prize in a series of dares and be voted out by viewers of a livestream feed. But when everything goes wrong and someone winds up dead, they’ll have to figure out who to trust and who’s a killer if any of them are to survive.
Kellie M. Parker is a YA author and stay-at-home mom to four book-loving kids in west Michigan. She has college degrees in biology and nautical archaeology but has always found her sense of adventure most satisfied by a great story. When not plotting her next fictional murder, she can be found baking, gardening, tackling DIY home projects, and camping with her family.
To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.
THIN AIR with Kellie M. Parker