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The Big Thrill Discusses AMERICAN GIRL with Wendy Walker

Book Cover: AMERICAN GIRLCharlie Hudson, an autistic seventeen-year-old, is determined to leave Sawyer, PA, as soon as she graduates high school. In the meantime, she works as many hours as she can at a sandwich shop called The Triple S to save money for college. But when shop owner, Clay Cooper—a man both respected and feared in their small economically depressed town—is found dead, each member of his staff becomes a suspect in the perplexing case. Before she can go anywhere, Charlie must protect herself and her friends by uncovering the danger that is still lurking in their tightknit community.

Internationally bestselling author Wendy Walker recently spent time with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest thriller, AMERICAN GIRL.

Author Wendy Walker

Wendy Walker

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

I hope readers will love reading AMERICAN GIRL and miss the characters after they turn the last page! This story began with Charlie Hudson, an autistic seventeen year old living in a small Pennsylvania town. Full of hope and dreams for her future out in the world, Charlie is also deeply devoted to her friends at the Triple S Sandwich Shop where she works after school. Her unique set of skills and insights about the people around her influence how she navigates the danger that follows when her boss is found dead.

How does this book make a contribution to the genre?

AMERICAN GIRL, first and foremost, is a murder mystery and thriller, where the main character happens to be neurodivergent. It was my goal to focus on the plot and not Charlie’s autism, while making sure to accurately represent the challenges she faces and the way she sees the world around her. I think writing stories with diverse characters is an important consideration when writing in this genre.

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

Much of the story of AMERICAN GIRL was drawn from my experiences working at a sandwich shop in high school. Because I wrote the book during the start of the pandemic, I had to draw on things I knew or could learn online, so I did! From the set-up behind the counter, to the slicers and stock pans, and even the murder weapon, were drawn from my memories of this job many years ago.

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

This book started with a song—American Girl—and then a feeling, and evolved into a character. It’s the only book I’ve written so far in my career that began with a character. I wanted to capture what it can feel like to be girl in a small town with everything just waiting for her in the world. But also the many ways that dreams can be upended by things that happen around us. I built the plot to give Charlie Hudson a story, as well as the other characters in the book who represent the different ways life can shake out.


Wendy Walker is the author of the psychological suspense novels All Is Not Forgotten, Emma in the Night, The Night Before, Don’t Look for Me, AMERICAN GIRL, and What Remains. Her novels have been translated into twenty-three foreign languages, topped bestseller lists both nationally and abroad, and have been optioned for television and film. Wendy holds degrees from Brown University and Georgetown Law School. She has worked as a family law attorney, investment banker, and spent several years training for competitive figure skating.

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


AMERICAN GIRL with Wendy Walker

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