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The Big Thrill Discusses THE SHUTDOWN LIST with Sharon Dukett

Book Cover: THE SHUTDOWN LISTPeople are disappearing. Anita may be next. But first, they have to find her.

Anita Forester witnesses her husband, Julian, being dragged away by police during a protest. A stranger warns her to flee. Still reeling from the loss of her adult son only two years earlier, Anita embarks on a perilous journey to find her husband, unaware of the crucial secret he has kept from her.

While piecing together the trail to her missing husband, Anita intercepts a hard drive containing priceless data sought by a fossil fuel magnate with secrets of his own—secrets he would kill to protect.

Award-winning author Sharon Dukett recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest contemporary thriller, THE SHUTDOWN LIST.

Author Photo: Sharon Dukett

Sharon Dukett

Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?

I was in a writing workshop in late 2019. The workshop leader shared a photo of Tilda Swinton holding a rainbow flag in front of the Moscow Kremlin in response to Vladimir Putin signing a law that banned public LGBTQ demonstrations and discussions. The instructor asked us to write about a time, either fictional or true, where you or someone else risked their freedom to stand up for something important.

I chose fiction, and a scene emerged for me of someone holding an earth day flag on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington at a demonstration for climate action. That became a scene in Chapter 1 of THE SHUTDOWN LIST that ultimately triggered the rest of the story.

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?

As soon as I wrote that first scene, I was inspired to keep writing. The story took off for me as though it were writing itself. I had recently completed a memoir that would be published a few months later, and I had begun writing a few new ideas, but none of them stuck. This one was different. Ideas and characters poured out of me, changing the story along the way. After lots of revisions and editing, THE SHUTDOWN LIST is finally here.

When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?

My protagonist, Anita Forester, is a 55-year-old woman. Women over 50 are usually invisible in books and in the media. If they exist at all, they are typically secondary characters. If they are lead characters, their stories are about finding love, or friendships, or dying, as though they have no importance in the larger world.

I created a protagonist who is an accomplished woman, who believes her accomplishments are behind her. She sees an empty future until an unexpected event propels her into danger. Now she must draw on her life experience to navigate an unfamiliar world and outsmart those who wield power and influence. Anita narrowly escapes death more than once and grows into a hero by the end.

In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?

I hope readers will be inspired to question the control and influence that those with extreme wealth may have in our lives, particularly regarding the delays we are encountering with addressing climate change. While my book carries this to imaginary lengths, we live in times where the imaginary has strayed into reality, so I see this as a cautionary tale, as well as a triumphant one. An ordinary person can make an extraordinary difference.

What can you share about what you’re working on next?

I am working on a thriller that will highlight a separate area of concern. It has a new protagonist and a different setting, but some of the characters from THE SHUTDOWN LIST may reappear. This protagonist will be coping with rebuilding her life following an abusive relationship as the story unfolds.


Sharon Dukett is an award-winning author who writes thrillers and memoir. Her memoir, No Rules, won a gold medal in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards in Memoirs (Historical/Legacy), and won bronze and finalist in several others.

She worked in information technology as a consultant, programmer and project manager in the private sector, and a deputy director in government, where she learned about the infinite possibilities of what could go wrong: a useful insight for thriller writing.

Sharon lives in Connecticut with her husband, within a short driving distance of her children and grandchildren.

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