The First Two Pages: “A Six-Letter Word for Neighbor” by Lisa Unger

In April 2015, B.K. Stevens debuted the blog series “The First Two Pages,” hosting craft essays by short story writers and novelists analyzing the openings of their own work. The series continued until just after her death in August 2017, and the full archive of those essays can be found at Bonnie’s website. In November 2017, the blog series relocated to my website, and the archive of this second stage of the series can be found here.

Tuesday, April 20, is the pub date for the new anthology from Mystery Writers of America: When A Stranger Comes to Town, edited by Michael Koryta and featuring stories by Paul A. Barra, Alafair Burke, Michael Connelly, S.A. Cosby, Tina deBellegarde, Jacqueline Freimor, Steve Hamilton, Joe Hill, Tilia Klebenov Jacobs, Smita Harish Jain, Michael Koryta, Joe R. Lansdale, Emilya Naymark, Bryon Quertermous, Lori Roy, Jonathan Stone, Elain Togneri, Lisa Unger, and Amanda Witt. Collectively the stories explore both the allure and the uneasiness of “the uninvited guest, the unacquainted neighbor, the fish out of water”—ripe material for crime writers, needless to say!

I’m pleased to welcome three of the anthology’s contributors with essays reflecting on their stories’ openings—beginning this week with Lisa Unger, a powerhouse writer giving us a glimpse into her writing process and a preview of her story “A Six-Letter Word for Neighbor.”

Lisa Unger may well need no introduction here—an internationally bestselling author whose books have sold millions of copies worldwide. Her latest novel is Confessions On The 7:45, and in short fiction news, her story “Let It Be” was recently selected for the forthcoming anthology Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021. A testament to her skill in both long-form and short-form fiction, she is one of the few authors to have been nominated for two Edgar Awards in the same year—for Best Paperback Original and Best Short Story—and her books have been named among “Best Book” lists by the Today show, Good Morning America, Entertainment Weekly, People, Amazon, Goodreads, and others. You can find out more at her website here.

I’m grateful to Lisa for contributing to the First Two Pages and reminded of her kindness and generosity when we first met in 2018 at the Bouchercon in St. Petersburg, Florida—and remembering too that wild Bouchercon panel I moderated with both Lisa and Michael Koryta on the program. A different world then, but glad to have them back together in print here.

Enjoy Lisa’s essay below, check out the full collection here, and stay tuned for essays ahead from Smita Harish Jain and Tilia Klebenov Jacobs!

Please use the arrows and controls at the bottom of the embedded PDF to navigate through the essay. You can also download the essay to read off-line.

Unger-Six-Letter-Word

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