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December 16, 2022

BookLife Reviews described Stumble & Fall as building “to the kind of tense scenes... that readers expect in a good series thriller, all described with crisp clarity and power. But Rivers digs deeper than that, investing readers in... intimate, convincingly drawn relationships that prove as gripping as the more conventional suspense material.” With praise like that, it’s no wonder Stumble & Fall was made an Editor’s Pick. We spoke with Rivers about her series and the ripple effect that violent and traumatic experiences can have. 

Stumble & Fall is the sequel to Complicit. Did you always mean to write a follow-up?

When I first envisioned a story about a deeply entrenched domestic trafficking ring, I knew it was going to take multiple books to resolve. Complicit provided the framework for Kate to open Pandora’s box, and Stumble & Fall is a continuation of that story. Unraveling a complex, multigenerational trafficking operation is no small task, and, as Kate and Tilly learn, every victory comes with unexpected and often unintended consequences. 

How much of your professional and educational background helped inform Stumble & Fall?

This series is very dear to me because it pulls directly from my experiences as the director of a sexual assault nurse examiner program. Working with forensic nurses was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and it’s been a pleasure writing about the women and men in that profession. I’ve always been a people person, and my studies on human motivation and behavior have been instrumental to both the direction of the stories I write and my character development. For me, it’s not enough to simply up the stakes for my characters; I want to explore how different each person’s feelings about and reactions to an incident can be. Studying human motivation, abnormal psychology, and victimology have helped hone my understanding and increased my fascination with the basic question of why humans do the things they do. 

What do you think a good thriller has to accomplish? 

A good thriller has to be filled end to end with tension and suspense. While there might be mystery or some kind of crime to be solved, the stakes have to be high and the characters in mortal danger, either physically or psychologically. While some readers want a lot of action and fast pacing, I think a slow burn is equally satisfying. Some of my favorite thriller authors write in the psychological and domestic thriller arena, and those books will not only thrill you but haunt you as well.

Your bio says your books “incorporate important social issues with a focus on the complexities of human behavior.” Was this always the intention?

Yes. I started out writing about women, focusing on all the expectations that we put on ourselves and that are placed on us by family, friends, and society at large. I was a single parent for a couple of years, and during that time, I was working full-time, finishing a graduate degree, and just trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy for my kids. It amazes me how resilient a person can be when they don’t have another option. When I began delving into crime fiction, my focus was still the same—to look at the ordinary and extraordinary actions and behaviors of regular people who find themselves in seemingly impossible situations.

Is there another book with Kate and Tilly on the horizon?

The final book of the trilogy will be coming out in fall 2023. As with any ending, this book will feature the resolution to the big issue spanning all three books—domestic human trafficking in a small town. But because my intention is to write books that reflect reality, the book will also focus on the collateral damage that these types of crime create. Interpersonal violence of all types tends to have a ripple effect in relationships, families, and communities. When the storm passes, you still have to pick up the pieces, and that’s exactly what happens for Kate and Tilly.