When Alex Kiester was 7, she knew she wanted to be a writer. “As a kid I walked around making up stories in my head.”
It turned out to be a useful skill for the driven young novelist, who has achieved remarkable success at an early age.
At 25, she started writing seriously. At 29, the Westlake High School grad achieved her first commercial success when her first novel, “In Her Skin,” was published after it won a competition by the Writers’ League of Texas. That led to an offer from a literary agent.
“In Her Skin” launched Kiester’s career when her voiced book appeared as an Audible Original on the Audible website and app. Her mystery thriller by Ella was ranked in the Top 10 Audible Originals the month it was released.
Like most novelists, she admits there’s a lot of herself in her work. This is the case with “In Her Skin de ella.” The protagonist, a writer, is so terrified of live audiences that she hires an actress to portray her on the book’s promotional tour. After the tour, the actress mysteriously disappears.
In real life, Kiester conquered her fear of public speaking by joining a Toastmasters International group to prepare for author readings and book tours.
“It is terrifying to have a book out in the world when it is so personal,” she said. “You open yourself up for criticism. It is hard to separate yourself from your book because so much of you goes in it.”
Kiester’s new mystery novel, “The Truth About Ben and June,” will once again be released on Audible, in bookstores and Amazon on June 28. She will do an Austin discussion at Book People on the same day.
“This is a contemporary fiction book about marriage, with suspense, mystery and poignancy. I write about things I can’t stop thinking about,” Kiester said.” In this book, I was exploring my biggest fear and ambivalence. I didn’t know if I wanted kids.”
The story begins with the disappearance of June, a former dancer with Martha Graham’s Dance company in New York, who gives up her career after she and her husband Ben have their first child.
Ben, a hardworking attorney in a busy Manhattan law firm, wakes up one morning to discover their infant crying and his wife gone — of her own volition with no warning or note.
The 320-page book explores challenges of modern-day parenthood and what would drive a seemingly content mother to disappear.
“I’m a feminist, so my works are always going to be presented through a feminist lens,” said Kiester.
Her plot was inspired by Greek author Euripedes’ story “Medea,” but she changed the husband’s mistress from a princess to his own career.
Readers get a glimpse into June’s mind from a journal she leaves behind that is discovered by Ben. It details her struggles with the recent death of her mother, the reality that her son and mother will never meet, and that her mother wo n’t be around to share her wisdom with her. She also explores the grief of giving up her career.
“Ben works as a lawyer for his family,” Kiester said. “Our society says that’s a good thing, but the parallel I’m making with Medea is that this reinforces the problematic gender paradigm that says a man’s sole responsibility is to be a good provider.”
Her target audience is herself.
“You can’t set up to write a book for others,” she said. “You have to write the book you want to read. I think that is how the best art is created. I’m hungry and driven. My goal is to just keep writing and trying. Thankfully, I’m self-motivated. I sit at my desk and work all day. It’s easier if you make it a habit.”
Finding an agent was “a long and hard process, but I’m an organized type A personality who had a spreadsheet with a list of agents I wanted to work with,” said Kiester. It took seven months to find representation, but she received an offer from an agent with a great vision for her book and her career.
“I’m lucky to have someone ambitious and kind,” she said. “She’s a fantastic advocate for me.”