Karen M. McManus, who graduated from Northeastern University with a Master of Arts in Journalism, is the New York Times bestselling author of One of Us Is Lying, Two Can Keep a Secret, and, coming in January, One of Us Is Next. Her books are young adult mysteries that have enchanted the minds of readers and become worldwide sensations, with translations into 40 different languages across the globe. She speaks on author panels, has attracted extensive media coverage, and travels to international book fairs and events. The excitement and renown does not stop there; McManus’s One of Us Is Lying was recently given a pilot order by NBCUniversal for its upcoming streaming service, with Jennifer Morrison attached as the director.
Given how incredibly productive the past few years have been for McManus, you may not believe that being a bestselling author is actually a second career for her. Before switching gears to write full-time, McManus worked in the marketing and public relations fields for many years, holding leadership positions at Brodeur Partners, WebMD Health Services, and Monotype. While she had never considered being an author (beyond what she considered a “childhood dream”), a cross-country business trip changed everything.
“I was traveling to Portland, Oregon, and I had nothing to read, so I picked up a copy of The Hunger Games in the airport – a book that I now say changed my life,” said McManus. “After reading it, I wanted to create something similar. For the first time in a long time, I started to write again, and I became fascinated with young adult literature. It is truly a privilege to be able to write for young people and talk about the universal experiences of finding yourself and your place in the world.”
McManus’s first novel, One of Us Is Lying, is the “Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars” story of what happens when five students at Bayview High, who seemingly have nothing in common, walk into detention together and only four walk out. While the plot is centered on mystery and murder, the inspiration behind the hit novel (the full story can be found here) is less chilling. After hearing the Breakfast Club theme song and thinking to herself how well the movie’s themes have held up over time, McManus saw the opening for an “update with a dark twist” – and the rest is history.
The highly anticipated sequel coming out early next year, One of Us Is Next, focuses on a new mystery at Bayview High that takes place a year later, playing off the first book while introducing and featuring new main characters. Between these two Bayview High thrillers is McManus’s second novel, Two Can Keep a Secret, which came out in 2019. It is a standalone book about a small American town, Echo Ridge, that appears picture-perfect at a first glance. But, below the surface, this town, and the people who live in it, are hiding dangerous secrets. McManus fans would expect nothing less!
Her novels are hits, having combined spent more than two years on the New York Times bestseller list. McManus credits in part her marketing background, as well as her master’s from Northeastern, for the successes they are today.
From knowing how to effectively pitch her ideas to drafting engaging social media content, her marketing expertise has helped her cut through today’s crowded and competitive marketplace. She also recognizes the importance of creating a book with a simple hook; when she quickly tells people what her books are about, it is easy for them to grasp – and get excited about – the concepts. Beyond that, her Journalism master’s degree helped strengthen her writing skills, anticipate audience questions, meet deadlines (an important skill in the publishing world), and flex her creativity. McManus also uses her journalism training to draft fake news stories and headlines for her novels!
All of her creativity and literary artistry will continue to gain exposure as film adaptations for her books progress. Two Can Keep a Secret was recently optioned for film by the media company PictureStart, and the One of Us Is Lying pilot with NBCUniversal is expected to begin shooting soon. Serving as a consultant on the project, McManus has had the opportunity to weigh in on the pilot script and review casting auditions.
“It has been a really collaborative process,” she said. “There has been a strong shared vision from the start, and a commitment to remaining true to the story at its core.”
Beyond this exciting project, McManus continues to work on new books. One of Us Is Next is available to pre-order online now, and details about her fourth book, also a young adult mystery, will be available soon. We look forward to seeing how the future continues to unfold for author and Northeastern alumna Karen McManus!