Eva Lesko Natiello is the award-winning author of NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY Bestseller, THE MEMORY BOX, a HOUSTON WRITERS GUILD MANUSCRIPT AWARD WINNER.

She is a graduate of SUNY Albany with a degree in psychology. Eva is a native of Yonkers, NY and currently lives in suburban New Jersey with her family.

THE MEMORY BOX, a debut novel, is a worldwide bestseller and has been a #1 bestselling book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes and Kobo. 

Her latest book FOLLOWING YOU was published on Feburary 2, 2021.

I enjoyed chatting with Eva on her creative process and the unique ways she gets ideas for supspensful psychological thrillers and a lot more.

Connect with Eva Lesko Natiello: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Eva Lesko Natiello’s Latest Book

Other Books by Eva Lesko Natiello

Show Notes & Links

Vice Article we talked about (very meta): https://www.vice.com/en/article/3b4kbw/chilling-coincidence-google-alert.

Estée Lauder wiki bio.


Please note, transcripts are generated by an automated program called Happy Scribe not a human and only lightly edited.

So happy to have Eva here on the podcast. Welcome.

Thank you. Thanks, Alan.

Did I butcher your name? I always forget to ask before hitting the record, but wow, it was so beautiful. I have to say, you did not get tripped up by Natty Yellow. And I have to tell you, I have heard it many, many different ways.

Oh, good, good. Yeah, yeah. With the double L in Spanish. I want to go to that. Yeah.

Yeah. But you still used a really nice I don’t know what kind of lyrical the way you said it, but thank you.

OK, thank you. I’m glad I didn’t it. So can you tell us a little bit about your background please.

Yeah, sure. I started writing thrillers I’d say about ten or so years ago, and and it wasn’t something that I always like. I wasn’t born and said to myself as a infant, I need to be a novelist someday. I’m not one of those authors. I really never planned on writing. It kind of happened. So a little bit out of the blue, I have to say. It’s kind of an interesting story. I was in my past life, so right before I started writing, I was in the cosmetics industry and I was a PR and marketing director for Estee Lauder and some of the brands, Estee Lauder brands.

And that was really fun. I did that for a long time. And actually I even worked with the namesake Estee Lauder, the woman who launched the brand in the nineteen fifties. She was a marketing genius and I learned so much from her that when I launched my first book called The Memory Box, I actually used several of her ideas, her marketing strategies. I modernize them for twenty twenty or whatever it was that I launched that book. And, you know, marketing is one of those things like you market a book and it just it doesn’t really change all that much.

I mean, the strategies, the how you go about it does, but the principles don’t. But anyway, I learned so much from her and from that career in cosmetics that could not have prepared me better to be an author, a storyteller marketing my book. So I did that for a while before that. I was actually a singer and that usually throws people for a loop. You know, I worked in the Caribbean and I was a singer for resorts in the Caribbean, so that was pretty fun too.

So that’s I don’t I’m not sure. When you asked me what’s your background, you were playing in precipitating that.

Now, that’s fascinating, especially the song from your back when you’re marketing and PR background, because that’s something that a lot of others struggle with. You know, I just want to write. But those unless you’re like I got a huge deal, you still going even with a big deal, you don’t have to market and promote yourself. So did you find that that’s so interesting to hear that you were able to apply what you learn in the other job to your to your writing world?

Yeah, completely. And also, I think what happened was when I started writing, I realized I now do something professionally that incorporates everything I love to do, which is great, which was creating the art, but also marketing, because I really do. I’m a marketing geek. I have to say I love thinking about that. I can’t every time I meet an author and they when I say, well, what what do you write and what’s name your book or whatever it is, we get into a talk.

My marketing wheels just start going crazy, like, have you tried this? Have you tried that? So so I can’t separate one from the other. And I’m really happy that because the creative side is what I favor. You know, I love the writing part or the storytelling as I like to. Think of myself as a storyteller and write a writer of things that are pretty shocking, mean thriller writing, you’re shocking people and you’ve got the twists and turns.

And I remember studying with someone years ago about writing and she was saying. To me or to all of us, all the students, if you think you know what the reader is expecting, give them the opposite. And that is such a great thing to keep in the back of your mind, especially when you’re writing thrillers, you know?

Yeah, it’s a great bunch of thriller writers. And were you a fan of the of the genre as a reader or what what drew you to to write in that genre?

Yeah, I, I like psychological thrillers. I don’t like I know this is going to sound a little strange. I might mention this to you before, but I don’t like being scared. I am sort of a chicken if you must know and I cannot watch like scary movies, I cannot watch them. I have terrible nightmares. So when I read I guess I like fiction and I like magical realism and I like historical fiction and I like psych thrillers, but I don’t normally like to be scared.

But why do I gravitate to writing thrillers that will be most likely your next question. Like, I do love the idea. I think all of my books definitely touch on misconceptions. And I love the idea of misconceptions and how everyone, you know, no matter who you are and almost every day there are things that you meet in life which are misconceptions. I love misconceptions and I love facades and where something appears to be one way, but it is completely another.

And facades obviously can take the shape of so many different things. Not only is it could it be a person, someone who appears one way, but there maybe have another agenda or they’re hiding something. But even in my book, sometimes the town. So this setting for following you, my newest takes place in Southern California. And it’s really based on like San Diego. It’s not called San Diego, but that’s what I had in mind, fictional version.

And most people, when they think of San Diego, you think of this amazingly beautiful community. I mean, with the beach and the coast and the palm trees and the flowers. And what about like it never it hovers around 70 degrees year round and sunny and but something is amiss there. Something’s going on. And the thriller takes place in this really beautiful location. So, again, the city and the town is a facade for something darker going on.

So I do like that kind of thing. I did a lot of theater as a young person. And so I love the theatrics of thrillers, you know, giving people what they don’t expect. That’s fun.

Yes, but the psychological thriller isn’t so popular now with all the other girls. Psychological thriller Gone Girl Girl on the Train, right? Yeah. Yes. That was a good good timing for you. A market was published in psychological thrillers. Yeah. So what a little bit more about the story of following you. What’s it about?

Yeah, sure. So the protagonist is a celebrity. She’s a woman who’s really kind of popular for being a TV host, very popular and beloved TV host of a shopping channel. And it’s based on the shopping channel QVC in the book. It’s called I Shop. And this very popular host who’s quite successful, she had a stalker. And at the beginning of the book, we discovered that her stalker has been found and there’s no threat anymore. And so she can live her best life now.

And so in one of the earliest chapters, she decides to go to this New Year’s Eve party. She’s really psyched. The New Year’s look looking promising. This stalker has been discovered and she’s going to go back to her normal life and she hops in her car and she’s following a colleague from the studio, from the shop studios to this open house, New Year’s Eve party and. She does something really stupid, as will happen in a thriller, somebody is about to do something dumb and you’re screaming at the book, don’t do it.

But her decision to do something dumb comes out of her being really panicked. She gets into a situation driving behind this car who she thinks she’s driving behind this little silver car of the cameraman that she works for and. So she’s she she does something really dumb and she goes missing, and so the rest of the book is touches upon these three strangers whose lives intersect after this woman goes missing. And when we and the book is told from the three different points of view and we find out how they’re interrelated and if she gets found in the end and that inciting scene, the one where she’s in the car, actually did happen to me.

And that’s where I got the idea from. I was following somebody in a car to a party, and I don’t really know anything about cars. If you must know the truth, I have no idea. Like one type of car. I just know colors. And I just knew I was following a little silver car. That’s all I knew. And I knew that we were going to be driving for like 10 to 15 minutes before we got to the party.

And 15 minutes went by, 20 minutes spent by I’m going through detours. It was a rainy night. I was stopped at a red light in the car I was following, got past the red light. And so it’s 20 minutes later is twenty five minutes later. And I’m thinking to myself, wait, what is going on? This this party was supposed to be ten minutes away. Where the heck are we going? And that’s when I realized the silver car I’m following is not the one I started following.


And that’s what happens to Shea, the protagonist. She starts off following a little silver car and a couple of detours and a turn that she wasn’t supposed to take later. And I mean, you never realize how many silver cars were on the road. I mean, practically everyone’s got one, by the way. So that’s part of the problem. And she ends up following the wrong car.

Well, I love that. That’s very. Yeah, that’s incredible. That’s a great a great hook.

Yeah, it’s pretty good. And she ends up and of course she’s going to a party that’s open house, you know, just walk in. It’s this big party on the coast in San Diego and she walks into the house. But if she’s following the wrong car, I got news for you about the house. Do you know what I’m saying?

Yeah, that’s as far as I can see where it’s going. Yeah, that’s awesome. And I love you get your ideas because I was reading when I was reading your bio of preparing for this interview, I saw that you had a vice article written by Caroline Thompson. Was the name of one of your characters from your first book, The Memory Box. You tell us a little about that, how you got that idea for the book, because I think that’s so cool as well.

Oh, my gosh, that is a funny story. So, OK, I’m going to start answering your question just by explaining first what the first books about so that you get how unbelievable this story is. So the memory box is a story about a woman who Googles her name and discovers a past she has no recollection of, and she’s discovering things about herself in a Google search she doesn’t know about. Now, that book came came to me from so that was the first book I wrote and that before I start writing that book, I had no intentions of writing a novel, as I discussed before.

But I a couple of things happened where I moved out of New York City and had I was had my second child. And so we moved to the suburbs in New Jersey and I took a leave of absence from my work at Stillwater and. I was missing having that creative outlet, my job was really creative and I really did love it. And one day I read an article in The New York Times about people Googling themselves now. So this article was written a long time ago, 10 years ago or 11 years ago when people started doing this, OK?

And one of the people in the article was a 17 year old high school boy who lived in California. He Googled his name first thing. He found missing persons, that he was on a missing persons list in another country. So he was on a missing persons list in California. And he was so shocked by this, he didn’t know who to turn to and who to discuss this discovery with. Of course, he wasn’t going to go to his mother because now he’s questioning whether she is truly his mother.

And it turns out that he was kidnaped when he was two from Canada, was taken to California, and he was raised there. And he had a really lovely childhood, except for the fact that he was lied to and taken from California up Canada. So I’m reading this article and I’m thinking that is the craziest story I ever read. How could you Google your name? I mean, most of us know pretty much everything there is to know about ourselves, right?

One would think. Right.

Yes. Especially about your parents.

Yeah, exactly. So imagine Googling your name and finding out things you don’t know about yourself. And I just thought what a great idea that would be for a thriller. I had no intentions of being a person to write that book at the time. But what started happening was I, I got I’m not him, not him. I got insomnia. I could not sleep at night. And the idea for this character, I thought what it would be great if it was like a mom of young children, sort of the life I was living at the time and set in this great community, again, the town as a facade where this woman Googles her name and then she’s so afraid to share this with any of the other people in the community.

And there is a group of women, moms in this community who are digging up dirt. I mean, they Google people just to try and dig up dirt on people. And so she Googled her name and she only sees three things. And it’s all kind of philanthropic, what she did for the public library, what she did for the kindergarten kids, blah, blah, blah. And she’s so relieved. She’s she thinks to herself, thank goodness these women are not going to be gossiping about me because they’re going to find absolutely nothing.

And then a few days go by and she thinks to herself, Hmm, that’s all there was about me on Google. How embarrassing. In a way, she feels really like nothing. She must be nothing. Nothing’s going on for this woman. So she Googles her maiden name just kind of on a lark. Nobody knows her maiden name in this town. And that’s when she starts to discover these crazy, crazy things. And at first she’s like, no, this much must be another Caroline Thompson.

It can’t be me. And the further she looks, she realizes it is her. And now she’s got to prove that these things are wrong before anyone else proves that they’re true. And so that’s that’s the crux of that book. And it’s a really fast paced rabbit hole that you go down. And that’s told from her point of view, first person, and you really do feel like you’re losing your mind along with her along the way. But so this is the funniest thing that happened.

The protagonist’s name is Caroline Thompson, and she’s the one who Googles her name to see what she can come up with. Well, one day, I guess it was about two years after the book was published, maybe three years after the book was published. I went to the dentist. I was reading my emails before I was called into the dentist’s office. And and just that morning, I was working on a new book and I was thinking about names and I started thinking about Caroline.

Now, I hadn’t thought about that character in years, right. Because once you finish a book, you don’t you’re not really consumed by them anymore. And I started thinking about Caroline and her name and her maiden name just for kind of trying to figure out this new character’s name after the dentist appointment. I’m looking at my emails, at my phone in the car, and I have an email from Caroline Thompson. And I nearly freaked out. I scream, first of all, I screamed.

I was like, what the heck is this? How could my character be emailing me? I mean, I was so flipped out, I can’t even tell you it was the strangest thing ever because I had just thought about her that morning and I don’t. No, a soul named Caroline Thompson, I don’t know one person except for my character. So right now I’m shaking in my car. I’m shaking, thinking it’s my character. She knew I was thinking about her, but I of course, I know that can’t be true.

Right. Lest you think I’m crazy. So I click open the email and it’s a journalist from Vice magazine and her name is Caroline Thompson. And the reason she found me is because she Googled her name and she found and she found something that said Caroline Thompson Googles her name and discovers the shocking details of a past she doesn’t remember. And she screamed, that’s very this very meta. You both freaked each other out.

Oh, totally. Totally. It was like full circle. It was the most perfect thing that could have happened, right? It was the most perfect thing.

And then you got to read up on Vice. A nice plug for the book.

Totally. It was awesome. It was really awesome.

You can’t buy that kind of publicity from a big magazine like this.

You can’t. It was it was just amazing. And just like even as a PR and a marketing person, I mean, I should have thought of something like that and I to orchestrate at least. But I mean, I didn’t have to in the end because this woman found me and she was really kind of a pit, you know, like she was so paranoid. She was very paranoid person. And you have to read the article. It’s really fun.

Yeah. That we’ll have a link. And if people listen to us on the website, Will, because I read the article, it is fascinating how she got freaked out about it and then you got to sit down. But I’m also curious to know about your writing process, too, because you come up with these great ideas like you’re following the one silver car. So from that from from that point in time, that that idea pops in your head.

What’s your process like then? Do you, like, start like thinking that I’m going to write about this? Do you outline it? What’s your writing process like.

Yeah. So that’s a good question because I. I do think of these kind of desperate scenes, that car event that happened and then the reason why I even got on like the QVC thing, I remember watching QVC many years ago and thinking, wow, this is like a subculture of people who are. I mean, the viewers are so dedicated and so loyal and they think they’re really best friends with the hosts, and it’s just kind of funny, this whole relationship that the viewers have with the hosts.

And it’s very intimate and it’s a little weird. And you could see how people could be borderline stalkers and not even know they’re stalking someone because it’s almost set up for that kind of thing. It’s weird. So I had these different events in my mind. And and what I do sometimes is like that car thing. I knew that if I had walked into the wrong house, right. Or the character has to walk into the wrong house, I start back engineering the story like whose house is it and why is it a bad.

Why is it bad that she walked in there and what’s going to happen, who is this person she walked in on? Does she walk in on something? And then how does she go missing? And and the story takes takes on from there. And I sometimes know the end like the end, the beginning in the end. And then I often are like back engineering, like I just said, how do we get to that end scene? And it’s not really until I sit down to write.

Do I do I have a handle on the on the characters I’m one of I’m definitely not a planner or a plot or what did I say. That right plotter. That was wrong. So, so I do, I do fly by the seat of flight. I don’t think I’m supposed either. I’m mixing metaphors now but yeah I, I don’t plan, I don’t outline, I, I’ll outline when a decent chunk of the book is written. So like I’m writing a new one now and I would say.

60 to 70 percent is done, so I’m actually going to outline now, because I know the crux of the story and I know most of the characters, but maybe at this point what I need to do is make sure I have the right characters doing the right things and and also enough of the red herrings. You know, that’s kind of fun to sprinkle those red herrings in there. And so that the thriller reader who loves to be manipulated, I shall do that to them.

I like that. And what do you use to write your books? You use a word or some other software program or so?

I use a combination of word and pages because I work on a Mac. I’ve been thinking about switching over to Scribner, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen. I’m kind of a disorganized person, so maybe I should do that. But for now I do a lot of writing on paper, pen and paper. I do a lot of that because I do a lot of great writing when I’m not in my office, when I’m at a place that you would think nothing’s getting done.

But I do find that I work out real trouble spots. Like if I’m having a hard time figuring out a scene or a character, sometimes I’ll sit in my car, which is outside, like in my driveway. I’ll just go there and sit there, close the door, bring a pad and a pen, or I’ll pretend I’m sleeping on a couch or pretend I’ll just lie to myself. And and it will just I think it’s about just not having distractions, you know, letting the mind be completely clear of distractions and any other thoughts.

And that’s why this whole, like, pretend you’re sleeping thing. I close my eyes and I could pretty much work out any problem I’m having in a very, very short amount of time. If I shut my eyes and lie down and shut my eyes, believe it or not.

Yeah, that’s what I like going to bed. The ideas are coming in.

Yeah, totally. I’ll never forget when my kids were down, this was kind of funny. I remember being in our family room. I was lying on the couch and my daughter had a friend over and they walked through the family room and and her friends whispered to her and said to sleep. And my daughter looked at me and said, Oh, no, she’s just writing.

So they do already.

Yeah, she’s just writing.

So yeah. And I’m curious to have been asking my guest, though, because of the crazy year that we’ve had with the pandemic and covid, how did that have any changes into your your writing process and how are you planning to address it? Are you going to ignore it? Are you addressing it in your future books?

You mean covid itself?

Yeah. Yeah, like, I know some writers are like the alternate universe that didn’t exist and others are like, well, I’m going to start addressing it because, you know, I write in the in the present.

Well, the the book I’m working on right now does take place during covid the very beginnings of the pandemic. So early last spring, this idea, I didn’t really want to write about covid, but this idea presented itself to me and I thought it was fun, really fun and interesting enough that I shouldn’t ignore it. It doesn’t play a huge part, but it it’s it it’s creates a backdrop. And it’s also an obstacle for this family, who for many generations they’ve had for several generations, they’ve had a regional they’ve owned a regional theater out in the Hamptons, New York.

And these three sisters, their their parents were big Broadway stars and opened up this regional theater out of a barn. They they gutted a barn and created a theater there. And it became a really popular theater. And then when they died, they left the theater to the three sisters. And so one of the sisters that has tragically died right before the book starts and the sister that always was afraid that the theater was going to be her responsibility someday, she never really wanted the theater to be her responsibility.

And she was the other sister who who died, who was really the genius behind the theater. And she was the creative director. She has died. And so this surviving sister has to make sure that the theater doesn’t go under on her watch. But then all of a sudden what happens? And they’re planning a very big production of something, but then covid strikes and they have to shut the theater. And she’s really afraid that she will lose the theater because they’re in financial ruins.

And so she has to devise a an experiment. Production of an experimental theatrical production that they do during covid that allows them to still employ and turn a profit, and it’s during this opening night of this experimental production, which half of the cast of which is the ticket holders. So the audience combined with the actors are in this experimental production. And on opening night, a crime is unwittingly uncovered.

So the question was, where are you at with it now? Is that going to come out the next year?

Yeah, that’s that’s that’s the one that I’m in like this outlined stage four. So I’m pretty close to the end. The hard parts, I think, are done. So the fun, I think the fun will start happening now. So I’m excited about that.

In your books. This is psychological thrillers. They’re usually they’re probably they’re standalone. They’re not part of a series, even though everyone keeps telling me I’m supposed to be writing series.

Well, but not usually from what I from what I’ve seen for psychological thrillers, those those seem to be the norm that they’re Stallones and and those have been really successful. So.

Yeah, well, from your lips to God’s ears.

Yeah. I would like to ask my guests about advice because I have aspiring writers listening to this podcast, and I know that I saw from your website that you actually offer coaching for authors. So this is a perfect for you. What what kind of advice do you have for an aspiring writer?

Well, the first thing I tell aspiring writers is act before you think. The reason I say that is because people have never written before. Think about it for the longest time. They think about what they should write, how they should write it, when should they write it? They don’t have time to write it. They’re changing. They shouldn’t write it because they’re not really a writer. Every excuse under the sun. Right. But what I find is if you act before you think so, just take out a pen.

Be online at the grocery store, write it on the back of an envelope you got in the mail and start writing because you can’t you can’t edit what you haven’t written, right? You can’t. And the hardest part is, is filling up the blank page. Just start. And the other thing I always like to say is start at the scene that excites you the most. Like, don’t worry about where does the story begin? But I don’t know where it’s going.

All that thinking, I mean, that will derail you for the rest of your life, seriously. And I remember meeting this memoirist. Well, he would laugh if he heard me calling him that because he hadn’t actually written his memoir yet. But he said to me, I just don’t know where to start the story. And I said, well, it doesn’t really matter. What’s the most exciting scene in your mind right now? What’s the one you can’t wait to get to forget about where it starts?

Start there because it doesn’t have to end up being the first chapter in the final book in your work. You’ll write around it, you’ll write in front of it, you’ll write in back of it. Or maybe it will be the beginning. Who knows? But because writing and you know this, Alan, I mean, you have to sit with a project for how long? Sometimes at the very least months of your life. And it could be years of your life.

And so you have to be enthusiastic about that project for a long time and you will inevitably go up and down in your emotions towards this project. So what’s the best way to ensure you make it to the end is staying excited and you can stay excited if you start excited, if you don’t start excited and you start with, oh, maybe I should tell that story about when I was five. That will lead into the exciting part. Don’t do that.

Start writing and the exciting part. Get super stoked about your book, feel proud, feel good about yourself that you started. And hopefully that will be exactly what you need to, to get you going and keep you there until you finish it.

And so it’s a great place for the listeners to find out. What’s your website? My website is my name Evah Lesco Nattie Yellow dot com. And they can sign up for my newsletter on that site, which is really fun. Once a month I send out a newsletter that has lots of good, funny little stories and lots of good stuff. Some on social people can find me on social and the books are available pretty much anywhere you buy books.

All right, it’s great. I’m following you. That’s the latest that’s out now. So, yeah, people go check that out. The been a lot of fun talking with you about your process and your books. Been a lot of fun.

Same here. Alan, thank you so much for inviting me on. It was great chatting with you and I wish you much continued success.

Oh, thank you. Likewise.

Thank you for listening to meet the other author. I hope you enjoyed my conversation with one of your favorite writers of mysteries and thrillers or of this episodes I guess is new to you. I hope you give their books a chance. Helping listeners discover new authors and books is one of the coolest outcomes of doing this podcast. As always, you can head over to Thriller Authors Dotcom to sign up to my thrilling reads email list. That way you won’t miss out on any great deals in Thriller and mystery books.

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My links will be on that page. So that’s it for this episode. See you next time. And stay safe out there.

About the Author
I write thriller and crime fiction novels and host the Meet the Thriller Author podcast where I interview authors of mystery, thriller, and suspense books.

1 comment on “MTTA 159: Eva Lesko Natiello

  1. Cecilia Bamberg says:

    I really enjoyed the interview with Eva Lesko Natiello. She seems so down to earth and I feel like she’s a friend after listening to her retell the story of getting lost after following the wrong car. Who hasn’t done that? She’s definitely going to be ony virtual book shelf. Thanks for bringing her on your show. I only recently discovered your podcast and I’m so glad I did!

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