Marisha Pessl began writing Night Film, the follow-up to her bestselling 2006 debut novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, during the 2008 financial crisis. “It seemed as if the entire world was imploding,” says the 35-year-old, New York–based novelist, whose first effort, a literary murder mystery with references to Flaubert and Nabokov, was named one of the top 10 books of the year by New York magazine and The New York Times. “With Night Film, I wanted to escape into a wonderful world. I wanted to forget the here and now.” The story of a journalist investigating the apparent suicide of Ashley Cordova—the daughter of a reclusive cult-horror film director who hasn’t been seen in public for over 30 years—Night Film is the kind of quirky, twisty thriller that makes you want to shut yourself away with its pages and ignore real-life people altogether. Its hairpin turns are gripping, its numerous characters over-the-top, its format inventive (whereas Special Topics was peppered with Pessl’s own drawings, Night Film is interspersed with news clippings, photographic clues, and online news stories). “There were definitely moments where I pushed myself so far that I didn’t think I could go on,” says Pessl, who has already sold the novel’s film rights to Chernin Entertainment (Rupert Wyatt, who helmed 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, is attached to direct). “But that is necessary for every single book I write. I want to take myself to the edge because I think interesting things come out of that.”
Fade to Black: “I’m in favor of darkness in the sense that it’s a part of the human psyche. It’s neither good nor evil, just who we are. I think people forget that. We’re all carefully flattened people with X number of friends and ‘Likes.’ I believe in the infinite mystery of life.