Inside Author Meg Gardiner's Latest Thriller About Dueling Serial Killers: 'Dark and Twisted Minds'

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Heat 2 is debuting her next page-turner, Shadowheart, on June 18

<p>Kevin Jantzer, Black Stone Publishing</p> Author Meg Gardiner and the cover of her newest thriller, Shadowheart

Kevin Jantzer, Black Stone Publishing

Author Meg Gardiner and the cover of her newest thriller, Shadowheart

When Meg Gardiner moved from Santa Barbara, Calif., with her husband and three children to London, England, for his job in the 1990s, she decided to give her lifelong dream of becoming an author a shot.

After writing one novel she says “went in the trash,” in 2002 the former attorney and three-time Jeopardy! champion (yes, you read that right) published her first thriller, China Lake, in the U.K.. It was the first book in what would become her highly-acclaimed, best-selling Evan Delaney series.

“It was published all around the world in 15 languages,” she tells PEOPLE. “But U.S. publishers rejected it and they rejected the next four novels I wrote as well."

She adds: “This was my dream job. I was writing novels, but nobody at home could find them.”

Enter Stephen King.

In November 2006, the legendary master of horror and suspense grabbed a copy of China Lake that his U.K. publisher (and Gardiner’s) had sent him to read on a flight to England for a book tour.

By the time he landed, he said he’d found “the next suspense superstar,” he wrote in a 2007 column in EW urging people to read her novels.

Thanks to that enthusiastic shoutout from a giant in the industry, Gardiner landed a U.S. publisher. Penguin published China Lake in 2008, earning her a prestigious Edgar Award in 2009 and catapulting her into literary stardom.

Related: Stephen King Surprised Mom with 'Carrie' Book Advance So She Could Quit Job as She Fought Cancer

Gardiner went on to become the #1 New York Times bestselling author of sixteen novels that are part of three different series — as well as four standalone titles including Heat 2, the #1 New York Times bestseller she penned with Heat director Michael Mann.

Related: Robert De Niro's Home from 'Heat' Listed for $21 Million — See Inside!

PEOPLE recently spoke with Gardiner about her latest book with Blackstone Publishing, Shadowheart, which debuts June 18.

PEOPLE: Tell us about this next thriller of yours, which is going to make readers lock their windows and doors.

GARDINER: Shadowheart is the fourth novel in my "UNSUB" series about a young FBI profiler who hunts serial predators. UNSUB is FBI lingo for unknown subjects. In this novel, she discovers she's not simply talking to serial killer Efrem Judah Goode in prison about cold cases, but that there's a second killer, the Broken Heart Killer, on the loose replicating his murders.

They seem to be competing, and that scares the pants off of her, even as an FBI agent. She needs to find out what's going on, what they’re after and what they think they're going to win. She has to dive into not just one, but two dark and twisted minds.

PEOPLE: Why does Caitlin resonate with readers so much?

GARDINER: She's smart. Determined. Funny. She sometimes takes too much of the world onto her own shoulders, feeling like it's her responsibility to track down these UNSUBS.

I wanted her to feel like she was someone who would've been our friend in high school, who could be our friend now. That she's struggling along with the rest of us to make her way in the world.

PEOPLE: Why do you think people love reading about serial killers so much? Especially women.

GARDINER: That's something that I and a lot of writers are fascinated by. I think part of it is that a lot of us think that if we could study them, that maybe we could figure that out and we could protect ourselves from falling prey to somebody like that. So I'm just as fascinated as anybody else by how you would go about understanding their psychology as well as tracing the blood spatter and the DNA.

PEOPLE: What did you read when you were little? Nancy Drew? 

GARDINER: Of course, Nancy Drew. Also Madeleine L’engle, The Black Stallion series, Ray Bradbury.

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.

PEOPLE: Can you tell us anything about the movie, Heat 2, (starring Adam Driver) that Michael Mann will direct?

GARDINER: No, other than Michael Mann is writing the script for Warner Brothers. He was a very generous collaborator.

Related: Robert De Niro's Home from 'Heat' Listed for $21 Million — See Inside!

PEOPLE: What’s next for you?

GARDINER: Michael Mann and I are writing another novel together. An international thriller. That's as much as I can say at the moment.

PEOPLE: Lastly, what made you decide once and for all to try your hand at writing novels when you moved to London?

GARDINER: I had to do it, otherwise I was going to live with regret forever.

Shadowheart is out June 18 from Blackstone Publishing and is available wherever books are sold.

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