Author May Cobb’s inspiration for her novels comes from the East Texas woods of her childhood.
The Longview native’s latest book, “The Hunting Wives,” was released this past month and is set in the fictional town of Mapleton.
“I call the town Mapleton, but it’s really Longview,” said Cobb, who now lives in Austin. “I just fictionalized it and gave it a different name, but anyone in Longview will recognize it.”
Cobb lived in Longview her entire life until she left for college.
“I still have family there, and I just think it’s such a special place,” she said. “I live in Austin now and I have on and off for the past 25 years.”
Cobb moved back to Longview in 2016 and stayed for a couple of years before returning to Austin.
“That’s when I wrote ‘Big Woods,’ which is set in Longview, too,” she said. “And I was kind of inspired by that.”
“The Hunting Wives” is a thriller that centers around Sophie, a young wife and mother who also is an editor at a lifestyle magazine in Chicago.
“She really wants to ditch the fast-paced life and raise her toddler in a smaller town,” Cobb said. “She had lived in Mapleton in high school, so she uproots her family and they move back.”
But pretty soon, Sophie finds she’s more bored than she wants to be and feels like the walls are closing in on her.
“She comes across this elite clique of women known as the Hunting Wives, and she becomes obsessed with their ring leader, Margot Banks,” Cobb said. “And she gets way in over her head because these women are crazy.”
The women spend their weekends out in the woods skeet shooting — and drinking.
“They drink too much and they do other bad behavior things, and she gets kind of swept up into their world,” Cobb said. “And then eventually a body of a teenage girl is found on the land where they gather, and she becomes the prime suspect.”
The idea for the book stemmed from a story Cobb’s mother, Liz, told her.
“She was telling me how when she was in high school in the ‘60s in Longview, there was something called the Hunting Party, and it was these rich, popular guys who would go out into the woods on Friday nights and sit on the hoods of their giant cars and shoot at rabbits and stuff,” she said. “When she was telling me that I thought, ‘That could go wrong so quickly … with that setup.’ ”
Cobb decided to set the novel in present day and make it an all-female shooting club.
“I kind of wanted to give women a space to behave badly like men do,” she said. “You hear about men going away on their hunting weekends, and I just thought it would be kind of fun to turn the tables on that stereotype and let women be the ones acting out and the ones with power.”
Hopefully, Cobb said, readers will be able to relate to Sophie.
“I hope that some women … will relate to her boredom and discontentment. Everyone loves their children, but when you’re a stay-at-home mom — especially in these pandemic times — it can be monotonous, and it can be boring, and you can grow restless,” she said. “So, I just wanted to tap into that. Women are supposed to be so happy today because we’ve come so far. And all that’s wonderful. But I think there’s this extra pressure to be happy.”
Cobb said her father, Charles, helped convince her to write thrillers.
“I had been working on a nonfiction project about a jazz musician for about 20 years, and I’m still going to finish that book,” she said. “But my dad sort of persuaded me to start writing thrillers.”
Cobb said when it came to writing “The Hunting Wives,” she was inspired by thriller writers Ruth Ware and Riley Sager.
“Those are probably my two biggest influences,” she said.
“The Hunting Wives” is available at Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble, Books & Barrels and also through Amazon.
What’s next for Cobb?
“I’m finishing up edits on my next book, which is another thriller set in East Texas,” she said. “It’s about three lifelong women friends, and they’re all back living on the same block they grew up on.”
The women are all at different stations in their lives, Cobb said.
“And then this handsome stranger moves into town,” she said. “He’s very rich and mysterious and he kind of upends all of their lives over the course of the summer.”