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Fueled by Fallon Book Club, Alum’s Debut Novel Gains International Attention

June 14, 2024
Kristen Perrin '03 Book

When Kristen Perrin’s literary agent asked her what her goals were for her debut novel “How to Solve Your Own Murder,” Perrin’s response was modest: She wanted to see her book on a bookstore shelf and hoped to pay off her student loans. “I have a PhD,” Perrin said, “so I have a lot of student loans.” Her agent asked Perrin to project a loftier, “sky high” goal and Perrin remained realistic by hoping she would someday see her book in an airport. “When your book is in an airport, you know that your book is everywhere,” she said. So far, she has seen photos of the United Kingdom copy of her book at Heathrow (London) airport, but she hasn’t seen it in person. The capper would be for Perrin to see it on display at the SeaTac Airport in her home state of Washington during a visit to the States. And based on the meteoric rise of “How to Solve Your Own Murder” into the mainstream, Perrin may not be waiting long.

Perrin’s venture into professional writing is anything but straightforward. The 2003 degree she earned from The College of Idaho is in international political economy with a minor in music. It was the initial cohort for the international political economy major. She was Kristen Peters then, and describes herself as “a great test case for the liberal arts institution” because when she liked a subject, she would dive into it, but if she didn’t like a subject “I would put zero effort in.” Due to that dichotomy, Perrin said she would have been “swallowed up” by a large state university system. “I would have been fine, but I don’t think I would have thrived,” she said.

Her upbringing geared her toward viewing higher education as a means to employment. Even though she felt drawn to visual arts and creative writing, she chose to study something more pragmatic. However, she credits the College with exposing her to combinations of art and science that were compelling to her. She took a modern American literature course from English professor Rochelle Johnson as well as a course from Johnson and former biology professor Don Mansfield called Nature and Culture that “had some science in it, but it had the creative side. That was an actual representation of how well these things can click together,” Perrin said.

Upon graduation, she spent a few years working as a bookseller because “the only job I've ever had that I really, truly loved was working at Barnes and Noble.” But eventually, Perrin decided to pursue graduate degrees in politics and moved to England where she earned her PhD from University College London.

But the political landscape was never her true calling. While working on her PhD, Perrin joined the Creative Writing Society and reignited her love of creative writing. Upon completion of her PhD, Perrin decided that she would see which career path she could launch more quickly: a postdoctoral fellowship appointment or landing a literary agent. Neither path was easy, but the opportunity to sign with an agent happened sooner and she chose to “completely left-turn my career.”

Perrin’s initial literary success began with a middle-grade contemporary fantasy series. Just as she was trying to sell her series to publishers, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and publishers were halting new acquisitions and focusing on existing authors. She managed to get her series successfully printed in just a few European countries – published in German, Polish and Dutch – but the pandemic significantly affected her publishing trajectory. It did, however, give her the time to shift from children’s book ideas to writing something that “was very much a labor of love." Having grown up on a steady diet of Boxcar Children books and Nancy Drew mysteries, as well as television crime procedurals such as CSI, Bones and Criminal Minds, her storyline began to take shape.

Eventually, this “fun project turned into my agent saying ‘I think we’ve got something’ and saying ‘let’s make this the best book it can be and we’ll see where it goes,’” Perrin recalled. The finished product was published in late March and has been called an “instant national bestseller” which has resulted in Perrin being featured in Glamour UK, Sunset magazine, The New York Times and Good Morning America.

The book is technically considered Perrin’s debut novel because the children’s series was on such a small scale (and not even published in English). But the big break came when late-night television host Jimmy Fallon relaunched his Fallon Book Club in a tournament-style bracket of 16 books. Fallon launched the competition in late March and Perrin’s debut book made it all the to the final two books before being edged for the “Fallon’s Spring Read” title by “Night Watching” written by Tracy Sierra. However, the word was out and the publicity propelled it up the bestseller lists.

“That was a wonderful surprise,” Perrin said about the Fallon Book Club. “We found out (each round’s results) at the same time everybody else in America found out which ones were progressing.” Had Perrin’s book won the competition, she would have flown to New York City to be on the Tonight Show, but as a self-described introvert, Perrin was happy she was able to gain positive exposure without having to fly to another continent. “That was a real whirlwind because I was already hitting the ground running, doing PR events and things in the UK, so I didn’t have a whole lot of space to think about it much. I think I got the best of both worlds. I got the maximum amount of exposure with the minimum amount of work for the Jimmy Fallon thing.”   

Meanwhile, over in the U.S., Perrin’s best friend from College, Lauren (Bowie) Stout ’03 (who was also a bridesmaid in Perrin’s wedding), was a one-Yote book-purchasing machine – practically boosting Perrin’s book up the charts all on her own. “She bought 20 copies of the book when it came out and was giving them to her friends with a picture of the two of us from our days when we shared a house just off campus in our final year,” Perrin said.

Following the success of “How to Solve Your Own Murder,” Perrin is set to continue her work in the mystery genre, with a sequel to her breakthrough novel nearly complete. Her own journey, far from a mystery, serves as a testament to the unpredictable paths a liberal arts education can take a College of Idaho graduate. Considering the enthusiastic reception of her debut, the SeaTac Airport booksellers might soon need to make room on their shelves for Kristin Perrin’s latest release.

The College of Idaho has a 133-year-old legacy of excellence. The College is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition, and history of producing successful graduates, including eight Rhodes Scholars, three governors, and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. For more information, visit