Caroline Kepnes On What Inspired Her To Create Joe Goldberg And You - Exclusive

Netflix's "You" catapulted its main character, serial killer Joe Goldberg, to superstardom. As fans await the show's fifth and final season, author Caroline Kepnes is back with the fourth novel in her "You" series. In "For You and Only You," Joe Goldberg is trying to establish himself as a serious writer while getting helplessly involved with another woman. As with every one of her books, Kepnes has infused "For You and Only You" with biting wit and pop culture references while also embodying Joe Goldberg in all his murderous glory.

While the first season of Netflix's "You" was a fairly faithful adaptation of Kepnes' novel of the same name, subsequent installments have deviated from the source material, meaning that fans now have two alternate Joe Goldberg timelines to delve into. "Some days I'm here writing my book and it hits me that literally a couple miles away, there's a bunch of writers sitting around doing their Joe story," Kepnes told The List, referencing the Netflix writers' room of "You." "That thrills me because that's what started me as a storyteller, seeing things and wanting to make my own version of that." She continued, "Who doesn't like a multiverse? It's also a great feeling [having created] this character who is that fun to play with."

During our exclusive interview, The List caught up with Caroline Kepnes to discuss her new book and find out how she created an unforgettable character like Joe Goldberg in the first place.

Joe Goldberg's grief came from a very real place

When Caroline Kepnes started writing the novel "You," she had no idea that Joe Goldberg would become a worldwide phenomenon. Notably, Joe was born out of an intense personal loss that shifted her universe. "My dad died," Kepnes told The List. "He had this sick, dark sense of humor, was very loving, was very good to a lot of people, and also hated social media. He's sitting there dying and is like, 'Don't put me on Facebook.'"

Her father's death converged with the world's burgeoning obsession with social media, which led to the creation of Joe Goldberg and his total lack of boundaries. "It was 2013 when it was all [happening], and I remember learning what Instagram was," she explained. "It violates everything that I learned in childhood, like, 'Don't talk to strangers, don't tell people where you are.'" 

In writing "You," Kepnes masterfully combined the emergence of online communication with the devastating absence of a parent. "Above all, it was experiencing that level of loneliness," she said. "Whether or not someone dies suddenly, or in my dad's case, there's an illness and it's long, there's nothing like those months after when you realize they're never calling again ... That loneliness is in Joe and was part of the tragedy for him. That's home to him, so that's what he's always going to go back to." Fans of Joe Goldberg will recognize this deep loneliness, which seems to drive the murderer in everything he does.

"For You and Only You: A Joe Goldberg Novel" is out now from Random House.