Why I Write Suspense

When I was five or six, my mother enrolled me in the Disney Book of the Month Club. Each month, our mailman would deliver a new book. I remember the excitement of seeing that package and the anticipation of which book would be inside. I know, Disney books are not exactly suspense. Yet, those books are likely responsible for planting the early seeds of suspense in my mind. Would Pinocchio continue to lie? Would Snow White ever wake up? That bit of the unknown always thrilled me.

As I grew older, and most of my friends went for romance stories, I went for suspense. I didn’t want to read about princesses and fairy tale weddings. I wanted the edgy stuff. The books that let me glimpse the dark side. The ones that made me work for the happy ending, if it came at all. The first book I remember making a huge impact on me was The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. This book was written in the sixties and encompassed the turmoil of that period, as well as the general turmoil of growing up. I was instantly hooked.

I didn’t fantasize about being swept away by the man on the cover of the most recent Harlequin romance. Escaping to new planets and meeting aliens held no interest for me. I wanted to know what drove madness.

In high school and into college, psychology and English were my favorite classes. If I’d been exposed to sociology courses back then, no doubt I would have found where I belonged. I watched people, listened, tried to anticipate behavior. Various ‘what if’ scenarios would keep me up late into the night.

Suspense writing has never been a conscious choice. Human nature fascinates me. Why do people behave as they do? What makes one person commit murder, while another walks away? The characters and plot that became my first book haunted me relentlessly until I finally sat down and gave them life. None of my books have been planned and writing has never been about the genre. For me, writing is about the exploration into the dark side.

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