What secrets are the elderly in your life hiding?
When you look at the elderly, what do you see?
Someone fragile and frail with wrinkled, shaking hands?
Someone with a longer list of things they can't do than a list of what they can?
Someone near death, harmless, and washed up?
In many cultures, the elderly are revered and respected...but I would argue that in American culture, the elderly are often overlooked, forgotten, and discounted.
I think often about how frustrating that must be. Because behind those fading eyes and those shaking hands, there is a person with a history that they haven't necessarily forgotten. Behind that elderly person's eyes are stories, regrets, memories, fears, sorrows, rejections, and guilt. There is a lifetime of living....and a lifetime of choices.
When I started writing first romance and then thriller, I was drawn to this idea. I tend to write stories centered around emotions. I want to dig into the gritty, raw feelings of life, even if they're hard to face. No, especially if they're hard to face.
Aging provides a perfect backdrop to all sorts of heavy emotions.
I think the second reason I wanted to write about the elderly in my thrillers is because it just seemed like an exciting idea. I know, I know....it seems like a terrible match to write a thriller about someone who is aged. Aren't thrillers supposed to feature the young, vibrant, sexy leads?
For me, the answer was: not necessarily.
I started thinking about the fact that darkness lurks in everyone, and that regrets and guilt probably play the loudest near the ends of our lives. Thus, I started imagining characters whose bodies perhaps were declining but their sinister minds were still intact. What would it be like to be a villain with malicious plots and desires....but a failing body? How would it feel to be trapped by physical limitations? And most of all, what secrets are harbored behind those eyes we assume are nothing but innocent?
An aged person often becomes a different persona in our minds. We look at an aged person with unassuming viewpoints. We stereotype them in our heads. Elderly equals calm, frail, and sweet. Elderly equals slowing down and innocent. The elderly are paragons of morality in our minds.
But I wanted to ask the question: Are they really? What secret desires, guilt, and frustrations could be lurking in an overlooked and misjudged group of the population? What sinister capabilities could they still be hiding?
And, above all, how would the fact that no one would suspect an elderly person of something evil and malevolent play into the story?
These were the reasons I wrote my debut novel, The Widow Next Door, the way I did. I've had some reviewers comment that the tale was too depressing because of the age of the protagonist. Others found it boring to follow an elderly woman's point of view in a thriller. I get that. It's not typical. It's not expected, and it may not even be desired by some.
But I also know this is the story I felt compelled to tell because it was the story that spoke to me. The widow isn't the typical thriller protagonist--and I'm more than okay with that. Because I think the tale she tells can open our eyes to the way we look at aging and to the way we look at our own physical demise.
Her story forces us to tap into our darkest, deepest versions of ourselves and ask: When I'm older, what regrets will haunt me? And what parts of my true self will perhaps unearth themselves?
It's a question terrifying in its own right, and its a question I was happy to explore.
What do you think? Do you think the elderly can house dark secrets? Do you think a thriller can feature an elderly protagonist? Let me know in the comments.
Stay Safe and Be True,
L. A. Detwiler is an English teacher and a thriller author with Avon Books, HarperCollins UK. Her debut novel, The Widow Next Door, is available now. Be sure to click the button below to connect with her on Facebook and learn more about her upcoming novels, appearances, and more.
Where thriller book ideas come from
So many people ask where my ideas come from. For The Widow Next Door, the answer is: in our whirlpool tub.
I know. I know. Sorry for the imagery. But my husband and I were relaxing one weekend in our huge whirlpool tub (in all honesty, it's what sold me on our house). I was talking about how I loved the romance genre but wanted to step outside of it and write something different.
With romance, I typically started with characters and the story came from there. I wanted to write something more complex, more plot-centered, and more twisted. I wanted to write a book with layers of meaning that could be unpacked with each read through.
I've always been fascinated by the elderly in my writing because there's just so much complexity there. It's an emotionally heavy time of life, and I usually explore that in my romances in some aspect. My husband, however, threw out the idea to explore the elderly in a horror/thriller.
The main idea was simple: an old, lonely woman looking out a window. However, the tale quickly took me on a very dark, very twisted path as I explored her character, her regrets, and the secrets she harbored.
I learned that day to never underestimate your abilities....and that sometimes the bathtub can lead to new paths in life.
So it is true what they say--writing inspiration can happen anywhere. You just have to have your eyes open...and sometimes, you just have to leave the hot water on for a while.
Stay Safe and Be True,
Are you a fan of eerie, twisty thrillers?
Thank you so much for joining me here! For those of you new to the space, I am a thriller author with Avon Books/HarperCollins UK and a high school teacher in Pennsylvania. My debut novel, The Widow Next Door, released in ebook format in November and in paperback on January 24th. It's a slow-burning, super eerie novel about the secrets we harbour and the evil in us all. It's been rocking the Amazon UK charts in horror since it's release, and I'm so thankful that the widow's story is reaching so many new readers.
The Widow Next Door will always hold a special place in my writer heart because it's the book that showed me who I really am as a writer. However, I'm also super excited about book two that will be releasing later this year. It's another eerie, twisty tale full of dark reality, secrets, and a whole lot of deaths. It challenged me as a writer in new ways, and I can't wait to tell you all more about it in the coming months.
Dark realism. Emotion so deep, you'll feel like you're there. Harsh truths others shy away from.
These are my goals with my thriller writing. These are my focal points.
Thanks again for joining me to talk all things creepy and real. I'd love to learn more about you! Tell me a little bit about you in the comments and feel free to list your favorite thriller. I'd love to hear from you.
Also be sure to connect with me on Facebook, where I share a whole lot about my author journey.
Stay Safe and Be True,
5 Reasons I Absolutely Love and Recommend 'Bird Box'
Two words that, when put together these days, can stir either unstoppable praise or sniveling, complaining, and disgust.
Love it or hate it, the Netflix original has taken the world by storm. But is it worth your time?
I watched Bird Box over winter break (I'm a teacher by day), and I'll say this: I didn't regret one second of that time. I know that there are plenty of critics who have called Bird Box boring, bland, overdone, and unoriginal. However, for the two hours I watched, I was sold on the brilliance of the story line. Check out my Top 5 reasons I adored this film and will be checking out the book. Then, tell me in the comments what side you are on: #probirdbox or #antibirdbox.
1. The beginning had me hooked with questions
In the first few minutes of the movie, so many questions arose. Who are the children? Why do they have to be quiet? Where are they going? And what in the living hell are they doing with a box of birds?
I was hooked from the first few minutes, the tension and suspense of the scene set well. The movie technically begins in medias res, with us trying to figure out how the heck Sandra's character ended up in this position on the river. I loved that the movie played with chronology to keep you guessing. I also loved the whole setup of one adult being in charge of two children alone. It added to the terror.
2. Sandra Bullock was a kick-ass protagonist
I'll go ahead and say it: I'm not Sandra Bullock's biggest fan.
I have never been crazy about the movies she's been in. I'm not sure what it is. But this movie changed my mind. She did an amazing job at playing a kick-ass woman who found the will to survive in an apocalyptic world.
I also really appreciated that Malorie wasn't painted as the typical woman. Pregnant at the very beginning of the story, she does not actually want to be a mother. The movie says a lot about mothering and the mothering instinct. It is her lack of a desire to be a mother and her somewhat cold nature towards the idea of children that allows the movie to unfold as it does.
I found her character to be realistic and easy to relate to. She is not the perfect hero in an apocalyptic world. She shows us that sometimes life puts you in a predicament and you have no choice but to rise to the challenge. I appreciated that.
3. It had the feel of A Quiet Place but with less plot holes
This may be an unpopular opinion, but I was not a fan of A Quiet Place. The premise was amazing, but I was just left with too many questions. Also, I felt there were way too many plot holes and issues with the story and details.
Bird Box certainly had that silent, tense feeling of A Quiet Place. The idea of living in a world without one of your sense is terrifying, and I liked putting myself in the characters' shoes and thinking about how hard life would be. However, Bird Box did a much better job at explaining all of the plot holes. Any time I thought of a specific question, the movie answered. I really felt like every detail went together, and the entire conflict made sense. Nothing felt out of the realm of possibility, which is something I look for in horror/thriller.
The story did a good job, in short, of helping me suspend disbelief along with the characters.
4. I love that the flashbacks answered so many questions
I liked that the movie chose to use so many flashbacks. I thought it was interesting to piece together Malorie's story through the flashbacks. They were perfectly spaced so the movie wasn't boring (despite what some critics are saying). I thought the flashbacks also helped take some of the edge of and give me a second to breathe...which was needed as the movie went on.
It also made Malorie feel more human. You understand exactly who she was and what she lost in this new world....and also what she gained.
5. The ending was well-planned
This will be spoiler-free, so feel free to read on even if you haven't yet watched.
I thought the ending of the movie made complete sense and gave a satisfying ending to this dark, twisted tale. I hadn't really thought about the ending and didn't expect what happened.
Some critics argue the ending was weak, but I disagree. If you haven't seen the movie, be sure to check it out on Netflix and then let me know what you thought in the comments.
L.A. Detwiler is a thriller author with Avon Books, a division of HarperCollins UK. Her debut novel, The Widow Next Door, is available wherever books are sold. To learn more about her, visit her on Facebook.
A year ago, I was getting ready to turn 30...and not quite sure what the new year had in store for me. In fact, I was terrified to make the shift out of my 20s.
I had accomplished a lot of big dreams (getting my books published, writing stories that reached all sorts of readers). Still, looking at 30 was terrifying. Where would life go? And what was next?
One year ago, I was also feeling a little lost in the writing world. I'd told the stories I wanted to tell in romance. I was in a rut, and I wasn't sure why I was feeling frustrated. I knew I wanted to write something different, something plot-heavy. I just wasn't sure if I could.
My husband encouraged me to chase those crazy dreams. He helped me talk through my fears. He helped me find my thriller writing voice. I'm so thankful he did because now, in a few short days, the story that started as a pipe dream will be in the hands of readers everywhere with a publisher beyond my wildest dreams.
Last year, if you would have told me my debut thriller would be releasing with Avon Books, HarperCollins, I would have never believed you. I would have never believed that my 30th year would take me to new dreams, ones I never even dared to dream for myself.
Most of all, I would have never believed that the creepy widow who was haunting my thoughts would be in a book called The Widow Next Door, releasing worldwide on Monday.
So much can change in a year, yet some things stay the same. My love for the man who pushes me when I'm too afraid to chase my goals, who supports me and pulls me up when I fall down, who teaches me to dream big, is still as strong as ever.
Thank you to everyone who has held my hand, listened to my fears, and pre-ordered The Widow Next Door as I step into this big, new venture. Thank you to all of those who gave the creepy widow from Bristol Lane a chance. And thank you to my husband, my biggest cheerleader. I love you, forever.
Stay Safe and Be True,
How well do you know your neighbours? The Widow Next Door is now live!
A beautiful house. A new beginning. The almost perfect neighbours…When newlyweds Jane and Alex Clarke move into an idyllic house on the quaint Bristol Lane, they are excited for a new beginning in what will be their ‘forever home’.
And when an elderly neighbour welcomes them, she soon becomes a friend. But she grows a little too interested in the couple next door as she sits watching them, day in, day out, from the rocking chair in her window.
Alex says it will be fine. After all, she’s a lonely widow who just wants some company. But when she invites Jane into her home, who knows what she’ll find there…
A dark and gripping domestic thriller, perfect for fans of Shari Lapena and Paula Hawkins.
** Praise for The Widow Next Door **
‘This was a showstopper. I couldn’t put it down, and never wanted it to end. Will be looking for L.A. Detwiler’s next book!’ NetGalley reviewer
‘This creepy thriller had me twisted up in knots of suspense … Fans of B A Paris will love this one!’ NetGalley reviewer
‘It has me hooked from cover to cover. Such an incredible read!’ NetGalley reviewer
‘This book was twisted and brilliant. It gave me chills down my spine.’ NetGalley reviewer
‘A great book to read on the sofa with a cup of tea while it storms outside. I really love domestic psychological thrillers and this book did not let me down!’ NetGalley reviewer
‘Creepy. Thrilling. Suspenseful. I could not put this down!’ NetGalley reviewer
Getting old is hard. The loss of loved ones, freedom, memory, and dreams can lead to a swirling depression unlike anything felt in youth. So much is waning and fading. So much seems to be falling apart.
And then there are the regrets.
A life lived without regrets isn’t really a life lived, or so they say. However, some of us get to the end of life with bigger regrets than others.
What if, alone and abandoned, you realized that your whole life was a disastrous mistake? What if your golden years were tarnished by the reality that everything that fell apart in life was actually your fault?
These were the questions that drove me in writing The Widow Next Door. I wanted to write about the complexities of aging coupled with intense regret. I wanted to showcase the loneliness, the bleak reality that we sometimes face. Our golden years aren’t always golden--sometimes they’re rusted, worn, and even tinged with the blood of sins past.
To me, this book is about more than regrets and secrets, though. It’s about how our upbringing can forever impact the way we perceive the world around us. It’s about the fact that some people do horrible things without a real reason. It’s about the idea that the hero can also be the villain, even in his or her own story.
Monsters are real, and life isn’t always beautiful.
This book is deeply depressed at times. It deals with some of our darkest fears: loneliness, guilt, regret, and abandonment. It is a dramatic exploration of emotion with chilling twists and turns along the way.
If you’re ready for a book that starts as as slow-burn and then twists into a glowing fire of horror, I hope you’ll pick up The Widow Next Door. I hope that the widow’s story will speak to you and remind you that life isn’t always what it seems.
Perhaps for me the scariest thing of this entire journey has been the fact that for many of us, when we look into the character of the widow, we may see glimpses of our own selves… and there is nothing more terrifying than that, especially when you get to the twisted end.
With the cooler temperatures and the falling leaves, it's a perfect time to grab a scarier read. If you're looking for a new psychological thriller to add to your to be read stack, check out some of my favorite suggestions below. These books are all sure to keep you guessing, keep you interested, and keep you tucked under your blanket until the last page is read.
Do you have any other thrillers you think are must-reads for fall of 2018? Comment below with the books you think everyone should have on their list.
1. Ruth Ware's In a Dark, Dark Wood
I'm a huge fan of all things Ruth Ware, but this is probably my favorite. I adore the whole premise of a group gathering for a bachelorette party--and things going very, very wrong. This is a thriller that will keep you guessing. I always love Ware's female protagonists because they feel very real, complex, and mysterious.
2. Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects
Fans of Gone Girl will love this dark, haunting story. Sharp Objects gets you inside the mind of a woman with a troubled past. When she returns to her hometown to report on some sickening murders, thinks will begin to unravel. I loved all of the psychological aspects of this book. It's definitely one that will keep you guessing.
3. Shari Lapena The Couple Next Door
If you need a super quick weekend read that packs a punch, The Couple Next Door is your next read. Shari Lapena does a great job at keeping you guessing, and the twists are well-planned and shocking. I loved the back-and-forth feel of the mystery in this novel, and the overall premise was creepy. I will definitely be checking out more of her books.
4. Liane Moriarty Big Little Lies
Liane Moriarty doesn't usually come to mind as a thriller writer, but Big Little Lies definitely has a lot of suspense set against the uppercrust of women's society. An elite group of private school mothers find themselves wrapped up in a warped mystery when someone shows up dead at a fundraiser. This one will keep you guessing. I loved all the female drama worked in, and I loved how it shows you that no matter how glamorous someone is, there can be so much going on behind closed doors. The HBO series starring Reese Witherspoon is also a must-watch when you finish reading.
5. C.L. Taylor The Missing
The Missing was my first C.L. Taylor book, and I loved the emotion she packs into her works. This is a story about the disappearance of a son, but it's about so much more, too. This book really explores the family dynamic when tragedy strikes and will keep you guessing the whole way through. I loved following the characters as their lives unraveled. I found it easy to empathize with the protagonist and to put myself in her shoes. This is a definite page-turner with so many deep themes running through it.
The Widow Next Door
Are you ready for a gripping, dark psychological thriller sure to keep you up at night? The Widow Next Door is available for pre-order now. Releasing November 12th, 2018, with Avon Books, this creepy story will ensure you never look at your elderly neighbours the same way again...
A beautiful house. A new beginning. The almost perfect neighbours…
You’ve just moved into an idyllic house on the quaint Bristol Lane. You’re excited for a new beginning and to start a new life in what will be your ‘forever home’.
Your elderly neighbour brings you a pie to welcome you to the neighbourhood. She soon becomes a friend. But you begin to feel as though she’s a little too interested as she sits watching you, day in, day out, from the rocking chair in her window.
Your husband says it will be fine. After all, she’s a lonely widow who just wants some company. Her heart’s in the right place, and she even sees her old self in you. But when she invites you into her home, who knows what you’ll find there…
A dark and gripping domestic thriller, perfect for fans of Shari Lapena and Paula Hawkins.
Oh, how a year can change things.
A year ago, things weren't exactly what I would call ideal. From health scares to changing work schedules, my husband and I were dealing with some stressful stuff. On top of it, he ended up getting put on 2nd shift, so I only saw him on weekends.
In short, my days started to consist of going to work and coming home to a lonely, empty house. My mood wasn't the best.
Additionally, I was in a writing rut. I'd written so many romances, which I was proud of and still am, but something was missing. I felt this pull to write something very different, a dark book with layers of depth to it. I wanted to write about the darker side of the human experience, but I just hadn't found the confidence. Just like when I wrote my first novel, Voice of Innocence, I had this negative inner voice telling me I was wasting my time.
Still, with lonely hours ahead of me, I decided what the heck--I'd give the story a go. It had been plaguing me since the idea had come last summer. With nothing better to do and my mood morose anyway, it just seemed like a good way to pass time.
As the months passed by and my husband and I essentially became pen pals all week, I finally gave him my story to read. I figured he'd come back to me and say, "Nice try, honey, but this isn't for you."
Instead, he sent me a message along the lines of: "This is awesome. You're creeping me out though, and I'm wondering if you're okay....but it's seriously awesome."
From there, long story short, I spent months finishing the manuscript, sending it out, and really not expecting anything to come of it. I thought my creepy story would have one reader--my husband.
Until this summer when I signed that contract with a publisher beyond my wildest dreams. I'll never forget how my jaw literally fell and my heart started pounding when I got the news. That creepy story I wrote in moments of loneliness will soon be finding itself on shelves with a big publisher. It is beyond my biggest dreams.
On Monday, the cover will be revealed for the story that I was just starting to write last year at this time. Tonight, I find myself sitting and staring at the cover, thinking about the journey it took to get here. It was a long, winding road of loneliness, self-doubt, and fear. But it was also a road that brought me to the realization that sometimes when we free ourselves from the constraints we put on ourselves, we find our best selves.
I can't wait to share the cover on Monday with you. I am so thankful and still in total shock that this is all happening and that creepy story that kept me company so many months is going to be in the hands of readers everywhere in November.
Thank you for following me on this journey. Thank you for taking time to believe in a small-town girl with a really big dream. I can never fully express how grateful I am and what it means to me.
And to my husband...I'm glad I creeped you out. Thank you for pushing me to believe in my dreams.
Stay Safe and Be True,