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.
USA TODAY Bestselling Thriller author with Avon Books (HarperCollins), The Widow Next Door