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,
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.