Periscope Depth

make you work hard, make you spend hard

(Part 1 in a series of posts promoting my new novel)

One of the surest sparks to creativity is to take a familiar situation, reverse some element, and see if you can still make it work.

A few years back, I was reading a lot of thrillers for inspiration – Harlan Coben, Lee Child, Joseph Finder, etc. I’ve always been a sucker for revenge stories, where a man loses everything he loves and goes on a rampage until he drops. The husband who wakes up in the hospital after his wife and son are murdered; a genre cliche. But it works for me almost every time. A revenge flick has to be really bad (Edge of Darkness, the later Steven Seagals) to turn me off. The only good thing about Taken is that Liam Neeson speech from the trailer, and I’ll still sit through the whole thing.

Boring. More knife fights.

I was riding the Red Line home – the moment’s that distinct – when I started turning the notion over in my head. What can we change about that? We can invert the gender (the wife wakes up after her husband has been killed) but there’s no real hook there, aside from the novelty. But what if it’s the same scenario with someone outside of the family avenging the loss? The father? The ex-boyfriend?

What if a man loses his wife and son in a brutal attack, and the first person he sees at his bedside is his mistress? And what if she’s the hero?

His eyes fluttered. They opened once, then a second time. He looked around the room, pupils wide. I didn’t know what his last memory was, but to go from that to a hospital room at night must have thrown him.

I waited a few seconds before speaking. “Daniel,” I said.

He blinked. “Mara.” His voice was hollow through the oxygen mask.

“Danny.” My throat hurt from the effort of holding back tears. [...] He was okay. He would be okay. I could breathe again.

He smiled, curling his fingers into my palm. Then the smile vanished.

“Mara,” he said, “do … do they know?”

I sighed. Of course that’s his first question. “No. They don’t know about us.”

From that seed grew the novel that became Too Close to Miss. Once I had that idea in mind – a woman who was edgy enough to sleep with a married man, but noble enough to avenge the death of his wife – the character grew up from there. I fleshed out my protagonist, Mara Cunningham, by degrees: talks out of turn, can handle herself in a fight, solves puzzles with flashes of insight. I invented the kind of person I needed to tell the story I wanted.

More to come …

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