Slow Burn Inspiration: One of the Good Guys by Araminta Hall

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One of the Good Guys

By Araminta Hall

Author Araminta Hall on the slow burn inspiration behind her timely new thriller, One of the Good Guys.

Writers are often asked where they get their ideas and the answers can be fascinating – an overheard conversation, a newspaper headline, a chance encounter, a painting. Someone once told me they’d come up with a whole novel from seeing a crisp packet with a what looked like a note in it blowing along a street.

One of the Good Guys didn’t have a specific starting point for me. There wasn’t a eureka moment where I saw or read something and found my story. It was more of a slow burn. In fact, in some ways, I feel like I’ve been writing this book for many years. My novels are always concerned with women, how we’re treated, how we’re seen, how we’re heard (or not). Over the years I’ve been influenced by so many things, from infuriating posts on social media, to the way Amanda Knox was treated by the media, to the Trump v Clinton US election. The central theme of my writing has always been a sense of injustice, a feeling that the whole way society views women is going to have to alter for us to experience any real change.

And then #metoo happened and I had a few months of feeling pathetically hopeful. I wondered if maybe we could be entering a new climate, one in which women were listened to and respected and, as a result, life would shift. Of course certain base level changes have happened – no more sexual assault in the work place, coercive control is a recognised offence, rape will probably land you in jail. Except, talk to women about their everyday lives and it doesn’t feel like that much has altered.

We’re still mainly responsible for the domestic sphere, we still statistically earn less, we’re still way more likely to be the victims of all types of abuse, we still have less opportunities, we still fear male violence in many situations. I began to feel depressed by another march where women wore pink hats, or had to listen to another debate about positive discrimination.

As a writer of psychological thrillers I understand that often the most frightening place is inside our own homes and minds. Even when we see a change in laws it takes decades to filter down in to the domestic. Women have spent the whole of history acquiescing to men who, until relatively recently, held all the social, financial and physical power. Our survival was based on being sweet and pleasant and inoffensive. And, as a result, the bar to be a good woman kept on rising ever higher, whereas the bar to be a good man sank further. When Trump was caught on tape saying he liked to assault women it was dismissed as banter, but when Hilary sent an email from the wrong address she might as well have shot someone.

But there’s something in the air right now. A feeling that we’re done playing nice. You only have to watch a little bit of reality TV to see young women refusing to put up with the toxic masculinity that dominated those shows for so long. Metoo might not have fundamentally changed things, but it’s made us angry.

When I started writing One of the Good Guys I kept a little strip of paper pinned above my desk. It read: women have had enough and it made me brave. I didn’t want my book to have any female victims in it, I didn’t want anyone to be saved. But to do this I realised I needed to flip the idea of the thriller on its head.

I love walking and, about a forty minute drive from my home in Brighton, is a wild walk along a cliff path. On the route you pass three ramshackle cottages which sit right on the edge above a high drop in to treacherous seas. Sometimes I would see a woman in one of these cottages and it made me think about what it would be like to live in such an isolated spot. Naturally the first thing I thought about was the night and how scared I would be. But then I thought about what it feels like to walk alone through the darkened streets of a city and doubted I felt any safer. When my agent sent One of the Good Guys out to publishers she started her letter with a line which encapsulates this feeling: if most men claim to be good, then why are most women afraid to walk home alone at night.

It was the perfect way to sell my book because it had been on these walks that I had worked out what I wanted to do with the story. I decided to take the traditional thriller tropes – a woman living alone on the edge of a cliff, two young women vanishing in a seaside town, a new man in the neighbourhood – and flip them on their head. An early review recently said that the book had totally challenged all their expectations and I love that.

This is a book born out of the expectations involved in being a woman versus the expectations we have for ourselves. It’s a book inspired by the feeling that women are done playing nice. We can’t wait around any longer for things to change, we have to be the change. That note I wrote myself which sat above my desk for the two years it took me to write this book still sits at the heart of the story: the women have had enough.

(c) Araminta Hall

About One of the Good Guys:

This is what happens when two women have had enough…

Cole is the perfect husband; a romantic, supportive of his wife’s career, keen to be a hands-on dad, not a big drinker. A good guy.

So when his wife leaves him, he’s floored. She was lucky to be with a man like him.

Craving solitude, he accepts a job on the coast and quickly settles into his new life. Then he meets reclusive artist Lennie. And though she is quite different from the woman he’d expected, he believes he has finally found a soulmate.

But as their relationship develops, two young women go missing while on a walk protesting gendered violence, right by where Cole and Lennie live. Finding themselves at the heart of a police investigation and media frenzy, Cole soon realises they don’t know each other very well at all . . .

If most men say they’re one of the good guys, then why are so many women afraid to walk alone at night?

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Araminta Hall has an MA in creative writing and authorship from the University of Sussex, and teaches creative writing at New Writing South in Brighton, where she lives with her husband and three children.
Her first novel, Everything & Nothing, was published in 2011 and became a Richard & Judy read that year. Her second, Dot, was published in 2013. She is the author of Our Kind of Cruelty, which was named a best book of 2018 by CrimeReads and Real Simple.

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