Starting Over, Changing Genres: The Patient by Teri Terry | Magazine | Crime | Interviews
The Patient

By Teri Terry

Author Teri Terry on consciously making the switch from YA to adult fiction.

Like so many people, things changed over lockdown in 2020. I had the time to stop and think about what I was doing, and why – in a way that doesn’t always happen in a busy life. It set me on an uncertain road, but finally resulted in the publication of psychological thriller The Patient by Bookouture, with another to follow in June.

I’ve been writing since I was a teenager but started to take it seriously around the time I moved to the UK and got married, almost twenty years ago – the source of my hard-to-forget name. Early on I had a strong affinity to writing for young people and tried all kinds of age groups and types of stories. It brought back my first love of reading as a child – when the magic between the covers of a book was new and exciting. After years of writing and rejection, success came for me in young adult fiction. Slated was published in 2012, the first in a dystopian trilogy. My latest, a ghost story called Scare Me, was my fourteenth, all published by Hachette imprints. My books have done well with awards and translation deals. But as much as I love writing for young people – and it is an absolute privilege to do so – there was an itch to try something new.

With school events, book fairs and festivals cancelled most of 2020 and 2021, I had time on my hands. Making a leap from young adult to adult fiction isn’t a genre as such – it’s much more. I was nervous. Could I do this? I wasn’t sure. Should I take the time to try it when there was no guarantee of success? I wasn’t sure about that, either. But I decided I had to try.

I started by coming up with multiple story ideas for adult fiction in a variety of genres, some of which I wrote anywhere from a few chapters up to over twenty thousand words. Originally the idea behind The Patient was more to do with a serial killer, but somewhere along the way I was gripped by the character the title refers to – Saphy. Saphy had a congenital heart problem that was worsened by Covid, and her only chance to live was a heart transplant. What would it be like to have that pronouncement? To know it was unlikely a match would ever be found? And then when a suitable heart became available, to face the surgery? She had a second chance at life. But a second chance to die came along with it.

In consciously making the switch from YA to adult fiction, I focused mostly on what I love to read – psychological thrillers, crime fiction, thrillers. These need high stakes, exciting plots. To begin with, I was focused on coming up with hooks and plots, and I was losing my way. With The Patient and Saphy I finally realised that the reason I was struggling to settle on one story to tell was because I was so focused on plot that the characters weren’t in focus. Once I had Saphy, I had my story.

So, although I’ve been published for over a decade, I still had things to learn. Or maybe I should say, re-learn? I’ve always known getting into a character’s head is the most important part of my YA writing, so why would it be any different for adult?

Overall, something that seemed unimaginably different came down to the same elements: characters I love that readers can relate to. Plot comes from character, not the other way around.

I’m really glad I took the leap to try something new, with all the ups and down that came along with it. The Patient was the result. Saphy is the patient referenced in the title: she had a congenital heart defect that was worsened by Covid. Her only chance was a heart transplant. Flora was strangled, left in a coma and ultimately became an organ donor: she died and, with Flora’s heart, Saphy had a second chance at life. Saphy becomes obsessed with her donor, but she’s not the only one. A second chance at life; a second chance to die…

(c) Teri Terry

About The Patient:
The Patient

I feel the steady thump of my new heart beating inside me. The surgeon said everything went well. But I can’t stop thinking about my donor: the girl who was killed. Her death saved my life. But now whoever took hers is coming for mine…

I can’t believe it when I learn my donor’s identity. The attack on Flora was all over the news. From my hospital bed I read every article, obsess over every word and soon I feel like I know her: the beautiful girl with flame-coloured hair, adored by everyone around her. Why would anyone hurt someone so perfect?

When Flora’s family reach out to me, I’m unsure. My hands are shaking as I arrive at their grand mansion with its golden stone and sprawling gardens, but they’re warm and welcoming, tears shining in her mother’s eyes as she smiles at me.

She even tells me to take anything I want from Flora’s things, as she can’t bear to go through them herself. I run my fingers over the racks of beautiful designer items, carefully choosing outfits in Flora’s signature yellow, the bright colour complementing the new flush in my cheeks. I think of the years I’ve wasted being ill, and the crushing loneliness I thought would never end. I deserve this.

But then there’s a violent attack on another patient who received one of Flora’s organs. My heart – Flora’s heart – races dangerously fast. Is it a coincidence?

Maybe I’ve made a mistake by stepping into Flora’s life. Has this second chance really saved me? Or has it cost me everything?

A totally gripping psychological thriller that will keep you turning the pages late into the night. If you loved The Silent Patient, The Housemaid and The Doctor’s Wife, you won’t want to miss this.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Teri Terry is an award-winning, internationally bestselling author of thrillers for young adults and adults. She has lived in France, Canada, Australia and England at more addresses than she can count, acquiring four degrees, a selection of passports and an unforgettable name along the way. Before writing full time, Teri has been a scientist, a lawyer, an optometrist, and worked in schools, libraries and for a charity. She now calls a village in Buckinghamshire home, where she lives with her husband and Scooby, a very cute and naughty cockapoo.

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