Twenty-Seven Minutes: an astonishing crime thriller debut from a brilliant new voice in literary suspense.
I’ve always loved the mechanics of writing; the sentence-crafting, the internal rhythm of it, landing on the perfect word-choice, but at various periods of my life, writing has taken on a much greater significance by becoming a crucial creative outlet. This started when I was young and would fill notebook after notebook with terrible angsty poetry during that horribly confusing and uncomfortable phase of teenage-hood, and more recently in adulthood, as a way to work through some very difficult emotions. (Like many writers of course I have a therapist, but processing hard feelings through a character’s arc in a story is an extremely cathartic experience that I highly recommend.)
In 2018, after a very brief battle with pancreatic cancer, my Mother died at the young age of 67. We were very close and without being hyperbolic, she was the healthiest person I knew; her dying so quickly and in such a painful way was extremely traumatic for my family and left me feeling like the rug had been completely pulled out from under me. This wasn’t supposed to happen! Not to MY Mother! And just like that, in the span of less than 6 weeks, my entire world tilted and completely changed me.
Add to this traumatic life-changing event that as an avid reader I’ve always been drawn to stories that are equally dark and beautiful. For this I blame Maurice Sendak and the impact his books (especially Outside Over There) had on me as an impressionable young girl—through his strange otherworldly stories I was both fascinated and terrified as a child, and they left a lasting impression.
Losing my mother opened my eyes to things that many people already knew to be true, and that is how monstrous and terrifying grief can be. How it can change who you are in an instant, how it can feel like you’re drowning and will never resurface. How it can wait, lurking at any time, any day: “I’m still here,” it whispers, “Always.”
My mother died in late summer and by the winter of that first year, I felt untethered and raw. I’d been fiddling with a story for years that just wasn’t clicking and on the sage advice of my brilliant writing partner, Ashley Audrain, to “try something new, something you really want to write” it felt like maybe it was time to finally use my authentic voice—this may seem like a small thing, but to me it was petrifying. By this point I had written a couple of books that didn’t land anywhere but at the bottom of a deep drawer, so if I really tried and it still didn’t go anywhere, what would that say about me as a hopeful author? Would that dream of someday being published be truly dead? Because if you never truly try you’ll never truly know, and that’s a form of self-preservation—was I ready to really commit, to really peel back the layers and put everything I had into a story, using a voice that I wasn’t sure would be received well?
Needing to start something new, needing to finally try, and desperately needing a creative outlet for my crippling grief became the perfect storm of inspiration and resulted in the first draft of Twenty-Seven Minutes, my debut thriller about the transformative and monstrous nature of grief, set in a small town where secrets that have been long buried are threatening to come to light. Through this story of trauma and long-standing pain (with some twists and turns to keep you guessing, it is a thriller after all), that I’d like to think will be received as being dark with moments of beauty, writing it became not just a catharsis for me but a way to make it back up to the surface during the darkest period of my life.
At the time of this writing, my mother’s been gone for well over five years and things are easier—time does help—but here’s the thing about grief: It doesn’t go away. It might ebb and flow, but it is always there, like a shadow. And I think we get it wrong; it’s not something to “get over” or “beat” but something we have to learn to hold hands with through life.
The support and excitement around this novel and fulfilling my life-long dream of being a published author would have positively thrilled my mother. She would have been so proud of me. It’s hard that this book will exist in the world without her knowing anything about it, but what I find solace in, is knowing that I couldn’t have written it without her. And just like my grief that will never truly go away, she is on every single page and so in that way, she lives on.
(c) Ashley Tate
Author photograph (c) Camilla Pucholt Photography
About Twenty-Seven Minutes:
For the last ten years, the small town of West Wilmer has been struggling to answer one question: on the night of the crash that killed his sister, why did it take Grant Dean twenty-seven minutes to call for help? If he’d called sooner, Phoebe might still be alive.
As the anniversary of Phoebe’s death approaches, Grant is consumed by his memories and the secret that’s been suffocating him for years. But he and Phoebe weren’t the only ones in the car that night. Becca was there too – she’s the only other person who knows what really happened. Or is she?
Everyone remembers Phoebe, but local girl June also lost someone that night. Her brother Wyatt has been missing for ten years and, now that her mother is dead, June has no one left – no family, no friends. Until someone appears at her door. Someone who knows what really happened that night. And they are ready to tell the truth.
With a shocking twist that will leave you breathless, Twenty-Seven Minutes is a gripping story about what happens when grief becomes unbearable, dark secrets are unearthed, and the horrifying truth is revealed.
Order your copy online here.