If you’re reading this, you’re probably an author. Consider for a moment then, your first novel. Now think of your current work in progress. Are they peas in a pod – or a chasm apart? If it’s the latter, have you dared to switch genre or maybe you’re planning to next time around?
It is in this zone that I find myself today.
A late bloomer, I began scribbling fiction in my early fifties following several terms in an inspiring creative writing class. I had no idea what I wanted to write about, only that telling stories and creating characters gave me the biggest buzz I had felt in years.
My debut novel, Seeking Eden, gushed into the world like an overdue baby, its gestation barely two years from penning my first line in class, to getting published by the small but cool Urbane Publications. Words flew from the keys, tumbling over themselves in their haste to tell the story of a group of dysfunctional misfits living in Eden Hill, a suburban English housing estate.
I wrote what I knew and from the heart and it showed. The book wasn’t a bestseller, but the reviews were affectionate, consistent and with a recurring theme: that Seeking Eden was relatable and authentic. So I sat down and wrote the sequel, Eden Interrupted, which took longer and felt harder, because now there was an expectation. Both Eden books sit squarely in the genre of Women’s Fiction and it felt like a good footing for a rookie author. But by Book Three, I was itching to write the kind of novel I read: a psychological thriller. Could I make the leap? Did I have what it takes to move away from character-led slice of life family drama, to carefully plotted twisty tales of mystery and suspense?
Diving straight in, I took a year to write The Godson, a story about three women who escape to Tuscany for the summer, only to find that their dream holiday becomes a nightmare – thanks to a bad case of identity theft. I held my breath, sent out a handful of submissions and waited. How would my first attempt at suspense be received? Had I written a worthy contender or something that was eye-rollingly inept – or worse, laughable?
Three weeks after hitting send, I was surprised and delighted to get a phone call from a commissioning editor at Bookouture. Within a few weeks, I had signed a two-book deal, and nine months later, my Tuscan adventure was published as The Perfect Liar.
Yay, go me! I had crossed the bridge between women’s fiction writer and psychological thriller author. Or had I?
The book sold well, but reviews were mixed. Readers’ feedback pointed to a hybrid, claiming that although they’d enjoyed the novel and had been shocked by the twists, the camaraderie of the three women and their tight, impenetrable friendship, not to mention the glamour of the locations, created a buffer zone against the threat and danger of the plot. In other words, a great read, but not scary enough. A good first foray into suspense, but I needed to go deeper, darker.
And so I wrote Close My Eyes, which is as dark as it is terrifying. Set in south-east London, it follows the day to day lives of Beth and Gemma, women connected by friendship, secrets and fear, and written (I hope) with the same degree of realism that characterises my earlier work. But this time, there is no set dressing, no distraction from the book’s themes of memory loss, abuse and gaslighting – as well as the killer twist ending so beloved of this genre.
This was the hardest book to write of the four, taking its toll on my mood as I immersed myself in Beth and Gemma’s worlds. As Close My Eyes launches, I can only speculate as to whether I have pulled it off. Have I done enough to move away from relationship dilemmas, creating instead a sense of threat and danger for my characters, and will readers care what happens to them?
Early pre-publication reviews have been promising, but there are no guarantees – and if there were, life would be greyer for it. Am I done with women’s fiction? Possibly not. After living in the dark during 2020, I may yet return to the blue skies of Eden Hill.
(c) Beverley Harvey
About Close My Eyes:
It starts with a chance sighting: a face from her past, someone Beth hasn’t thought about for years. Suddenly she feels a terrifying wave of panic – the flash of a memory, of crushing weight and pain, and the flicker of firelight and smoke. Something in Beth’s past has been disturbed… And nothing will ever be the same again.
You’ve started to remember…
Beth never had any reason to doubt her peaceful, happy upbringing. Then she suddenly starts getting awful flashes of an event from her past – a vicious attack from an unknown person. And she thinks it could be more than just a nightmare. But how could she forget something this big?
Someone wants you to forget…
With no husband or boyfriend to turn to, she asks her trusted family and old friends for reassurance, only to hear that it must all be in her head. Meanwhile, the flashes get stronger, more frightening, and more details start to come back to her – details she knows she couldn’t have invented. But these are people who have known her all her life and have her best interests at heart. Who should she believe?
What will you risk to discover the truth?
Beth is determined to understand the meaning of these memories even if it means going it alone. But is she prepared for what she will find? Because the truth will ruin someone’s life – and they will stop at nothing to keep the past forgotten.
A heart-stopping psychological suspense novel that asks: who would you trust the most? Your friends? Your family? Or your own mind? Fans of T.M. Logan, Claire McGowan and Lisa Jewell will be gripped by Close My Eyes.
Order your copy online here.