The stupendously successful thriller writer Harlan Coben once told me that he thought doing research for a book was often a form of procrastination. I’m sure that’s true in certain instances because writing is hard, and sometimes you’ll do anything in the world to avoid popping open that laptop.
But I find a certain amount of research essential for a book. It not only allows you to get your facts right, it also generates wonderful ideas for plot points.
For my new psychological thriller, The Secrets You Keep (coming out March 21, just days away!), part of my research entailed making two separate trips to Saratoga, New York, because I was setting the entire book there. It was some of the most fun research I’ve ever done. And yet one night something totally weird (and almost creepy!) happened to me, unlike anything that had occurred over the course of writing eleven mysteries and thrillers.
Let me back up for a second. I actually grew up about twenty minutes north of Saratoga in Glens Falls, New York, so I was already pretty familiar with the area. It gets really cold up there in winter, but summer and fall are lovely. Saratoga itself is a fabulously charming town, and I stayed at a gorgeous little hotel called the Saratoga Arms. My friend Maureen, who lives in town, graciously escorted me around several locations that I ended up putting in the book, and my brother Rick played chauffer for the second trip.
Overall The Secrets You Keep seemed to be coming together well, except for one thing. There was an important female character I was having a hard time getting a handle on. I had a rough idea of what she looked like and how she presented herself, but she wasn’t fully formed yet, and I was making no progress on her.
Okay, so here’s the weird part. One night while in town, I dropped by Northshire Books to discuss doing a talk there when the book came out, and when I turned around, that female character was standing right in front of me. My jaw nearly hit the floor. It was like I’d totally conjured her up.
I trailed the woman around the store for a little bit, taking notes in my head, but I sensed she noticed and was starting to think I was some kind of stalker. I left the store and headed up the street to have a Caesar salad at the bar of a restaurant, still floored by the experience.
And guess what? The woman walked in with a friend a few minutes later and sat across the bar from me. Maybe I really had conjured her up and she was at my beck and call.
For the next hour I got to study her, take notes, snap a few shots with my phone. I’m sure if she ever reads the book she won’t recognize herself, but I’m eternally grateful to have encountered her. I completely knew the character after that. Creepy, yes, but also one of the most magical things that had ever happened to me as an author.
I’m so excited about The Secrets You Keep , which plunges successful non-fiction author Bryn Harper into a frightening vortex that has her asking herself, “Do I really know my husband?” Just after they move into together in a lovely old home in Saratoga, after the stress of a computer marriage, Guy’s behavior turns strange. The odd woman who caters a business dinner in their new home turns up brutally murdered, and Bryn is haunted by smoke-filled nightmares. She knows instinctively her subconscious is trying to tell her something—and then another woman is murdered. She can’t help but wonder, could Guy possibly be involved? Bryn frantically searches for answers, fearing she might be the next to die.
Win This Fabulous Tiffany Prize: as the grand prize in my monthly website contest I’m giving away the lovely Tiffany candlesticks Bryn places on the table to create an intimate ambiance when Bryn and Guy host that business dinner in the opening pages of The Secrets You Keep. Enter the contest today!
If you pre-order THE SECRETS YOU KEEP in any format before March 21, 2017, HarperCollins will send you an exclusive excerpt of my October Bailey Weggins mystery! To get your sneak peek at what case Kate’s gutsy crime writer will be working to crack next, email your proof of purchase to firstname.lastname@example.org by March 20, 2017, and they will email you that first chapter!
I’m launching my tour to promote The Secrets You Keep at the lovely Corner Bookstore in New York City on March 21! For those of you who live nearby or close to Madison, CT, Orlando, Tampa, Dallas or Richmond, Virginia, where I’ll also be speaking and signing, come join me for a fun time! I’d love to meet you!