Today as part of Kate Moretti’s The Vanishing Year blog tour, author Kate Moretti talks about The Thrill of Domestic Suspense.
When I started writing suspense, I realized I was more attracted to the kind of drama that occurs inside your own home. For a while, I thought this was maybe just called family drama, but I’d had a hard time finding books that fit this narrow-seeming genre. A handful of Dean Koontz, some romantic suspense authors like Lisa Gardner, JD Robb, Karen Robards were selling by the zillions but their books were more about sexual tension and life and death.
Then GONE GIRL happened.
I read Gone Girl, and like most of America went whoa. It’s not that the genre had never been done, it’s not even that the idea of a missing woman was even all that revolutionary. Gone Girl did three things to really make the book community sit up straight. 1. It was incredibly well-written, and the social commentary was excoriating. Brutal and accurate, as evidenced by the controversial Cool Girl passage. 2. It brought the danger inside the house. With only one live POV and a diary, we got a very skewed version of what the Dunne’s marriage was like. This kind of dichotomy was compelling and suspenseful. 3. It turned the damsel in distress on its head. This accounts for at least 50% of the success of this book, in my mind. Not that no book has ever tried to have a female villain, but very few have done it so brilliantly and coldly.
In 2011, I started writing a book called Binds That Tie, which is a couple in a trouble marriage that accidentally kill a man and instead of calling the police, they bury the body. It was alternative point of view, and a few people told me, “you can’t write women’s fiction from a man’s point of view”. So I doubted what I was writing was women’s fiction. But I didn’t have a name for it.
Now, in 2016, the market is exploding with the kind of books that I adore. Deeper psychological implications, untrustworthy narrators, plot twists, and creative structure (think All the Missing Girls, by Megan Miranda). I read a glut of books this summer, from Emma Cline’s The Girls, to Lisa Jewell’s The Girls in the Garden, The Widow, by Fiona Barton, Pretty Girls, by Karin Slaughter, and the upcoming The Marriage Lie, by Kimberly Belle. All of these books had a single thread in common: they focused on the dangers in our own ordinary lives, our own neighborhoods, and in many cases, our own homes. For me, this kind of story ups the ante: the suspense feels immediate and very personal.
Sarah Weinman calls these stories Domestic Suspense. I don’t know if she coined the term necessarily, but she’s certainly had a hand in re-popularizing it. I’ve tried to figure out why we, mostly as women, seem so drawn to this genre. I think we’re drawn to this idea that we could be our own protagonist. We’re not FBI agents or homicide detectives (although some are, I’m sure!), we’re not in Witness protection, we’re just ordinary women. We have kids and families and PTA meetings and carpool and girls nights out and bachelorette parties.
The appeal isn’t the external threat of danger. These gripping, fantastical stories could happen to us. And that’s the thrill of it.
More information about the author and her website can be found here. You can also find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @KateMoretti1
The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti is published on 27th September by Titan Books
Zoe Whittaker is living a charmed life. She is the beautiful young wife to handsome, charming Wall Street tycoon Henry Whittaker. She is a member of Manhattan’s social elite. She is on the board of one of the city’s most prestigious philanthropic organizations. She has a perfect Tribeca penthouse in the city and a gorgeous lake house in the country. The finest wine, the most up-to-date fashion, and the most luxurious vacations are all at her fingertips. What no one knows is that five years ago, Zoe’s life was in danger. Back then, Zoe wasn’t Zoe at all. Now her secrets are coming back to haunt her. As the past and present collide, Zoe must decide who she can trust before she—whoever she is—vanishes completely.