THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS is a psychological thriller. Thrillers share a characteristic or two with mystery novels; specifically, there’s generally a crime involved. There’s evidence—sometimes hidden, sometimes obvious. There are inference gaps, or gaps in a story the reader must figure out in order to predict the end. There are red herrings, foreshadowing, and suspense. It’s a puzzle, and I love puzzles.
Writing thrillers takes a bit of planning. I know a lot of writers who simply have an idea, sit down, and just start writing, but I’m an outliner. Before I start to write, I have characters fleshed out, chapters blocked, and my research at least partially completed. I’m not saying one method is superior than the other—just that outlining works for me. For starters, it makes the writing go faster . . . and it means less writer’s block. But it also allows me to strategically drop clues, which when you’re writing thrillers or mysteries is really important. Despite the fact that THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS is an adult novel, I mostly write young adult novels. The young adult audience is sophisticated, quick, and smart (as much as adult audiences), so it’s critically important that clues are dropped and suspense is built in an intentional way.
Interestingly, it’s not always apparent whether a writer outlines or wings it when it comes to thrillers and mysteries. I happen to know Gillian Flynn finds it difficult to stick to an outline, for instance, and Gone Girl was the most reviewed book of last year. I’ve heard John Irving’s In One Person described as a psychological thriller, and he very carefully outlines and constructs. So does Kazuo Ishiguro (Never Let Me Go). Ever writer is different. Every piece of writing is different.
I read a lot, and I read a lot of different genres. There are always suspenseful books on my to-be-read list because suspense crosses genres. My favorite psychological thrillers/suspense novels of all time are Turn of the Screw (Henry James), Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (John Berendt), We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Shirley Jackson), and Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking series. All of them make you wonder what’s going on, leave you with a feeling of discomfort in parts, and—at least for me—have me wondering how they were constructed.
What are your favorite thrillers/suspense novels?
Publishers Weekly calls THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS (Bitingduck Press, ISBN 9781938463440) a “skillful mainstream examination of a psychotic woman’s final descent into insanity.” The novel exposes the chaotic inner life of Lela White, a sleep lab technician and mentally ill insomniac who believes she has been tasked with protecting the safety of the revitalized U.S. space shuttle program. She breaks into the homes of astronauts to watch them sleep, and she is prepared to kill to keep those with sleep problems from the shuttle launch. Her delicate grasp on reality becomes more tenuous when annoying co-worker Trina Shook insists on moving into her house and visiting Russian cosmonaut Zory Korchagin inserts himself into Lela’s life. Korchagin’s increasing interest puts her carefully-constructed world at risk of an explosion as surely as he does his own upcoming launch. Lela’s tragic childhood unfolds throughout the novel, revealing the beginnings of her illness and long-buried secrets, and as Lela’s universe unravels, no one is safe. Buy a copy of THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS at your local independent bookshop, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or anywhere books are sold.
THE AUTHOR: Nicole Wolverton fears many things, chief amongst them that something lurks in the dark. From ghosts to stalkers, her adult and young adult fiction plays on the mundane and not-so-mundane things that frighten us all. THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS is her debut novel. She is a freelance writer and editor and lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband, dog, and two cats.
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