Meet the romantic fictional novelists who went on to scary thrillers


The THRILLERS remain among the most popular genres in the book world – and a handful of famous female fiction writers have risked a lot to pursue their dreams of writing a murder mystery, psychological thriller, or domestic noir.

Mid-career bestselling authors, whose tales of love, loss, romance and emotional heartbreak had already sold in the millions, risked alienating their loyal readers to write dark and sinister stories about sinister events.

Here, five great novelists who have gone to thriller writing explain the reasons for their decision …

LISA JEWELL: I wanted to ignore the legacy of the ‘lit chick’

Jewell has written female fiction for over a decade, featuring romance, comedy, and contemporary relationships in books such as Ralph’s Party and Thirtynothing. Yet in recent years, she has turned to dark psychological thrillers that have also become bestsellers, most notably The Family Upstairs and her most recent, Invisible Girl.

She had wanted to incorporate darker themes into her female fiction for quite some time, she recalls. “I had wanted my first book, Ralph’s Party, to be a lot darker than it was, but the reader I had when I wrote it was very encouraging, which led my characters to move on. a good moment.

“I started trying to feed the darker sides of the other romantic comedies I wrote. They came out at a time when the lit chick was the thing and they were marketed very much as light romantic comedies when in fact there are some really dark things going on in them – abortion, obsession. , stalking, death and suicide.

Still, its readership had peaked by this point, Jewell says. “There was that horrible shadow behind ‘Lisa Jewell chick lit’ that was really hard to shake. Some people had grown out of lit chick and didn’t read me because they thought I wrote lit chick. It was a legacy I really should ignore.

Switching to thriller writing was not a conscious decision. The real change happened by chance while writing The Third Wife, released in 2014, which it intended to be a family drama but ended up being more of a mystery. “It was organized around the themes of a man who has been married several times and the impact that has on the dynamic with his older children, young children, ex-wives and new wife, and to halfway, I realized I was bored with him.

“So I added a prologue where his third wife is thrown under the wheels of a night bus on Charing Cross Road and then had to rework the narrative.” She received positive feedback and reflected, “Once you’ve killed someone, you can’t take a step back. You have crossed the Rubicon.

:: Jewell’s latest thriller, The Night She Disappeared, is released on July 22 (Century, £ 14.99).

TONY PARSONS: I took a huge financial bet

It was a conversation with director Sam Mendes, at a film screening in 2010, about their love for Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels that sparked Tony Parsons’ desire to write a detective novel, he remembers. Still, it was a huge financial risk, says the novelist, who has achieved runaway success with his novel Man And Boy and other stories of love, loss and relationships.

“When you’re known for something else, crossing the ground is neither simple nor straightforward. Man And Boy was a book that has sold millions of times and clearly sets some expectations with the industry, the readers, and yourself. Changing your gender is not something that can be done lightly or easily.

“I discussed this with my agent and he said, ‘It means going back to the beginning.’ He meant I had to prove myself – write the thriller without a contract, find a publisher passionate about it, prove that I could do it. Challenge expectations. The world loves to put us all in our little box.

“It meant cashing in my savings – just under £ 200,000 – and living on it for two years while I wrote The Murder Bag, the first book in the Max Wolfe series.

“But it paid off – The Murder Bag sold out in 24 hours, went to number one, the first Sunday Times number one I had in 10 years.

“My most recent thriller, a standalone psychological thriller called Your Neighbor’s Wife, is the most successful thing I’ve done in 10 years. Are they better? I think so, because you become a better writer as you get older. “

:: Your Neighbor’s Wife by Tony Parsons is out now (Century, £ 12.99).

PAULA HAWKINS: I’m not romantic and I’m not that funny

Paula Hawkins found fame with The Girl On The Train, which was made into a blockbuster movie starring Emily Blunt. But she had spent years writing romantic novels before turning to thrillers.

“I started to write fiction in a bit of a strange way, in that I was commissioned to write a romantic comedy: the editors gave me an idea and a general overview and I filled in the rest. I went on to write three more romantic novels under the same pseudonym, but I never really felt at home in the genre.

“I’m not romantic and I’m not that funny… The novels were getting darker and darker and it became clear to me that what I really wanted to do was write crimes. As soon as I started writing The Girl On The Train, it became clear to me that I had found my niche; I felt much more comfortable with murder than with love.

:: Hawkins’ new novel, A Slow Fire Burning, will be released on August 31 (Doubleday, £ 20).

ADELE PARKS: I love looking at a different dark belly of the world

The covers of Adele Park’s previous books, including her first, Playing Away, featured pale pink or purple backgrounds, often with a sexy pair of legs in stilettos in the front. And now she’s become a domestic noir star, with her thrillers often in the top 10 bestsellers.

She says that her thrillers were more successful than her romantic fiction, that her previous readers stuck with her and that she opened her market to men, and that the American market was bigger.

“I love the fun of playing with villains and girls, and enjoying the opportunity to look at a dark belly that’s very different from the world I didn’t have access to when I was writing novels,” she says.

She had already taken a hiatus from romantic fiction to write two historical novels before turning to thriller writing. “I became less interested in pinning my books around romance.”

She intends to continue with thrillers for the foreseeable future. “I just love the twists and the revelations and the intellectual play that you can have in a thriller.”

:: Parks Both Of You new novel released on May 27 (Headquarters, £ 14.99)

JOANNE HARRIS: I never thought of it as a transition

Over 20 years ago, Joanne Harris first came to prominence with Chocolat, her fascinating tale of the enigmatic chocolate maker Vianne Rocher, turned into a film starring Juliette Binoche and Alfred Molina.

She’s since written a number of psychological thrillers, but says it wasn’t much of a transition for her. “I realized that my readers fall into separate categories. Some will only read thrillers, some will only read Chocolate books, some will only read fantasy books.

Indeed, his books are very varied and cover aspects of magical realism, suspense, historical fiction, mythology and fantasy. There is no rating for this author.

:: His new thriller, A Narrow Door, is released on August 4 (Orion, £ 20).


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