CAUTIONS: MAINSTREAM NOVEL; CONTAINS SEXUAL REFERENCES AND STRONG LANGUAGE
I was asked by Amy Bird to review her new novel, Hide and Seek, because she saw my review of Gone Girl, and read that I love psychological suspense. Both of those reasons for approaching me were very appropriate. Hide and Seek is most definitely psychological suspense at its finest—and comparisons with Gone Girl will be inevitable.
Hide and Seek starts more gently than Gone Girl—not with an apparent kidnapping or crime, but with a mystery. Why does thirty-four-year-old Will look so much like the genius pianist Max Reigate? Why does Will’s mother have Reigate’s CD hidden away in her study? Why is Will so drawn to the music? The mystery does arise at an eventful time in Will and wife Ellie’s life. She has recently lost her parents, and they’re about to become parents themselves. Ellie is six months pregnant at the start of the story. Her pregnancy and her loss actually jumpstart the disturbing events of this story. And what it is to be a parent, to be family—to lose family—are recurring themes.
Unfortunately, one of the reasons for this book’s comparison to Gone Girl will be the unlikableness of the characters in both books. I’m beginning to wonder, though, if that’s almost a prerequisite for the kind of twisty, surprising fiction whose suspense is based on the shocking choices characters make—and the depths they’re willing to plumb to get what they need or want. Generally in a novel, really likeable characters may have terrible things happen to them but they don’t surprise you with their actions.
There are many, many surprising and regrettable choices by a whole host of people in this book, and I think they’re made for a variety of reasons. One of them probably doesn’t even realize what he or she is doing. At least one may be emotionally damaged. One or more think they’re being protective. And that’s one of my favorite things about Hide and Seek or any other suspense novel—complex characters, who keep me guessing not only as to what they’re going to do, but also as to why they’re so motivated.
My guest today on How I First Published is Michelle Dennis Evans, author of powerful inspirational YA fiction. (I know, because I’ve read it. Great stuff!) Her story reminds me so much of my own–except I spent longer drifting in that limbo land of too edgy for Christian publishers and not edgy enough for secular. And I so agree with her about what indie publishing has been like as far as…well, I’ll let Michelle tell you and not give away her whole story here.
What was your first published novel?
Spiralling Out of Control, book 1 in the Spiralling Trilogy. It’s a Realistic Contemporary YA novel.
Was it a traditional publishing contract or did you go indie?
After submitting it for two years to traditional publishers and entering competitions without success I decided to go indie.
How did that come about?
I started getting shortlisted in competitions but not making it through. I was getting revise and resubmit requests and I started getting some great feedback. The feedback was all similar but opposite. A Christian publisher asked if I could make it a little more Christian and another publisher asked if I could take it further in the drug and alcohol scenes. The more feedback I received the more I began to understand that my book simply didn’t fit on a traditional bookshelf. I wasn’t willing to compromise the story or my convictions to make it darker or less real.
How did this make you feel? Has it been as good as you expected, or a letdown, or exhausting, for example?
It was my dream to sign a deal and be traditionally published. I had to come to terms with publishing my own work and have had to learn to back myself. I’m so thankful that the industry has changed and being indie published isn’t what it once was. It’s way better and I do like the control I have over my novels. But I haven’t given up hope of signing a traditional contract. My dream now is to become a hybrid author.
Tell us what’s happened with your writing journey since.
I guess the hard side of being indie published is the time it takes. I was expecting to have my third book in the trilogy out by now but I haven’t quite got it ready. The business side of writing takes up a lot of brain space and time. Now I need to get better at planning where I spend my time.
Michelle Dennis Evans writes picture books, chapter books, young adult contemporary novels and enjoys dabbling in free verse poetry. Her debut novel Spiralling Out of Control and poetry collection Life Inspired both reached #1 in subcategories on Amazon in their first week of release.
Michelle lives with her husband and four children on the Gold Coast of Australia. She believes you can find healing and hope when you read someone else’s story, fiction or truth. Her life is full and at times overflowing but she wouldn’t have it any other way.