Meet Valerie Joan Connors.
Valerie Joan Connors is the author of four novels, A Better Truth (Deeds Publishing, 2016), A Promise Made (Deeds Publishing, 2015), Shadow of a Smile (Deeds Publishing, 2014) and In Her Keeping (Bell Bridge Books, 2013).
The child of an artist and a musician, Valerie was born in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan a long time ago. Her family moved her out west, where she spent her formative years in Eugene, Oregon. Then she bounced up and down the west coast, spending time in San Diego, Seattle, and Portland, before her job as a software consultant brought her to Atlanta in 1996, the same day as the Olympic torch.
Valerie credits her association with the Atlanta Writers Club for the fact that her four novels were both written and published. She has served on the AWC Board since 2011 in nearly every capacity, including as AWC President from 2013 to 2015. She continues to serve as the VP of Programming and Officer Emerita.
During business hours, Valerie is the CFO of an engineering firm. She is a dog person, and supports lion, tiger, and elephant conservation efforts, and hopes to raise awareness through her writing. Valerie lives in Atlanta with her husband and two rescue dogs, and is working on her next novel.
Find out more about Valerie and her books on her website: http://www.valeriejoanconnors.com
Guest Post – The Thrill of the Psychological Thriller
These days, inspiration for your next thriller is all around you. After just fifteen minutes browsing my Facebook feed I came up with a dozen ideas for stories that could scare the pants off of people. The political stories alone were enough to scare me. Megalomaniacs, terrorists, missing children, unsolved murders, a serial killer on the loose in some city. Maybe your city.
It seems that people love to be scared, though the answer as to why we do is better left to the psychiatrists. However, the proof that we do is in the numbers. Stephen King has sold approximately three hundred and fifty million books, according to Google. That’s one book for every man, woman, and child currently living in the United States. As for me, I have read all of his books. The popularity of the genre is reflected in its many sub-categories, including but not limited to legal thrillers, medical thrillers, crime thrillers, political thrillers, techno-thrillers, and my personal favorite, the psychological thriller.
If you think about it, the very nature of fear has its roots in our imagination. We may look at a situation and imagine possibilities that are much worse than is strictly realistic or likely to occur. It follows that the scariest of thrillers would be the ones whose protagonists suffer with a touch of madness. Their twisted ideas and distortions get inside the reader’s head and can’t get out. It wakes us up at night, or sneaks into our thoughts when we’re home alone. But still, we can’t wait to pick up the next new thriller and find some other scary thoughts to harbor in the dark.
So what makes a good psychological thriller? There are many elements, of course, but here are a few of my favorites. When the main character is a little bit off their nut, so to speak, the reader is automatically put on edge with the feeling that things may not actually be the way they seem. It’s the unreliability of the narrator that makes us not trust in the words he or she is saying. We ask ourselves, just exactly how crazy is this person?
The setting is also important in a psychological thriller. The darker, gloomier, and more claustrophobic, the better. An interaction between our protagonist and the story’s villain that takes place in the middle of a crowded restaurant, would be much more threatening if it took place in an isolated location with no one around to hear her screams for help…
In psychological thrillers, the characters don’t rely on their physical strength to defeat their enemies. They depend on their mental resources instead. Sometimes the enemies are internal, like phobias, insanity, paranoia, and a crumbling sense of reality. And sometimes these demons are so powerful that we begin to wonder if our protagonist will prevail in the end. So we bite our nails as we watch her begin to lose her grip, wondering how much more she can handle. Our antagonist will use deception, manipulation, and mind games to push her to the brink, and maybe beyond.
Willow St. Claire, the protagonist in my psychological thriller, A Better Truth, has a difficult time recognizing the difference between reality and hallucination, nightmare and memory. There’s something in her past she’s trying very hard to forget. When you add these complications to a character’s life, it gives the writer all sorts of new opportunities for creating tension and suspense. That’s the goal, after all.
Of my four published novels, A Better Truth was the most fun to write. I’ve always loved reading reading thrillers, in many of the sub-genres, but now I’m hooked on writing them too.