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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Blog Tour: Beautiful Lies: How to Write a Psychological Thriller for YA

"Rachel and Alice are an extremely rare kind of identical twins—so identical that even their aunt and uncle, whom they’ve lived with since their parents passed away, can’t tell them apart. But the sisters are connected in a way that goes well beyond their surfaces: when one experiences pain, the other exhibits the exact same signs of distress. So when one twin mysteriously disappears, the other immediately knows something is wrong—especially when she starts experiencing serious physical traumas, despite the fact that nobody has touched her. As the search commences to find her sister, the twin left behind must rely on their intense bond to uncover the truth. But is there anyone around her she can trust, when everyone could be a suspect? And ultimately, can she even trust herself? Master storyteller Jessica Warman will keep readers guessing when everything they see—and everything they are told—suddenly becomes unreliable in this page-turning literary thriller."

Where to buy the book:

Where to find Jessica Warman

I tend to struggle with instructional, “how-to” pieces because, for me, writing has always been pretty intuitive.  At least, that’s what I like to tell myself.  But upon closer examination, I think the truth is that writing a good novel – whatever the genre – is maybe 10% intuition at most.  Sure, a writer might have a natural ability to create a compelling narrative, but there’s so much more to storytelling than simply being good with words.  When I started writing “Beautiful Lies,” I knew I wanted to write a psychological thriller.  I felt like I had a good handle on how to do it.  But it’s not because I have an inherent gift that makes everything easier; it’s because I’ve been practicing my whole life – I just didn’t realize it. 

As a young teenager, I read “The Silence of the Lambs” over and over again.  I think I was 12 or 13 the first time I picked up the book (what were my parents thinking?!), and to this day I can’t think of any fictional character as frightening to me as Hannibal Lechter.  As I got older, I became fascinated with serial killers.  Real ones.  My eighth-grade science fair project was an analysis of the most prominent demographic trends among all known US serial killers active within the past fifty years.  (I didn’t win - not because my research wasn’t sound (although it totally wasn’t) – but because the judges thought my project was weird and creepy (it was).

To me, this fascination is self-explanatory.  I’ve never understood how anybody can lose sleep over a zombie movie or vampire book.  Everybody knows that zombies and vampires aren’t real, so why should I be afraid of something that can’t possibly hurt me?  I’m far more frightened by the monsters that actually exist – the ones who hide in plain sight, effortlessly blending in with the rest of society because, on the surface, they look just like everyone else. 

Now and then, one of my well-meaning friends or family members will say to me, “You should write a book about vampires!  Isn’t everyone into vampires right now?”  In response, I’m always so tempted to smack myself on the forehead and exclaim, “Wow, thanks for the suggestion!  I had no idea vampires were so popular – I’ll get to work on that right away!”  Because here’s the thing: I’m never going to write a vampire book.  Not because I don’t want to make buckets of money, but because vampires don’t scare me.  And if they don’t scare me, then how could I possibly expect to scare readers with whatever I might come up with?  It wouldn’t work.

I guess my point is that I can’t explain exactly how to write a psychological thriller for YA, because for me it was never a question of “how?”  It wasn’t really a question at all – it was just the natural thing to do.  Readers are smart; they can tell when they’re being pandered to.  I want to write books that are compelling and interesting, and the best way I know how to do that is to work with subjects that compel and interest me.  Otherwise, I’m just trying to fool people. 

Thanks so much for being here today Ms. Warman!

Happy Reading!


  1. I love psychological thrillers! I hadn't heard of this one before I'll have to be on the lookout for it. Great post!

  2. Oh this has me curious. I love psychological thrillers. And in my experience it wasn't the movie itself that kept me up, but my imagination after! :)

  3. I haven't read a lot of psychological thrillers, but I like them more than pure horror. And I love how you wondered what your parents were thinking of letting you read Silence of the Lambs at 12 or 13. I look back at some of the stuff I read and wonder what my parents thought too. Like reading Judy Blume's Forever and other teen books at 9. But all the sexual stuff went right over my head at that age, so my mother wasn't concerned.

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