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The Sirens of Suspense




Alexandra Monir is an author and a recording artist.  Suspicion is her third novel, following her previous books Timeless and Timekeeper, all published by Delacorte Press.  Alexandra lives in Los Angeles, where she is working on her next novel, blogging for the Huffington Post, and composing an original musical.  Her music is available on iTunes.


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There’s something about opening a favorite book that brings with it a flood of memories—not just the familiar story and characters, but the sights, sounds and smells from where you were when you first discovered it. That’s how I feel about Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. I can turn to any page and suddenly I’m thirteen again, tearing through the book in the sunny living room of my childhood home overlooking the mountains of Mill Valley, with a plate of apricot scones beside me. (The characters seemed to be constantly partaking in tea and scones, so of course I had to join in while reading!) My thirteenth summer was one of my most memorable, in no small part because I discovered Rebecca—and a newfound love of suspense was born.

From Daphne du Maurier, I moved on to the oeuvres of Agatha Christie. Their sweeping settings, from Manderley to the Orient Express, provided the initial spark, and then invariably I would become hooked by the murder mystery or psychological question posed in each story. Hunting through the clues until arriving at the “a-ha!” reveal or twist was the ultimate thrill. And I knew, as I began pursuing writing, that one day I would write a mystery of my own.

Brainstorming ideas, I kept coming back to Rebecca—my love of the story, and how much fun it would be to update the premise for a younger, modern audience. And then new ideas started filling my mind, such as bringing the supernatural into the story, and exploring the intense closeness among childhood friends and what happens to that closeness when we grow up…or when tragedy strikes. The end result is a novel that is not so much a retelling of Rebecca but inspired by it, sharing the central theme of finding your place when you’re thrust into an intimidating new situation.

Of course, writing a YA novel inspired by such a beloved classic is a nerve-wracking proposition! It requires a thick skin when so many people have such strong opinions on the work you’re drawing from. Some will say you’re diverting too wildly from the original, while others will say you’re sticking too close to it. But ultimately, what I’ve realized is that I wrote Suspicion for the young reader I was and still am: a fan of gothic mysteries who wanted more. As a writer, that’s really all you can do—write the story you want to tell, the kind of book you would like to read, and your readers will find you.

Even more than falling in love with their stories, the most important discovery I took from reading Daphne du Maurier and Agatha Christie was the realization that mystery and suspense novels weren’t simply the domain of male authors. After all, you hear the stereotypes growing up: “Women write romance, men write action and thrillers.” It was incredibly meaningful for me to see that stereotype turned on its head, to know that just because I’m what you might call a “girly girl” didn’t mean I couldn’t still write the kind of gripping, action-packed mysteries often ascribed to men.

It’s been exciting to see the influence of these game-changing authors live on in the brilliant female mystery novelists of today, from Gillian Flynn to Tana French and We Were Liars’ E. Lockhart. They inspire me just as Daphne du Maurier and Agatha Christie did. It’s that inspiration, the joy of a great story, and the awe of discovering a well-crafted mystery that keeps me energized and eager to get back to work every day. And maybe that’s the best thing about reading: it makes you believe any dream is within reach, even if it’s as high a goal as following in the footsteps of your literary heroes.



WHO ARE YOUR LITERARY HEROES? Tell us by commenting on the blog below or on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a a copy of SUSPICION! (U.S. only please.)



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