L.A. Detwiler - An Eerie Psychological Thriller About the Darkness that Lurks in Everyone
L.A. Detwiler is the USA TODAY Bestselling author of The Widow Next Door and a high school English teacher from Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. During her final year at Mount Aloysius College, she started writing her first fiction novel, which was published in 2015. She has also written articles that have appeared in several women's publications and websites. L.A. Detwiler lives in her hometown with her husband, Chad. They have five cats and a mastiff named Henry. As our Author of the Day, Detwiler tells us all about The Widow Next Door
Please give us a short introduction to what The Widow Next Door is about.
The Widow Next Door is an eerie psychological thriller about the darkness that lurks in everyone. Jane and Alex Clarke move into what they imagine to be their dream home. At first, the elderly widow next door seems to be a sweet lady who enjoys their company. As the tale unfolds, however, the reader and Jane come to realize that everyone has dark secrets, and the widow is no exception.
What inspired you to write about newlyweds who move into an idyllic house?
Really, it was the widow who inspired me to write this book. She was the character that really intrigued me and haunted me. I thought about the concept of an elderly woman staring out her window, watching the neighbors’ lives unfold. I think so many can relate to having an elderly neighbor nearby who watches out for them and keeps tabs on their life in a harmless way. I thought there was the potential for a creepy storyline there.
It also made me think about how from the outside, everyone’s life and relationship seems perfect—even when it isn’t.
Tell us more about Alex and Jane. What makes them tick?
Alex and Jane are the seemingly perfect couple to the outside world. Even the widow believes from the very beginning their love story is innocent and sweet. However, Jane and Alex, like the widow, harbor their own secrets. That’s a big part of what this book is about—the idea that no one is perfect and everyone has dark regrets that the world typically isn’t privy to.
Why are people that we would normally consider harmless (like children and the elderly) often so creepy in thrillers?
I just think it’s that we underestimate certain age groups and believe in their innocence wholeheartedly. The widow reminds us that you never know what’s lurking behind the seemingly sweet smile or voice.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
As a child, I spent a lot of time writing stories and poems. I didn’t get serious about being a writer, though, until college. I took a class called “The Literature of Health & Healing.” The class was all about following your dreams and not knowing how much time you have to do so. It inspired me to follow my biggest dream—writing a book. At the time, I never expected that first book, Voice of Innocence, to really go anywhere. It’s been a surreal journey for the past four years.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
It’s not really a secret skill, but I am a teacher by day. I teach high school English.
How do you balance all of the demands of a successful writing career (writing, appearances, etc.) and the myriad personal life demands?
It’s a struggle, but I have a really solid support system in my husband, Chad. He really helps me keep my focus, stay calm, and stay confident that I can juggle it all. And when I really struggle, he helps me pick up the slack wherever I need help. I couldn’t do it all without him.
Which of your characters has been the most challenging to write for?
The widow was a challenging write for me because it was my first book in the thriller genre. It was really just a confidence issue—I had to fight through a lot of self-doubt. However, her story truly wouldn’t stop plaguing me, and I felt the need to tell it.
Writing a thriller from her point-of-view was difficult at times, however. It was challenging in the sense that I was really limited to one main location. I always love writing books that play with perspective and setting, however, so I really enjoyed it.
What did you have the most fun with when writing The Widow Next Door?
I really enjoyed the fact that I could let my dark imagination run wild. I started in the publishing field in romance, where there are a lot of rules and equations you have to follow. I loved that in the thriller genre, I could really be dark and sinister in my words and plot. I loved that so much.
Readers say this book was hard to put down. How did you manage to keep the pace throughout the book?
When I’m writing, I always focus on climbing inside the character’s head and seeing the story from their point of view. I think that really helps me bring the deep emotion to my books while also keeping the story engaging. My amazing editor at Avon Books also really helped me get the pacing of the story just right.
Did you work out the entire plot of your book before you started to write?
I had major plot line events mapped out, but a lot of the time, I let the characters take the story where they will.
Talk to us about your writing routine; what’s a typical writing day for you?
Because of my day job, I don’t have a typical writing day. I fit in writing whenever I can, so I do a lot of writing in the evenings. I also write a lot over the summer months when school is out. I don’t have any fancy or fun writing practices. I like quiet, I like coffee, and I like a cat or two on the sofa beside me while I write.
What are you working on right now?
I just submitted the first round of edits for my next book, The Home, releasing this September with Avon Books. Once I’m finished with all of the editing on that book, I’ll be working on another domestic thriller.