Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I’m Always Asking, Why?

Today I would like to welcome Cathryn Grant, author of The Demise Of the Soccer Moms, to My Friends Call Me Kate.  Cathryn has been gracious enough to stop by and share with us her thoughts on why she enjoys writing about psychological suspense.  Cathryn has also been kind enough to pass along a signed copy of The Demise Of The Soccer Moms for one person that leaves a comment today. (Winner will be chosen at random) She'll be stopping by the blog throughout the day, so if you have questions about her writing, today would be a great day to leave a comment. Comments of encouragement our welcome, as well.  If you would like to leave a comment without your contact information, but would still like  to be entered for the drawing, please send me an e-mail to I'll make sure to add you to the list.

Cathryn's Suburban Noir short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen Magazines, and her flash fiction has also been published in the eZine Every Day Fiction. 

Sabrina says she likes to ask writers why they write. I thought I’d take a slightly narrower focus and blog about why I like to write psychological suspense.

I fell in love with psychological suspense fiction when I discovered Ruth Rendell through her novel, The Bridesmaid. I was captivated by the way she probed characters’ fears and neuroses. I immediately devoured all her non-series novels.

Stephen King said this about Ruth Rendell’s fiction: “No one surpasses Ruth Rendell when it comes to stories of obsession, instability, and malignant coincidence….”

The obsessions and instability of human beings fascinate me. I’m interested in what makes people tick, interested in why they do what they do, and whenever I read about a crime, my first thought is, Why? I’m interested in what it would take to drive someone to commit a crime, especially murder. When I observe what some people have endured in their lives, I wonder sometimes how they keep pressing forward, how they avoid going over the edge.

Psychological suspense is the perfect framework for exploring the psyche, for putting characters that are already wounded under extreme pressure and watching where it leads. Most books grouped under the heading of psychological suspense have a protagonist that’s a detective or some law enforcement official. Often they’re matching wits with a criminal, and those are frequently pure sociopaths. I like a more ambiguous story, because I think life is quiet and ambiguous. My stories only peripherally involve law enforcement, and the “criminal” is not pure evil or without a conscience. In fact, I like to show “criminals” as someone who’s suffered a lot of misfortune, or is pushed into a corner by a series of poor choices that, at the time, might seem minor.

I think if I can achieve the goal of evoking empathy for a criminal, that readers will walk away from my stories with more compassion toward people whose lives go off the tracks, and that they’ll be a little more forgiving of themselves as well. Of course, I also want to create a little fear and build a sense of foreboding along the way.


Sabrina E. Ogden said...

I've been a fan of your writing since I found you on Twitter. Your flash fiction has always made me think and that is what I love about reading.

I do have empathy for others that have suffered misfortune. It might not have seemed that way with my reaction to Amy Lewis in The Demise of the Soccer Moms, but in all honesty, her character, well...she struck a nerve with me.

With that being said, don't ever change your reasons for writing. Your writing works and I'm looking forward to the next book.

Thanks for guest posting today! I really, really appreciate it.

gbeck said...

After reading Sabrina's review of your book I knew that I had to read it. I have never been interested in reading psychological suspense before, but after reading your blog I have decided it's a genre that I really need to get into. Thanks Cathryn for writing, and for the guest blog and thanks Sabrina for this great blog that introduces us to new works.

Linda said...

I find the reactions readers have to characters interesting. In your book, Cathryn, I was drawn to Rachel because I've been in her shoes in relation to an Amy-like character. The wonderful fact is if characters resonate with readers, it's because they're well-drawn. Congratulations on that!

And thank you Sabrina for having Cathryn on your blog.

Christine said...

Cathryn, you not only write a very interesting novel and make it enticing for us to purchase your book, but Sabrina/Kate did an outstanding job in presenting your book to us and encouraging us to read further. Keep up the good work, both of you. Cathryn, please keep writing about the psychological characters and Sabrina/Kate continue to keep us
appraised of great novelist like Cathryn.

Leah Anderson said...

Love your post, Cathryn! Thank you so much! I bought your book for my Nook a couple of days ago...haven't started it, but I plan on it tonight...I don't have to drive any kids to soccer practice, so I have the night free to read. I'll touch base with you after I've read it. Happy St. Paddy's day!!!

Cathryn Grant said...

@Sabrina, I think I might not have been clear, I don't mean I hope readers will have empathy for those who have suffered misfortune, since nearly everyone does, but empathy for those who make poor choices, or take a dark turn in response to it.

I'm honored to guest post here, and it's a thrill when readers respond to what I write -- it's the best part :)

@gbeck - if you're new to psychological suspense, I highly recommend Ruth Rendell's non-series books. (She writes a detective series as well, and those are also great.)

@Linda - Thanks! I've had some readers tell me they thought the novel was "Rachel's story". At the risk of repeating myself, I'm fascinated by the variety in reactions.

Cathryn Grant said...

@Christine - Thanks! I agree, Sabrina did a great job. I love her reviews because they're personal and very insightful. And on Twitter, she's funny!

@Leah - Thanks for buying the book! Happy St. Paddy's to you as well! ♣

Sara said...

I also bought the book yesterday on Smashwords. I am almost finished with a book I am reading right now, so hopefully I will start Cathryn's book soon. Sabrina, you did such a great job describing the book that I can't wait to read it! Keep up the good work :)

Cathryn Grant said...

Hi Sara, Thanks for buying my book. I agree, Sabrina did a terrific job!

Paul D. Brazill said...

Smashing post. Patricia Highsmith and Hilary Davidson do the suspenseful suburban noir pretty well, too. Must be a woman thing...

Cathryn Grant said...

I'm a Patricia Highsmith fan too. I don't know Hilary ... I'll have to check her out immediately. (must be!)

Paul D. Brazill said...

There you go Cathryn.

She's dead nice, too.

Adrienne said...

Thanks for the post! Sounds like a very intersting and great read.