B.A. Paris on Suburbs, Domestic Suspense, and Killer Female Leads

BAParisCrimeFictionBooksinOrderNS: There is a recent uptick in psychological suspense that takes place in suburbia, such as Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan. The Therapist follows Alice as she relocates to a gated community known as The Circle (note: this sounds creepy). The strange happenings that follow are only made stranger by her neighbors refusal to discuss a devastating secret from the past. As the description says…appearances can be deceitful. What makes suburbia the perfect backdrop for psychological suspense? What are some things you take away from writing in this setting? (And has it ever made you look at your neighbors with suspicion!)

B.A. Paris: I think places such as The Circle, where everybody knows everyone else, make a perfect backdrop for psychological suspense because they can be both insular and claustrophobic. They are therefore the perfect breeding ground for secrets and lies.

When I write in this sort of setting, it reminds me that observation is a two-way thing, and that my neighbors will be wondering as much about me as I’m wondering about them. I don’t look at my neighbors suspiciously – but I sometimes wish I could be a fly on the wall in their houses!

NS: Besides writing, what are some other things you enjoy doing in your day to day? For instance many Novel Suspect fans obsessively watch true crime or eagerly binge mystery series when they’re not working. Do you have anything like that?

B.A. Paris: I’m not a fan of true crime or mystery series, I spend so much time writing about crime that when I switch off, I prefer to do something soothing, like walking, yoga or cooking. The series I have enjoyed binge-watching are Peaky Blinders, Breaking Bad and Ozark.

NS: All of your books follow female leads who are trying to live seemingly normal lives until some external force disrupts them. In The Therapist, that is Alice’s move to a new neighborhood. It’s got an almost ‘fish-out-of-the-water’ narrative. Was this intentional? Though your books are vastly different, what do feel are the commonalities? What styles and narratives do you keep going back to?

B.A. Paris: Yes, I wanted to take Alice out of her comfort zone to make her more vulnerable, and therefore more suspicious of those around her. I like to choose female leads who, despite their negative experiences, find the strength to overcome them. It’s a recurring narrative in my novels, and always will be.

NS: In a recent interview, Rebecca Whitney, author of The Hidden Girls, stated ‘female-led thrillers give us back a quota of our power’. With crime fiction a mostly male-dominated space, do you feel psychological suspense is bridging that gap between male and female leads? Better yet, is psychological suspense a result of male-dominated crime fiction? Or is it something else altogether?

B.A. Paris: I definitely feel that psychological suspense is bridging the gap between male and female leads. The upsurge in psychological suspense may be in part a response to male-dominated crime but I think it is also that people are more aware now of psychological abuse than they were in the past, which makes it a crucial and valid subject to write about.

NS: What are you currently reading or watching?

B.A. Paris: I’m currently watching Succession, and reading Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell.

NS: Are there any current projects you’re working on that you can share?

B.A. Paris: I’ve just finished the first draft of my sixth book, which will be out next year, and I’m now thinking about what to write for my seventh.

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