The Crime Readers' Association

Keeping Secrets by A L Bird

11th July 2017

Can you keep a secret?

Really, truly? Not a word, not a hint to anyone? As if your life depended on it? Or indeed your livelihood?

Well, thriller writers can. And so can many of their protagonists.

Years ago, a creative writing tutor told me to write a first person narrative, and then rewrite as though the character had a secret. That connected so much with me that I now ask myself before I start a new book: what’s the secret here? And as I start each sentence: how does this character’s thought relate to that sentence, and how much will they share?

But that’s just one dimension. The character knows the secret of their past (or at least, they think they do). The author knows the secret of their past and future. And the reader knows there are secrets but has to keep reading to find out what they are.

Jen, the protagonist in my new psychological thriller Don’t Say a Word, reckons she has three secrets, dating back to her murky past. Some of them are more important than others. Some she’s just ashamed of. But others will keep her – and crucially, her little boy – safe. If anyone finds out, it’s game over. For her and her son.

The problem for Jen, though, is that other people have secrets too. And if you take everything at face value, you can find that what you thought were your own truths turn very quickly to lies.

Those of you who’ve read my previous book, The Good Mother, will know the score: even if you think you’ve guessed the secret, there’ll be darker ones to come. Even some that we keep from ourselves.

My job in writing the thrillers is to keep that final secret safe, right until the very last word. And then, I pass the baton on to you. Shh! You can tell everyone there are secrets – but keep it between you, me, and the pages what those secrets are.

Don’t Say a Word by A.L. Bird is published by HQDigital and is available for all e-readers.

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