Thursday, October 10, 2019

Why We Read What We Read?


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HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: It happens at every event I attend--someone in the audience asks: What book are you reading? Why is this such a difficult question? My mind instantly goes blank, and I struggle to come up with an answer. It's--ridiculous, because I am reading all the time. 
Sometimes I even plan for it. I think, okay, if one asks, I will say....and then my mind wanders, and I never decide. And then... they ask. Usually, though, I realize what I'm reading is one of two things. A non-fiction true crime or the like. Or a psychological thriller. 
 Do you have an instant answer for this?
And what if someone said--why do you read what you read? AH. Now there's a question. Luckily, author Tracey Phillips (whose terrific BEST KEPT SECRETS is brand new!) is here to help us think about that.

Why Women Read (And Write) Thrillers and Crime Fiction
   by Tracey Phillips
As your gaze skims the words on the page, you curl into yourself. Elbows tuck and your shoulders hunch. Your heart rate climbs from adagio to vivace. A fingernail sneaks between your teeth and you work it till you come to the end of the chapter and. . . “No!” You can’t stop there, the author’s left another cliffhanger!
“Why do so many women read thrillers?” A friend asked me during a discussion of my debut novel: Best Kept Secrets—released on October 8th by Crooked Lane Books. She asked, “Why are thrillers and suspense novels so popular? Why do women in particular read and watch so much crime fiction and psychological suspense? And why did you write a suspense/thriller?”
Her questions had merit. My good friend, bless her heart, has anxiety. I mean, my little panic attacks pale in comparison to her debilitating ones. Nothing to laugh at, my friend internalizes her fears to a terrifying degree. She won’t—can’t—read Best Kept Secrets or she’ll not sleep for a week. No wonder she needed answers.
Happily-Ever-After? Not So Much
Everyone loves the feeling of a love story. Some crave it. Maybe it replaces the hole in their heart leftover from that lover who jilted them. Maybe it fills a need to be loved. Or maybe readers just need the happily-ever-after. Romance has always been the most popular genre worldwide. For years it has also been the best-selling genre.
I’m no psychologist, but I’ve read that the act of falling in love releases feel-good hormones in our bodies. And don’t we all want to feel good? In reading romance, we live vicariously through the characters and we fall in love again. And again. And it feels good!
So tell me why according to Bookriot.com, in 2015 mystery/suspense outsold every other genre, including romance. And according to the Writing Cooperative, in 2017 crime fiction and suspense became the top genre in the U.S. (Romance was not among the categories in their study.)
Because we love to be thrilled! We love to be sitting on the edge of our seat anticipating the next event. We love it so much, that. . .
Women Buy More Fiction Than Men
In 2017, Sophie Gilbert wrote an article for the Atlantic called Why Men Pretend to be Women to Sell Thrillers. She states that women dominate the fiction market in reading (women book-buyers represent 60% of the market) and in writing. She says that some male writers have chosen to publish with a female pseudonym because women want to read what women have written. Terrence Rafferty says, “women are writing the best crime novels”. Female writers “tell it like it is” rather than fluff it up. This point of view is perhaps what female readers have been craving all along.
Of course, women don’t write better; women write differently than men. Women say it from their perspective. We dig deeply into the emotions of the moment and we feel their feelings. Is that to say we tell it from the perspective of fear and anxiety?
Perhaps. I recently got swept away by Lisa Gardner’s Find Her. She writes her victims and female heroines with such a striking array of senses that I couldn’t put it down.
What Does the Darkness Cost Us? 
We love an unreliable protagonist like Paula Hawkins’ Rachel in Girl on the Train. In an interview with The Guardian, Hawkins said, “Men tend to be attacked by strangers, women tend to be attacked by people they know.” This raises the stakes for us. It drives my imagination to places I’d rather not go. But as Hawkins said, “Most women…are made to think about themselves in terms of what they should be doing to prevent violence happening to them.”
Tracey Phillips
I know this is true for me.
Perhaps in reading a good thriller, we live vicariously through the protagonist (yes, just like in romance) and then when s/he overcomes their fear, when the criminal is caught and the tension successfully abated, we find some release of our own. 
Why I Write Psychological Suspense:
Psychological suspense is my favorite genre. In my debut novel, Best Kept Secrets, Detective Jewell is obsessed with her past. She can’t escape it. I think it’s what makes her human. Her inability to let it go is what drives her to finally solve her best friend’s murder. And when the story ends, we connect with our feelings and let some of the anxiety go. 
Where my anxious friend is concerned, it doesn’t bother me that she’ll never read Best Kept Secrets. I understand. Because I too have a degree of angst and nervousness. But this is where my friend and I part ways. I like it. I like the rush and the climbing heartrate and the hope and the fear that everything will work out. I like to sit up in bed reading, every muscle tense and ready for flight. And I love it when the ending comes with resolution.
And that’s why I write.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Yes yes, when you open a book and the walls fall away and you cannot put it  down and you are in another world--it happens, it does, sometimes.  But not always. (Is it like dating? I refuse to go there.)  And it;s such a joy when you find that book--that one that sends you into storyland.
But interesting,  too, that what transports some of us is NOT what's compelling to others. 
Okay, Reds and readers. Here's a test for you. Can you do it? Tell us ONE terrific book you've read in the past month. ONE. No comments, no explanation, no chit chat. Just: One title. (Okay, and the author.) (And no Reds. We know you love us, and we are SIGNIFICANTLY grateful.)
Can you do it?
And a copy of  BEST KEPT SECRETS to one lucky commenter!
(I'll start. City of Windows, by Robert Pobi. How about you?)
ED. NOTE added later: okay, DUMB idea! What do you think about why women read--and write-- thrillers?

BEST KEPT SECRETS is available where ever books are sold.
Find me on-line at www.traceysphillips.com


121 comments:

  1. FINDING ZELDA by Sue Ann Jaffarian

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  2. A Better Man by Louise Penny

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    1. Loved A Better Man by Louise Penny. I was on the waiting list (50 people requested it at the library) and I loved the book. I

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  3. Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagan

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  4. Replies
    1. Oh, I don;t know that one--tell us more!

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    2. I like to write short reviews in Goodreads, so here's mine for "Hild" - written by Nicola Griffith and published in 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. What an epic story this was! Griffith obviously immersed herself in researching 7th-century Britain and her hard work paid off, allowing her to fill this sprawling tale with lush descriptions of food and drink, both consumption and preparation (lots and lots of mead), politics, religion, conflicts, and above all, living, breathing characters. A family tree starts off the book and only a few are imaginary - Hild was a real daughter of the kingdom of Deira. Griffith fashions her as a young seer to her overking Edwin, who relies on her prophesies, later balancing them with messages from Catholic missionaries. One of Edwin's men, seeing a young Hild, muses, "Who was this child?...Perhaps she was an uncanny dwarf or a wall wight." We see this world primarily through the lives of women - "It's what women do: weave the web, pull the strings, herd into the corner. It's their only power. Unless they're seers." A short review cannot do justice to how glorious, vibrant and emotionally complex Hild's story is and I enjoyed every minute of it.

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  5. 'A Minute To Midnight' by David Baldacci.

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    1. Hank, I really enjoyed it but can't say more since I reviewed it for Mystery Scene.

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  6. The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman

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  7. Congratulations on the new book Tracey! (We are Crooked Lane sisters.) Do you scare yourself while you're writing? (I had this discussion with Hallie at her book launch this summer--she said NO.)

    The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

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    1. Hi Lucy! Nice to "meet" you! I do get pretty worked up while writing a good scene, but I can't say that I scare myself. It may cause some good chills and increased heart-rate. Nothing wrong with a little adrenaline buzz!! LOL!

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    2. Read the ARC for The Long Call and it was well written.

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  8. A Better man by Louise Penny

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  9. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

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  10. AND THE WINNER of Vanessa Lillie’s LITTLE VOICES. is... Abby Fabian ! Yay! Email me your address! H ryan at whdh dot com

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    1. I am thrilled! Just emailed you. Thank you so much!

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    2. Congratulations to the winner. I wish I won. The library does not have this book so I will try the interstate library loan system.

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  11. And as for Roberta/Lucy’s question about scaring yourself… I don’t, either. How about you, Tracey? I do think we are seeing a wonderfully eclectic a list of books. Keep them coming!

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    1. I have to admit the first time I wrote the ending of HEAVEN HAS NO RAGE, I scared myself.

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    2. One more series I need to get caught up on!!

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    3. Hank, the one I'm writing right now freaks me out quite a bit because the premise really happened to me last winter. A guy I dated 33 years ago--that's right--emailed me with photos of something that belonged to me. I had dumped the guy hard so I have no idea why he would have kept these mittens that were from Alaska. He told me he is "keeping them safe for me".
      I didn't respond (stalker!) but we do keep the doors locked tight now. Adn writing about what would/could happen is a bit scary!

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    4. Also from Tracey...oy!

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    5. Sorry, I'm late answering.

      It was the ending. The main story had been wrapped up. I put Sally in a very tight spot (I can't say much because...spoilers). I decided to try a technique I'd read about to accelerate pacing and tension - very short scenes that flipped between Jim and Sally's POVs. Basically, they are seeing the situation in real-time from two different angles.

      It worked. Combination of stakes and pacing. I could feel my heart racing as I wrote. Would it all work out? I mean, I had a plan, but you know what they say about plans...

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  12. The Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire

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  13. Elizabeth George, The Punishment She Deserves

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    1. SO exciting that you get to interview her at BOuchercon!

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  14. And sorry... know I'm breaking the rules but wanted to say thanks to Tracey! Such a thoughtful piece. As someone who is anxious (love streaming video because i can fast-forward through the tense parts - and in a book I skim, holding the book about a foot away), your analysis rings a lot of bells. I think it also explains the popularity of cozy mysteries. They're a 'safe zone'

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    1. Thanks to all of you too! I didn't know this went live so early or I would have been in the conversation a while ago:)

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    2. I totally agree about the cozies, Hallie. Many people I know aren't into thrillers. But so many of us are these days, I thought the conversation had merit. By the way I'm reading your book You'll Never Know right now. (Am I breaking the rules?) And loving it! Can't wait to meet you at B-con.

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    3. Those were from me! Learning curve...

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  15. A Means to an End, Lissa Marie Redmond

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  16. I am Watching You - Teresa Driscoll.

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  17. Replies
    1. Read an ARC for A Forgotten Place. Loved the book and it is perfect for Halloween reading.

      Diana

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  18. When Hell Struck Twelve, James R. Benn

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  19. Twenty-One Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks, coming out Nov 19 - pre-order, because it is SO GOOD.

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    1. And I'm also going to break the rules to agree with Hallie - you have a very thoughtful exploration of why mysteries and thrillers, and more importantly, why WOMEN writing and reading them. It struck a chord with me, as I think it will will many readers.

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  20. The Last Train to London, Meg Waite Clayton

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  21. Jewish in America, Living George Washington's Promise, by Richard L. Rubin

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  22. CITIZEN VINCE by Jess Walter

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    1. Do women read more crime/thrillers/mysteries than men because of our innate ability to deal with birth and death, the circle of life? Does the familiarity of dealing with blood and all matter of bodily excretions of others help us produce an immunity of sorts? Or do we just have a congenital blood lust?

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  23. IN HER BONES by Kate Moretti

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  24. I think that what women have to face physically does have something to do with it. Blood lust? I can't say!

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  25. Bone to Bone by Julia Keller, and to be perfectly honest, I AM reading it right now, soon to be finished.

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  26. Old Bones by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs ~

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  27. Never Have I Ever, by Joshilyn Jackson

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  28. The Things We Cannot Say Kelly Rimmer

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  29. Nobody's Sweetheart by Maggie Robinson

    And thanks to Tracey for her really interesting thoughts today. It's a question we talk about in my house. My hub did work for one of the cable channels that program for woman. He was just baffled at the popularity of "woman in distress"TV movies.

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  30. LETS ALL BREAK THE RULES! Forget the rules. Triss, tell us more!

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    1. Sure. Husband is an intellectual property attorney who's worked in both publishing and films. At one time he did a lot of script vetting for a cable network that shall be nameless, but consider that those "based on a true story" are swamps for legal issues. He was just baffled at the stories popularity. Not my form of entertainment and I couldn't explain it to him except for this: at the end- ta-da!- the women overcome.

      (And Nobody's Sweetheart? A witty period piece with the ghost of a recently dead, charming,louse of a husband trying to make amends.Yeah, the Topper idea. Perfectly silly. Perfect escape. I spent the summer catching up on serious, weighty crime novels - worth it too - so needed a break)

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  31. I can tell we all want to talk... love that! xooo So let's do it.

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  32. And what do you all think about the selection so far?

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  33. And LOVE to all from the still-recuperating DebRo, who says her computer won't let her comment on JRW but says :
    "I just finished Beyond a Doubt, by Nancy Cole Silverman (3:30 this morning!)" . We are ALL sending our healing strength, DebRo!

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    1. Nancy Cole Silverman's book is on my list. I am still looking for the book at the bookstores and my library. And at mystery conferences.

      Diana

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  34. The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams. Such a good storyteller!

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    1. Murder, spies, intrigue in the Bahamas when the Duke of Windsor was governor. It begins in 1941 when an American reporter arrives to do society stories on the Windsors. The story moves to England and Europe later.

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  35. Read and Buried (lighthouse library mystery) by Eva Gates.

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  36. Since we're breaking rules, which is something I excel at, congratulations to Olga Tokarczuk, Nobel prize for literature, 2018. Last year the Booker, and now a Nobel for the same year too! Some Austrian got the prize for 2019, but you go, Olga.

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    1. Go Olga! xooxo She's having quite the moment.. :-)

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  37. Since we're breaking the rules, this is for Tracey:

    Congratulations on your debut book, Tracey. I’m looking forward to reading it.

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    1. Yay, Joan..I promise I will never attempt to make rules again! oxoo

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    2. Thank you Joan! Hope you like ita

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  38. The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickok by Richard Matheson

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  39. Strangers She Knows by Christina Dodd.
    For me, she has just the right level of thrill. (And a great last name!)

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  40. The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller.

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  41. Death on Tap by Ellie Alexander

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  42. She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

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  43. It's hard to pick the best book. I will say though that I'm a big fan of Louise Penny and really liked her latest book, A Better Man (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #15).

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  44. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

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