Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Suspense or normality – Can Gardner obtain both? - Lauren Forbes

For many people in order to become a thriller writer you must be ruthless, careless and sly, but for others all you need is a creative imagination and the ability to take on a role and become someone else. Lisa Gardner is a successful writer of thriller novels that include severe cases and unimaginable crimes, making it hard to believe that underneath all the violence and ferocity she could be such a nice, genuine person. After claiming to have a normal house, normal parents and normal childhood in her youth you have to begin to wonder how much normality can affect a person and whether or not this allows a different perspective on life to be created within a smaller, well hidden part of your mind. All of these factors could contribute to allowing a person to create such wonderful, gripping novels, but when it comes down to it, it could just be that Lisa Gardner knows how to write a brilliant suspense novel.

After being born and growing up in Oregon, U.S.A, Gardner started her writing career under the false name of Alicia Scott and produced her first book, titled “Walking after midnight”, in her junior year of college. Following receiving a mere $3000 for the book, which took roughly three long, hard years to complete, she decided to settle down in to a ‘real career’, ending up working as a management consultant that she progressed to loathe and despise. It was due to this factor that Gardner began to spend all her free time writing romance novels, until one day she decided she needed a change and tried her hand at writing a suspense novel. The end result was “The Perfect Husband”, a book that masters all the expectations of a suspense novel and takes the reader on a tense journey from beginning to end, awarding Gardner with the Reviewer’s Choice Award in 1998. What followed after this successful book is a long list of gripping and engaging thriller novels that both wow and suspend the reader until the very last word.

Carrying on from her first victorious book was “The Other Daughter”, which is Gardner’s most successful book to date, once again winning Gardner the Reviewer’s Choice Award in 1999 and also the 2000 Daphne Du Maurier Award for Suspense. “The Other Daughter” is set in Texas where a serial killer is put to death, whilst alongside this storyline takes place the tale of a nine-year-old girl who is abandoned in a hospital. The narrative follows Melanie Stokes as she is adopted by a wealthy family, grows up and discovers something that brings fear and terror into her life. The suspense is rigid and unbending throughout, whilst tension and anticipation walk hand in hand alongside the plot, creating a spine tingling novel that cannot be put down. In this novel Gardner delves into the darker, more sinister side of family life, where the enraged and lived pace and suspense is continuous and present in every word. Melanie Stokes is a strong and independent character that passes as a very likeable person throughout the book. Through the detailed descriptions used of her personality and enjoyable sense of humour the audience can relate to her easily, making the downside of her story more emotional and gripping for the readers. The story is a roller coaster journey, with frequent ups and downs and the occasional loop, all of which the readers embark on with Stokes. On the other hand, Dr. Harper Stokes is a mysterious and captivating character, allowing enough suspicion to arouse in order that the audience begin to question him, but not enough that they completely doubt him, making the end result shocking and scandalous. All the characters within the book play a crucial role in developing the story and making it a well worth read that becomes completely glued to your hands until the moment you finish it.

Another greatly successful book of Gardner’s is “Gone”, which tells the story of Rainie Quincy and her disappearance that all seems self influenced up until ransom notes start appearing, increasing the suspense and drama in the novel to her normal well achieved standard. Making it clear that money, fame and power are driving the kidnapper into this terrible crime the audience join Quincy and his daughter, Kimberly, as they race against time, trying everything they can to rescues their loved one. Rainie bravely battles with her merciless captor, making her a great role model to women and encouraging people to sway towards her. Rainie herself is a strong, self-independent character who struggles with alcoholism and past events that hang over her head, refusing to let her get on with her life. These issues all contribute to the tension and anxiety that is present during the scenes with the kidnapper, allowing suspense to be close to tangible and the character to be more likable through her flaws. Opposite to the innocent victim, the hostage taker is a malicious and evil character that will stop at nothing, including murder, to achieve what he wants. The suspense is created through the constant ignorance created by the author, allowing suspicion to arise in all possible areas.

Gardner is a good representative to female victims, which are a very common theme within her books. The majority of her novels contain a lead female character that is victimised and singled out and that are treated in ways that make even the bravest of people flinch at the thought. Although this is the case, Gardner allows each female victim to overcome the problem and fight back against her attacker or captor. This presents a good image to all of Gardner’s female readers and especially any of them that have been victimised as it creates a positive picture that victimised women can overcome their fears and problems. It allows Gardner’s female readers to become more sympathetic towards the female characters within the book, permitting a compassionate outlook to be attained by these readers that ends in a positive outlook on how victimised women can accomplish a normal life style after a disturbing incident. It is fair to say that Gardner, showing women to be the stronger sex emotionally and showing how they can overcome anything, takes a fairly feministic approach. This general outlook that is present within all her books allows an optimistic method to be produced and lapped up by her readers, especially the female ones.

Gardner is always generous to her readers, offering them more than just her wonderful books. Here, she has allowed her readers a little insight into her mind and offers her opinions happily:

1. How would you describe your style of writing?
Suspense. I try to make a story believable by making the characters

2. Which of your books would you say is your favourite and why?
I would have to say any book that I just finished writing.

3. Which of your books was the hardest to write and why?
My most recent book, SAY GOODBYE, was difficult to write. The
topic of predators was especially hard to research.

4. Which of your books was the easiest to write and why?
I have yet to have a book be easy to write. I’ll have to let you
know when that happens.

5. How old were you when you started writing?
I began writing when I was 17 and published at 19

6. Where do you get your inspiration from?
True life and true crimes. I find inspiration in news stories.

7. How do you create your characters and are they based on people you know?
Each of my characters are their own entity. Portions of people I know may be in
many of my characters.

8.Would you relate yourself to any of your characters?
I can’t say that I have written myself into a character. My voice lies in the written
words and story. That is how I become part of my novels.

9. How long, on average, does it take for you to write a book?
I write one book a year, with about 3 months dedicated to research and 6 months
to write the pages. The other 3 months in the year are spent on book promotion
and trying to enjoy my family.

10. What is your next planned career move? What is next for you?
I do not expect any big changes in my career. Like many authors,
I hope to land higher in “lists” and to write a better novel each time.

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