Fresh from the success of her latest book, I caught up with Julie Reichman to learn more about writing thrillers in the Me Too era.
How did you come to define your writing style? What drew you towards psychological thrillers?
I like many authors am an avid reader. I would say that literary agent, Paula S. Munier, who wrote a few great books on writing a story that sells helped me more than anything. Paula Hawkin’s,The Girl on the Train, spoke to me as far as writing style. I loved how she broke the chapters down into first person for each individual character. I felt like you really got to know the characters and that’s what I wanted for my book. I also like psychological thrillers because I feel like I am good at assessing people. My background isn’t of police work, but I’ve watched enough shows and read enough books to pick up general points but not the truly technical end of it. I am however very good at creating fictional characters based on psychological research, and I enjoy studying criminal psychology.
Tell me about how your background and how you draw on it to create your books?
My background is one of being self-employed for most of my life. I’ve dealt with people for my entire career, so I’ve met many interesting types of people. I’m also an avid traveler and love to learn about people in different cultures, so I feel I have a large pool of entertaining characters to draw on.
Talk me through your novel Fire & Fury. How is it influenced by other works?
I didn’t set out for it to be referred to Tarantino style, but I will say that people are busy in their lives. They’re worn out when they get home, so they don’t want to read something that doesn’t draw them in quickly and hold their attention. I’m the same. My goal was to keep the story moving at a fast pace without sacrificing the story, the characterization, or the plot. Apparently, I hit the mark because all of the professional book reviews that have come in have said I wrote a gripping, compelling, full-bore, relentless story with strong characterization. This obviously makes me happy to read. The two authors who influenced me the most in the writing of this book were Paula Hawkins and Stephen King.
What is the novel’s relevance in the Me Too era and how do you believe that readers relate to it?
I chose this story to tell because I became interested in learning about sexual assailants and the criminology of it because of an incident that happened to me in college. I was stalked by the mailman and came within feet of being raped or killed, but I was saved by my dog and the fact I was on the line with 911. The stalker took off. In 1982, there were no stalking laws, so I had to move. A few years later, it happened again. Again I had to move. So sexual assault has always been something I’ve been interested in and I wanted to do a story about it. The murdered girl in my story was inspired by someone I know. While she wasn’t murdered, the reaction of her family destroyed her, and I wanted to understand more about it. As I read up on it, I learned that children who are sexually molested by a parent are often isolated because the mother turns against them and so do their siblings. The abused child is abandoned by her family. The wife sees her as a mistress and the siblings are jealous because of the attention the father pays to the molested daughter. The abused child then abuses substances and spirals out of control by getting into bad relationships. My story tries to bridge a modern day rape where a powerful man rapes women he feels he can intimidate with a cold case of a girl who was sexually abused by her father and enters into debasing relationships which culminates in her death. The Detective quickly learns both cases are connected. I live in Santa Fe, which is a multi- cultural town and so I wanted to bring race into it as a factor as well because women of color are more likely to be raped than Caucasian women.
What aspect of your books do you feel attracts your readers and makes your work so hard to put down?
I will let the reviewers answer this. “Author Julie Reichwein has put together a gripping, relentless, super fast psychological thriller and I wouldn’t expect less when it comes to… revenge! This novel is divided in 69 chapters and each one of them is allocated to a specific character at a time. I really enjoy this kind of organization as it strengthens characterization, we come to know each one of the characters really well – ie. their motives, thoughts, traumas, fears, backgrounds, etc.”
“And certainly she did a thorough research about the different characters, for instance, sexual assailants and their psychology. For the characters have very strong personalities and their souls are masterfully exposed in their sick, gritty, dirty and dark glory, sometimes their behaviors borders on the ridicule but I think it adds to their authenticity.
“Reichwein is very good also when it comes to describing scenes, she makes it look effortless as she uses the exact right amount of description – not wordy but also not lacking in detail, this will make the reader easily visualize the scene in his/her mind.”
Where do you find the inspiration for your work? Are there any specific exercises or tricks you use to get your creative juices flowing?
Every time I didn’t like a sentence or a paragraph or a page etc I would go back and reread, The Girl on the Train, or one of Stephen King’s books. I wanted it full- bore from start to finish, and I didn’t stop editing until I was 100% satisfied. I would also go back to Paula Munier’s book about the first 10 pages, and I would make sure I was keeping the story well-paced with strong characterization. When I was at the point that I was ready emotionally to kill some of the characters, I felt like my readers would be there, too.
If you could collaborate with any write, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?
Stephen King. I’m not a horror reader in general, but I am a Stephen King fan. He gets you into the story and the characters like no one else. He’s the true master.
What does the future have in store for you as a writer? Any upcoming projects you would be happy to share with me?
I have two more books that I have final edits to finish. Kilos & Killer Heels and Killer Heels- 1/2way to Hell.
Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?
I just discovered Iris Yang’s Wings of a Flying Tiger. It’s a story about a wounded American pilot in China during WWII when Japan occupied the country. One cousin risked everything to help this pilot.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I tried to bring the true sordidness of sexual assault and the emotional devastation it causes to my story. Many crime writers address the issue from a clinical angle where I tried to address it from an emotional point of view. Not just from the abused but from the abuser as well. I hope that I can shine a light on how truly awful being a victim is, so that those fortunate enough to not have been victimized can understand the toll and emotional devastation of sexual assault.
Thanks Julie, it has been truly fascinating to here from you. You can find out more about Julie and her work HERE.