Psychological thriller author Lauren North joins me for a conversation all about the themes of motherhood in psychological suspense and thriller novels. We explore why it’s such a popular topic right now, how it affects our own parenting journeys and, on a more practical level, how we manage to find the time to write as busy mothers!
Lauren North is the author of 3 psychological suspense novels (The Perfect Betrayal, One Step Behind and Safe At Home which is going to be released in September of this year) and her novels tend to delve into the darker side of relationships and families. She has a lifelong passion for writing, reading and all things books, which developed from childhood and her dark imagination of always wondering what’s the worst that could happen in any situation. She studied psychology before moving to London where she lived for many years. She now lives with her family in the beautiful Suffolk and Essex countryside.
B: What draws you to the themes of motherhood in psychological suspense novels?
L: Firstly, I am a mother so am very aware of the strains of motherhood. Plot ideas come from what I’ve experienced, for example moving to a small village and not having that support network. The other reason I think motherhood is so popular in psychological suspense is because it really ups the stakes when you’ve got a child involved and can make for a much more tense book.
B: As a reader, what do you think draws people to these themes?
L: It’s that ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ thing, but also a lot of people can identify with busy, stressed mothers. There’s a certain mental load you carry as a mother, constantly thinking about what they need and if they’re happy. That mental load can really drain someone, and when you’re reading about that you can really think “Yes! I totally get that feeling!”
B: Do you find yourself as a more nervous parent because of the topics you write about?
L: Probably no. I’m lucky in that I live in a very safe area and so I have all these ‘worse thing that could happen’ scenarios running through my head, but I have to find a way to put that in a box. It’s really hard because you do worry, but I try very hard to not let my dark imagination get in the way of how I parent.
Sometimes it leads to really great book ideas. My son once asked me if he could stay at home while I went to pick up his sister and he said ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ I sat there and thought of all these awful things that could happen and it lead into the plot idea for my new book ‘Safe At Home’.
B: On a practical level, how do you balance writing with being a mum?
L: I’m really lucky to be a full-time writer, it’s my only job, and my children are 11 and 9 so they’re quite independent. They don’t want my attention when they get home from school like they did when they were younger, so generally I do work 9-5. Saying that, my laptop comes with me to every extra curricular activity. I’ll sit in the car park and work. And obviously homeschool during lockdown was hard.
I think the key is to just not stop. If you want to be a writer, take your work with you wherever you go. Writers never turn off anyway, but that’s how I juggle it. I don’t always juggle it successfully – sometimes I feel like I’m not giving enough attention to my work, and sometimes I feel like I’m not giving enough attention to my children, but it’s a delicate balancing act. You have to be firm with yourself and your family and make it clear to those around you that this is my time to write.
B: Can you tell us about your new book ‘Safe At Home’?
L: Anna is a very busy, anxious mum of 3. One night she leaves her 11 year old daughter home alone while she goes to pick up her other children from a club. It’s a 20 minute journey, they live in a very safe, sleepy village. She knows everything is going to be okay. But there’s a big crash on the road where she’s stuck and can’t get home for 5 hours, and she can’t get ahold of her daughter. When she gets home she finds her daughter asleep in bed and is relieved that everything is okay, but in the morning when they wake up it becomes very clear that something terrible did happen to her daughter during those 5 hours, but she just won’t tell her.
B: Do you have a top tip for aspiring authors?
L: Take yourself seriously. Put your bum in the chair and carve out that time. The minute you start treating yourself as an author, other people will follow suit.