The zeitgeist thriller – guest post by Amy Bird, author of Yours is Mine
When I first started to write fiction, my biggest fear when I walked into a bookshop (yes, digital authors do frequent print bookshops) would be that I picked up a book, read the dust-jacket, and found that it was the same as the one I was writing. Recently, though, I’ve come to think of this as less as a nightmare, more of an interesting point about literary trends.
We are often told there are only seven basic plots. Be that as it may – when two books come out that are strikingly similar, both in terms of plot, mood, and tone, that is something to take note of. Some particular cases in point recently have been Gone Girl v. Precious Thing, and Kiss Me First v. my very own Yours is Mine.
Now, we are all used to books proclaiming to be the next Gone Girl. Mine has been called that, I hope fairly. But the comparisons tend to be because of tone, or the use of two narrators, or just because it will keep you wake until 2am. Colette Mcbeth’s Precious Thing, as anyone who has read it will know, really is very similar to Gone Girl. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but the similarities in the way they both use perception shifts, the constant uncertainty as to whether one person is the criminal or the victim, plus the central disappearance, really is as uncanny as the tales they tell.
Closer to home, I was amazed when two books about identity switches, both by North London writers, came out within days of each other earlier this year. The first was Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach, in which one woman agrees to masquerade as another on-line. The second was my debut thriller, Yours is Mine, in which one woman agrees to masquerade as another on-line – and in real life. The motivations and scenarios in each book are very different, but both Moggach and I have taken a vulnerable character as our protagonist, making her susceptible to the ulterior motives of on-line predators, and shown her life being exchanged and imperilled to various degrees.
You would think, maybe, that people would tire of this sort of story. But no: if my experience is anything to go by, we are delighted to find ourselves in familiar territory of the twisty thriller, not knowing who to trust, what the secret is, and there are enough differences to keep us hooked. The psychological motivations for the characters are different, and in Colette Mcbeth’s Precious Thing the focus is a destructive friendship, not a toxic marriage like in Gone Girl. In Yours is Mine, it is the other woman in the life exchange who is out to get the heroine, whereas is Moggach’s book, that other woman is also a victim of sorts.
So why do these books come in waves? For Yours is Mine and Kiss Me First, the answer is perhaps obvious: we are all putting so much more of our identities on-line, that the risks this poses make crime writers ask ‘what if?’. For Gone Girl and Precious Thing, perhaps it is the constant risk-taking when we make ourselves closer to one person than any other, never really knowing what that person is thinking, and the ever-increasing ability of the media to save or destroy reputations. Whatever the reason, for anyone who enjoys bringing a thrill to their Kindle, long may this doubling-up of chilling treats continue.
Yours is Mine is published by Carina UK, the digital imprint of Harlequin, available from Carina UK (http://www.carina.com/yours-is-mine), Amazon UK (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Yours-Mine-Amy-Bird-ebook/dp/B00DP220YY) and US (http://www.amazon.com/Yours-Mine-Amy-Bird-ebook/dp/B00DP220YY) and all other good e-book retailers, including iTunes and Kobo. You can get the other books mentioned in this blog there too!