|S.F. Kosa |
Connect with the author
A Whole New World, Literally
The Quiet Girl is my debut novel … sort of. It’s my first in the psychological suspense genre. And it feels like a first in other ways too—new pen name, new publisher, new readers. But in other, equally fundamental ways, it isn’t a new experience at all: under the name Sarah Fine, I’ve written twenty-one trade-published novels. It would be fair to ask why my twenty-second feels so different. It’s just another book, right? Been there, done that.
Well. Let me tell you. Those first twenty-one books? The rules were different—in that I invented them. The novels were fantasy. My characters journeyed to the afterlife, where they fought sadistic, soul-stealing beasts. They skulked around meat factories inhabited by armies of mechanical spiders. They had the power of ice and fire magic. Or dealt magic as a drug. Or had magical decks of tarot-like cards with which they could save lives or wreak absolute havoc.
With those books, I created the worlds—alone, in a room, in my head. The political systems, the malevolent forces at work, the powers the heroes used to stop them. Whenever I put my characters into dangerous situations, I could conjure a new rule or power to help them out. It’s an exhilarating experience to be that powerful, even if it’s only within the bounds of your own mind, even when it’s entirely solitary.
When I sat down to write The Quiet Girl, I admit I felt a bit constrained. Like I’d once been Superman, but someone had slipped Kryptonite into my drink. At first, as I considered what could happen to Mina, the character whose disappearance lies at the center of this novel, my musings veered toward the mystical (witchcraft! Spirits! Maybe a portal??) I began to wonder if I could work within the bounds of this new, real world—and if I wanted to.
Then I remembered why I wanted to try; I find new challenges and puzzles just as exhilarating as the supernatural (it’s why I love reading psychological thrillers and suspense so much). I find the human psyche to be just as vast and dark and exciting as a new system of magic. I learned that it’s an entirely new game with different rules—and that this time, I couldn’t do it alone. This time, the research involved actually talking to other people! [As a side note, you might wonder why I, a clinical psychologist, would have only written fantasy to this point and avoided talking to others, but that’s an entirely different blog post!]
I was quite nervous when I reached out to a detective at the Provincetown Police Department, asking her for an interview about the town and the way the police work missing person cases. In my first email, I felt I had to offer credentials to show that I was a “real” author. But she was totally game, generously willing to spend an entire afternoon with me, telling me all about how the police might respond to a man whose wife had disappeared.
At first, I was worried that she’d throw a damper on my plans for the mystery and twists in my book. Then I asked: “Where could I put an abandoned car, wallet and keys inside, for a few days without drawing immediate attention?”
And she blew my cramped little imagination wide open. She explained in detail why, even if the car was found in this particular place in Provincetown, the police wouldn’t assume foul play. She took me there, pointed out exactly where I could park that car, exactly who would notice it first, exactly what might happen next. Rather than limiting my options with real-world constraints, she expanded them into places that held new possibilities for surprises and twists. New ways to keep my readers heads spinning.
I’ve thought about that moment with Detective Lobur repeatedly as I finished The Quiet Girl and prepared for its release, and as I wrote my next suspense novel. It might seem simple and small, but to me, it was an important lesson. Delving into reality doesn’t have to be limiting. It’s just as invigorating and fun as fantasy. Just as mind-twisting as inventing an entire world or magical system. If I’m willing to do the legwork, to reach out and explore other people’s expertise and reality, it’s equally satisfying and challenging. And also just as fun.
Good girls keep quiet. But quiet girls can't stay silent forever—and the consequences are sure to make some noise.
When Alex arrives in Provincetown to patch things up with his new wife, Mina, he finds an empty wine glass in the sink, her wedding ring on the desk, and a string of questions in her wake. The police believe that Mina, a successful romance author, simply left, their marriage crumbling before it truly began.
But what Alex finds in their empty cottage points him toward a different reality: Mina has always carried a secret. And now she's disappeared.
In his hunt for the truth, Alex comes across Layla, a young woman with information to share, who may hold the key to everything his wife has kept hidden. A strange, quiet girl whose missing memories may break them all.
To find his missing wife, Alex must face what Layla has forgotten. And the consequences are anything but quiet.
A Standalone Psychological Thriller
© 2020 S.F. Kosa (Sarah Fine)
MONDAY, JULY 27
The batter flowed in undulating ribbons and melted into a smooth, creamy lake. Mina scraped every bit from the bowl before shaking each cake pan to settle the contents. Everything had to be perfect.
When the pans were safely ensconced at 350 degrees, she moved to the next step. Humming a long-ago tune, she poured the premeasured and sifted powdered sugar into the mixing bowl over the softened butter and the extract, just enough to do the trick without overwhelming the flavor.
Baking was chemistry. Baking was precision. Never more than today.
When the frosting was the right consistency, she separated half into three bowls and used the droppers to apply the colors. Blue for innocence. Yellow for youth. Pink for so many things. Love. Warmth.
The effect would be neat. Cheerful. Enough to leaven a sultry summer night, draw the hands to the plate, the fork to the mouth, a smile to the lips.
Once the frosting bags and tips were assembled, she sat on the floor in front of the oven. The cakes had turned golden, but she would wait for the timer. She’d learned to trust herself in most things, but time was an entity she’d never mastered. She was always losing track. She couldn’t keep it still or reliably pin all the bits of her past into proper temporal position. Even now, now of all times, she could feel it turning slippery.
She closed her eyes. Not long now.
The timer went off. She jerked, startled even though she had known it was coming. Wasn’t that always the way of it?
Waiting for the cakes to cool was the hardest part, but she filled the time with cleaning. She was so good at it, good at making things pristine. The dishes. The counters. The floors. Herself. She smiled as she remembered how recently it hadn’t been necessary. Every second of messiness, at once hard-earned and effortless, had been worth fighting for. It had given her hope. But she’d been foolish to think she could escape that easily.
Once the heat had bled from the layers, she placed the first on the plastic base and topped it with a generous layer of icing, to be sandwiched between slabs of cake. Of course, that part had to be pink. A nice effect during the cutting process, like slicing deep enough to reach a vein.
After adding the top layer and completing the crumb coat, she applied the white outer layer. Thick and even like new snow, covering all that lay soft and fragile beneath. Next, the frosting bag and Russian piping tip. It had taken a lot of practice to keep the flowers from looking like spiky piles of chaos, but now she was a pro. Soon, the cake was a garden of delight, a riot of color, a treat for the senses.
She donned dishwashing gloves and washed all the extra frosting down the drain, then cleaned the bags and tips by hand, lots of soap, once, then again. She tucked each piece into her decorating kit and slid it into its slot in the cupboard. Alex complained that she didn’t put things away properly, but he was wrong.
She did when it mattered.
The cake was perfect. She turned it this way and that, making sure it didn’t have a bad side. Just like she’d been taught. Then she trapped it under the floral tin dome and attached the wire handles. Ready for transport.
She poured herself a glass of wine and drank it down. One for the road. It unfurled in her bloodstream, loosening knotted muscles, allowing her to breathe, allowing her to move.
She reached for her keys, then caught a glimpse of her hands. No, this wasn’t right.
He would never understand, but he didn’t need to. Because he would never know.
She made the necessary adjustments and stepped into the bathroom. That face in the mirror. Her face, every feature and flaw. And then she recited the line, the one that resonated even now. Especially now. “I know who you are,” she whispered.
The minutes were slipping away, but she allowed herself to stare until her eyes shone.
Then she blinked.
Time to go.
Okay, I don't know about the rest of you but I am ready to dive straight into this story! My thanks to S.F. Kosa for today's post and excerpt from The Quiet Girl.