Suspense—it’s just a fancy word for “drama,” and we’ve all experienced our fair
share of drama. Whether you’re waiting for a career-changing email, sitting by
the phone desperate for a text from you-know-who, or dreading going to a family
party because you’re fighting with all your siblings, suspense is what makes
life interesting. As much as we all might say we “hate drama,” life would be
pretty boring if we just woke up, ate cereal, went to school, came home, and
went to bed. So for me, writing suspense means letting the everyday grit of
reality bleed into my novels.
My latest book, PROOF OF
LIES, is an international spy thriller and while I’ve never actually chased
a dangerous criminal through the murky canals of Venice, that doesn’t mean I
haven’t experienced my fair share of crazy. So here are three ways that I’ve
used my own life to create suspense in the lives of my characters.
No Instalove—I don’t know about you, but I’ve never spilled
a milkshake on a guy in a food court and then instantly become obsessed with
winning his heart. I need to actually have a conversation with a person and find
something in common. I need a little flirting, and a few sneaky glances. I need
time to get to know him and feel draw to who he is on the inside. (Though
admittedly, I feel quite drawn to Brad Pitt, and I’ve never had a conversation
with him in real life.) In PROOF OF LIES, I try to give Anastasia and Marcus
authentic emotions. They meet right before Anastasia suffers a traumatic event,
so realistically she’s not going to suddenly rely on a complete stranger to fix
her problems. Anastasia needs to pull herself together first, then slowly let
her brain work up to being ready to consider anything other than grief. This
wait, this suspense, is pulled from my life, because as we all know, real dating
is a slow, steady stream of drama.
Kick Butt Girls Solve Their Own Problems—Lately, it feels
like we’re living in The Age of Girl Power. While admittedly, the female gender
missed the White House this time, we’re definitely not going back to the
kitchen. I marched on Washington, and I hope my daughter will one day do the
same. (Or better yet, I hope she doesn’t have to.) So I make sure there are no
Disney Princesses in my novels. In PROOF OF LIES, Anastasia Phoenix is the only
person who thinks her presumed dead sister may still be alive, and she sets out
on a journey to find out what really happened that night. Each bit of truth,
leads to the next, and then the next, and that action- packed suspense through
dark alleys and Venetian canals will hopefully give her the answers she needs.
Be Prepared to Fight Hard—I’ve never been in a fistfight.
Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever even slapped a person before, but that doesn’t
mean I don’t understand the impulse to completely loose it. Thankfully, I
haven’t faced the type of adversity Anastasia Phoenix does in PROOF OF LIES, but
I hope that if I ever do, like her, I’d be willing to fight to the death for the
people I love. (Though, Anastasia’s double black belt puts her at a significant
advantage to me when it comes to meeting potential assassins.) In my real life,
fighting back means using my voice and not letting anyone get away with lying,
dismissing me, or offering “alternative facts.” There is suspense in every
battle, big or small, and I hope I convey that in my novels.
Ultimately, suspense is a part of life—whether it’s the anticipation of
Christmas morning or the agonizing hours spent in a hospital waiting room.
Hopefully, for you, it doesn’t mean fighting an international ring of super
spies, but for Anastasia Phoenix it does. And despite her being set on an
intense suspenseful journey, I still hope you find yourself somewhere inside of
PROOF OF LIES. Because
there’s a little bit of my reality on every page.
Anastasia Phoenix has always been the odd girl out, whether moving from city
to international city with her scientist parents or being the black belt who
speaks four languages.
And most definitely as the orphan whose sister is missing, presumed dead.
She’s the only one who believes Keira is still alive, and when new evidence
surfaces, Anastasia sets out to follow the trail―and lands in the middle
of a massive conspiracy. Now she isn’t sure who she can trust. At her side is
Marcus, the bad boy with a sexy accent who’s as secretive as she is. He may have
followed her to Rome to help, but something about him seems too good to be true.
Nothing is as it appears, and when everything she’s ever known is revealed to
be a lie, Anastasia has to believe in one impossibility.
Diana Rodriguez Wallach is the author of the Anastasia Phoenix
series, young adult spy thrillers. She is also the author of three
award-winning young adult novels: Amor and Summer Secrets, Amigas and School
Scandals, and Adios to All The Drama (Kensington Books); as well
as a YA short-story collection based on the Narcissus myth, entitled Mirror,
Mirror (Buzz Books, 2013).
In 2011, she published a highly regarded
essay in Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories (HarperCollins). It
was the only essay chosen from the anthology by Scholastic to be used in its
classroom materials. Diana is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and
Their Muses (Twilight Times Books, 2015), and she is currently on staff as a
featured blogger for Quirk Books.
aIn 2010 Diana was named one of the Top
Ten New Latino Authors to Watch by LatinoStories.com, and she placed second in the
International Latino Book Awards. She is an advisory board member for the Philly
Spells Writing Center, and is a Creative Writing instructor for Johns Hopkins
University’s Center for Talented Youth. She holds a B.S. in Journalism from
Boston University, and currently lives in Philadelphia.