I am delighted to host a visit from author Sally Jenkins, whose latest book The Promise is now on sale.
The paragraph above is the plot of my newly published psychological thriller, The Promise, and the result of much ‘What if?’ brainstorming on my part. ‘What if?’ is the magic, ideas-generating question for writers. Most of us have that question constantly buzzing in our brains. Sitting in a restaurant I see a couple holding hands and immediately I think, ‘What if they’re having an affair and the husband walks in now?’ There’s turbulence on a flight and I wonder, ‘What if the pilot declares an emergency? How will each of these passengers react?’
Stephen King got the idea for Misery by going off at a ‘What if?’ tangent. He’d read a short story by Evelyn Waugh about a tribal chief who took a man prisoner and forced him to read Dickens aloud. King started thinking, ‘What if Dickens himself had been taken prisoner?’ From there, a few more ‘What ifs’ took him to the plot of Misery, in which a writer is taken prisoner by his most ardent fan.
Similarly, George Orwell had a ‘What if?’ moment when he saw a little boy whip a horse. He said, 'It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength, we should have no power over them and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the workers.' Animal Farm was the eventual result of that ‘What if?’
All authors have pet subjects and themes that their ‘What Ifs’ return them to again and again. Mine is the impact of our past actions on our present lives. These may be our own actions or those of others close to us. For example, in my first psychological thriller, BedsitThree, the actions of Ignatius can be traced back to his overbearing mother and her treatment of him. For my current work in progress I started with the thought, ‘What if a man wants revenge for something that happened when he was in the sixth form at school?’ And plotting for The Promise started with, ‘What if someone knows the truth about something that happened in your youth?’
Look around next time you’re in a café or other public place. If you see someone with a glazed look, it’s probably a writer having a ‘What if?’ moment – and maybe the birth of a bestseller! SJ
The Promise is available as an ebook and in paperback from all major online retailers and high street bookshops.Sally Jenkins writes psychological thrillers and commercial women’s fiction. She lives with her husband in Sutton Coldfield and has two grown-up daughters. Find out more about Sally and follow her blog at https://sally-jenkins.com/ or follow her on Facebook, Twitter @sallyjenkinsuk or on Amazon.
About The Promise
A man has been stabbed. A woman is bloodstained. The nightmares from her teenage years have begun again for Olivia Field just as she is preparing to marry. Ex-convict, Tina is terminally ill. Before she dies, the care of her younger, psychologically unwell brother, Wayne must be ensured. So Tina calls in a promise made to her thirty years ago in a prison cell. A promise that was written down and placed with crucial evidence illustrating a miscarriage of justice in a murder case. Tina believes Olivia is perfectly placed to provide the care Wayne needs, but to do so, Olivia must be forced to cancel her own wedding and wreck the lives of those close to her. Tina's terrible blackmail demands put Olivia's entire future and, ultimately, her freedom under threat. The Promise is a fast-paced psychological thriller told from several third person viewpoints. The novel explores the lengths to which people are prepared go in order to protect those they love and the impossibility of ever fully escaping our past actions.