Meet the romantic fictional novelists who went on to spooky thrillers

Thrillers remain among the most popular genres in the book world – and a handful of famous female fiction writers have risked a lot to pursue their dreams of writing a detective novel, psychological thriller, or domestic film noir.

Mid-career bestselling authors, whose stories of love, loss, romance and emotional heartbreak had already sold in the millions, risked alienating their loyal readers into writing dark and twisted stories. on sinister events.

Here, five great novelists who have spent writing thrillers explain the reasons for their decision …

Lisa Jewell: I wanted to ignore the ‘enlightened by chicks’ legacy

Best-selling novelist Lisa Jewell (Andrew Whitton / PA)

Jewell has written female fiction for over a decade, featuring romance, comedy, and contemporary relationships in books such as Ralph’s Party and Thirtynothing. Yet in recent years, she has turned to dark psychological thrillers that have also become bestsellers, most notably The Family Upstairs and its most recent, Invisible Girl.

She had wanted to incorporate darker themes into her female fiction for quite some time, she recalls. “I wanted my first book, Ralph’s Party, to be a lot darker than it was, but the reader I had when I wrote it really encouraged my characters to have a good time.

“I started trying to fit the darker aspects into the other romantic comedies I wrote. They came out at a time when chicks were the thing and they were marketed very much as light romantic comedies, when in fact there are some really dark things about them – abortion, obsession, stalking, death and suicide.

Still, its readership had peaked by this point, Jewell said. “There was that horrible shadow behind ‘Lisa Jewell chick lit’ that was really hard to shake. Some people had grown up with Chick Lit and didn’t read me because they thought I had written Chick Lit. It was a legacy I really should ignore. “

Switching to writing thrillers was not a conscious decision. The real change happened by chance when writing The Third Wife, released in 2014, which it intended to be a family drama but ended up being more of a mystery. “It was around the themes of a man who has been married multiple times and the impact that has on the dynamic with his older children, young children, ex-wives and new wife, and mid – way, I realized that I was bored with him.

“So I added a prologue where his third wife is thrown under the wheels of a night bus on Charing Cross Road and then had to rework the narrative.” She received positive feedback and reflected, “Once you’ve killed someone, you can’t take a step back. You have crossed the Rubicon.

Jewell’s latest thriller, The Night She Disappeared, is released on July 22 (Century, £ 14.99).

Tony Parsons: I took a huge financial bet

It was a conversation with director Sam Mendes at a film screening in 2010, about their love for Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels that sparked Tony Parsons’ desire to write a detective novel, recalls. -he. Still, it was a huge financial risk, says the novelist, who has achieved runaway success with his novel Man And Boy and other stories of love, loss and relationships.

“When you’re known for something else, walking across the room isn’t straightforward or straightforward. Man And Boy was such a book sold to millions of people that it clearly sets certain expectations of the industry, the readers, and yourself. Changing your gender is not something that can be done lightly or easily.

“I discussed this with my agent and he said, ‘This means going back to the beginning. He meant I had to prove myself – write the thriller without a contract, find a passionate publisher, prove that I could do it. Challenge expectations. The world loves to put us all in our little box.

“It meant cashing in my savings – just under £ 200,000 – and living with that for two years while I wrote The Murder Bag, the first book in the Max Wolfe series.

Author Tony Parsons (Bill Waters / PA)

“But it paid off – The Murder Bag sold out in 24 hours, went to number one, the first Sunday Times number one I had in 10 years.

“My most recent thriller, a standalone psychological thriller called Your Neighbor’s Wife, is the most successful thing I’ve done in 10 years. Are they better? I believe so, because you become a better writer as you get older.

Your Neighbor’s Wife by Tony Parsons is available now (Century, £ 12.99).

Paula Hawkins: I’m not romantic and I’m not that funny

Author Paula Hawkins (Phoebe Grigor / PA)

Paula Hawkins rose to fame with The Girl On The Train, which was turned into a blockbuster movie starring Emily Blunt. But she had spent years writing romantic novels before turning to thrillers.

“I started to write fiction in a bit of a strange way, in that I was commissioned to write a romantic comedy: the editors gave me an idea and a sketch and I filled in the rest. I went on to write three more romance novels under the same pseudonym, but I never really felt comfortable in the genre.

“I’m not romantic and I’m not that funny… The novels were getting darker and darker and it became clear to me that what I really wanted to do was write about crime. As soon as I started writing The Girl On The Train, it became clear to me that I had found my place; I felt much more comfortable with murder than with love.

Hawkins’ new novel, A Slow Fire Burning, will be released on August 31 (Doubleday, £ 20).

Adele Parks: I love watching another dark belly of the world

Author Adele Parks (Sekkides / PA)

The covers of Adele Park’s early books, including her first, Playing Away, featured soft pink or purple backgrounds, often with a sexy pair of stiletto heel legs up front. And now she’s become a domestic noir star, with her thrillers often making the top 10 bestseller list.

She says that her thrillers have been more successful than her romantic fiction, that her previous readers have stayed with her and that she has opened up her market to men, and that the American market has been bigger.

Adele Parks’ Playing Away book cover (

“I love the fun of playing with villains and girls, and enjoying the expanse of looking at a dark belly that’s very different from the world I didn’t have access to when writing romances,” she says.

She had already taken a hiatus from romantic fiction to write two historical novels before turning to writing thrillers. “I became less interested in pinning my books around romance.”

She intends to continue with thrillers for the foreseeable future. “I just love the twists and the revelations and the intellectual play that you can have in a thriller.”

Parks’ new novel Both Of You is out on May 27 (HQ, £ 14.99)

Joanne Harris: I never thought of it as a transition

Author Joanne Harris (Kyte Photography / PA)

Over 20 years ago, Joanne Harris first became known with Chocolat, her fascinating story of the enigmatic chocolate maker Vianne Rocher, adapted into a film with Juliette Binoche and Alfred Molina.

She has since written a number of psychological thrillers, but says it wasn’t much of a transition for her. “I realized that my readers fall into separate categories. Some will only read thrillers, some will only read Chocolate books, some will only read fantastic books.

Indeed, his books are very varied, covering aspects of magical realism, suspense, historical fiction, mythology and fantasy. There is no record for this author.

His new thriller, A Narrow Door, is released on August 4 (Orion, £ 20).