Cynthia Hamilton


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Cynthia Hamilton

The Story Behind the Story

The ideas for books usually come when you least expect them. It’s when the mind is free to wander that inspiration drops in and starts tinkering with random thoughts. I can say that most of the ten books I’ve written came about that way. They started out as odd musings and continued to expand to the point it was hard to deny there just might be a story there.

Spouse Trap is a good example of this. I was two months into the research of a sequel to Alligators in the Trees when I was gripped by self-doubt. (I don’t think this is an uncommon occurrence among writers.) My lament about the futility of knocking myself out to write books that relatively few people would ever read branched off into a silent tirade about the unfairness of the writing universe. I concluded my rant with the realization that “if I wrote some piece of garbage called The Slutty Detective, I’d be a gazillionaire.”

After recoiling in disgust at the idea, another thought hit me. “The protagonist isn’t really slutty; she’s gotten a bad rep as the result of…her rotten ex-husband.” Yeah. I could see that. Divorces often bring out the worst in people. Off my imagination went, keen on the prospect of taking a perfectly respectable woman and destroying her reputation as a means of getting back at her. But for what? And what did that revenge look like?

My mind was at a full gallop before I could even get back to my computer. But instead of serving as backstory to a detective series, I realized this woman would need to undergo a complete transformation, a metamorphosis—too much to allude to in flashbacks. The first book would tell the whole, grizzly story.

And so began the saga of Madeline Ridley, née Dawkins, as we find her in a plush hotel room just before dawn, naked, with a blinding headache and no idea how she got there. And then things really get bad.

By the end of the book, poor Madeline has been to hell and back. She’s a completely different person than the socialite fundraiser we meet in the first few chapters. She’s been galvanized, stripped of everything she had held dear, tested by fire and remade into a resilient woman capable of handling just about anything thrown her way. In fact, she’s become so shrewd, she manages to get revenge and a new career out of what she’s been through. And off she went to the next book, A High Price to Pay, and the third, Girl Trap, which will be out soon. And more to come.

For any would-be writers reading this, I hope you take away the importance of listening to your creative side. Every book or artistic endeavor starts with the imagination. Everyone’s thoughts and voice are different, and therefore unique and worthy of being examined and nurtured.

I will be asking some of my favorite writers to share the story behind their stories here on Goodreads. Please check back soon to learn about other simple reveries that have launched inspired works of fiction.

Until next time, happy musings!

Very warmest regards,