Get ready to have your mind blown.
Think Gone Girl, but even a tad darker—and you’ve got J.M Winchester’s thrilling new novel, All the Lovely Pieces.
Without giving too much away, the story follows Drew Baker, a fascinating woman who bears two totally different sides when the situation calls for it. On one hand, she’s a loving mother to her ten-year-old-son. However, her willingness to do whatever it takes to protect him—and she will do anything—brings out a violent side to her that exposes an even darker past.
Now, after years on the run from her brutal husband and the police, Drew struggles to remember what really happened the night her marriage fell apart. She tries hiding, only to realize that she doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life looking over her shoulder. So, ready to take matters into her own hands, Drew sets out to confront the skeletons in her closet, and heaven help those who try to stand in her way.
Dark, twisted, and totally unputdownable . . . if you’re searching for a great psychological thriller, look no further than J.M. Winchester’s All the Lovely Pieces.
Winchester, the pseudonym of an established romance writer who is now penning thrillers, agreed to go on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked her about everything from how she came up to the story idea for this one to how writing “happily ever afters” is different from psychological suspense. Read the full interview below, then click here to order your copy of All the Lovely Pieces, now available in paperback, audiobook, and e-book (or free for those who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited).
TRBS: I love how your Amazon page describes you as “the dark alter ego of an author who usually writes happily ever afters.” That’s a great line! How then, did you come up with the story idea for this one?
Winchester: My romances are fun, heartwarming reads that always end with hope and love, and as much as I enjoy writing books with uplifting, positive messages, I had always wanted to try writing something a little darker, explore the other side of relationships. I had the idea for All The Lovely Pieces for a long time and was too afraid to write it (Fun Fact: Psychological Thrillers terrify me lol). The idea originally came from a road trip I took with my son, just the two of us. We had stopped for dinner in a small town in the middle of Alberta somewhere, and I remember thinking that no one in the world knew where we were in that moment. It was kind of a creepy feeling, actually, and then the rest of the plot spiraled from there.
TRBS: What kind of research did you have to do before actually sitting down to write this one?
Winchester: I always research as I write. I’m not a plotter, so I start writing based on feelings and intuition and then as I get further into the story, I start researching. This one was easy for me, as I have a degree in psychology, so that was very useful in developing the characters and their disorders brought on by their individual traumas. But, I did read a lot more books on the topic of psychopaths and evil minds, to really get inside the villain’s head. Which was definitely terrifying lol. My next thriller has a bit of police procedural to it, so I’m definitely researching more for that one, working with a Detective friend of mine to get those details right.
TRBS: How is writing a physiological thriller like this different from writing romance, cozy, happily ever afters?
Winchester: So different! Both are hard. One major difference is I write my romances in third person POV, but my thrillers are first-person POV. I find the first person works better for me to deep dive into the character and when my thrillers are very character-driven, I need that insight into the people I’m creating. It’s emotionally exhausting to write that way, but I think readers feel it. For my romances, I know it sounds weird, but I find writing in third-person gives the characters their privacy to be intimate. I still deep dive into characterization, but the distance that third person gives me for those stories helps me to tell a beautiful love story without adding parts of me/author into it. It’s just how it works for me.
Another difference is that while both genres have their ‘rules’ and ‘structures’, there is flexibility to not have everything wrap up as nicely in a thriller. My thriller endings are satisfying for readers, but they don’t always resolve everything and they can also be a little ambiguous and I’m having so much fun with that.
I love writing both equally and I feel that I’ve grown as a writer by branching out into different genres.
TRBS: What’s your writing process like, and what advice do you have aspiring novelists?
Winchester: My process is a dumpster fire. For real. Do not write like I do lol. I don’t plot. I don’t write in order. I may not have a clue where the book/scenes are going, and every book ultimately hits a wall and I’m not sure if I can finish it, but it’s the process. I’ve learned to push through the hard writing days and finish a messy first draft that I can fix. My first drafts are very short-30-40k words and they are out of order. So, I print out the manuscript and literally move scenes to where they should be, then I start at the beginning and revise-adding in-depth and finishing scenes and adding everything that is missing. I do not recommend this way lol, but it works for me.
I do make notes and rough outlines throughout the writing, but they aren’t organized and well thought out. I honestly feel that for me, outlining takes the fun away from the writing. If I were to plot a book, I’d be bored with the idea and probably wouldn’t write it. I like to be kept guessing with my books. For my second thriller, I had twists and turns pop up out of nowhere that surprised the hell out of me, so I’m hoping that means, they will surprise readers too:)
My advice to aspiring authors is to keep writing, even on the tough days. Push through. Get the words on the page. Everyone says that because it’s true. But my main advice is not to let anyone discourage you. If you truly believe in your idea, your book, write it. No one will believe in you as much as you do and you need to go after what you want.
TRBS: Lastly, now that All the Lovely Pieces is set to come out, what’s next for you?
Winchester: I’m currently finishing my second thriller, set to release in June 2020 and I’m under contract for a new romance series with books releasing late 2019 and 2020. And I also write screenplays and TV pilots, and have had several projects optioned in the last year, so lots of film stuff happening as well:) Busy but exciting!
Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.