Here’s the fiction: Accomplished woman marries for love, discovers a stranger, and in this novel, an abusive stranger, and has to find her way out to protect her children. Perfect fodder for a page-turner.
Here’s the backstory: Happily married Laguna architect, Suzanne Redfearn, seizes the downtime of the recession to write thriller fiction. “I sort of had the choice to build concrete boxes I didn’t want to build or take a break and do something different.”
Writing 18-hour days and determined to establish a foundation as solid as the houses she has built over the years, she worked her way through one book to another, and one agent to another, until she landed in the right place. “Hush Little Baby” published this week to good reviews and a lot of local fanfare.
Seems that a career break has charted a new course for Redfearn, who approached writing like architecture, taking time to contemplate the whole and allowing the structure to evolve. She also brings to her fiction great compassion. There are no single dimensional characters in the story: no one is perfect, not even the kids, and no one is completely innocent. Even the horrible husband has moments of kindness.
While reading, you wander the story as if room to room, not at all certain what’s behind a wall or in the closet or what might be lurking on the perimeter. Makes for chilling storytelling, which I wouldn’t be surprised to see on the big screen as well.
The novel follows on the heels of “Gone Girl” a record-breaking exploration of marital madness, and the story poses questions related to parenting, community, and the gender power struggle, as well as the darker issues of domestic violence.
Redfearn said recently that she has observed marriages eroding, although nothing like this story, and she was struck by the warfare former lovers will wage. “I wanted to convey the terror, the manipulation and the subterfuge, that’s what is chilling.” She has also seen ostensibly happy wives and loving mothers keep up a good face even as they disintegrate under a barrage of abuse.
Co-owner of the Lumberyard restaurant with husband Carey, Redfearn is vociferous that her fictional spouse bears no resemblance to her husband, and anyone who knows him would know that. For the sake of verisimilitude, she uses the town as landscape, referencing local establishments and professionals, as well as giving high praise to Anneliese’s School.
Much like building a house in Laguna Beach, there are more than a few surprises, and bureaucrats who manipulate the outcome, but Redfearn keeps a steady hand on her tale and, as she has with her own budding career, crafts a proper finale.
She may never have meant to be a writer, but she has talent and now she has traction. “I might have discovered what I most want to do.”
Randy Kraft is a freelance writer who previously covered the city for the Indy and pens the OC BookBlog for www.ocinsite.com or @ocbookblogger for Twitter.