Writing Thrillers while Living an Ordinary Life
By Trevor Shane
I’m writing this in a haze of lack of sleep, getting by on little more than caffeine and adrenaline. Adrenaline plays an important role in my books. It’s not just the goal to induce a shot of adrenaline in my readers, my characters’ reactions to their own adrenaline is often key to their survival. When two characters are fighting each other for their lives, who wins and who dies is often a direct result of how a character takes advantage of their own adrenaline. In Children of Paranoia, every time a character feels that shot of adrenaline they have to decide: Do I run? Do I hide? Or do I fight.
But back to my own adrenaline. My adrenaline is not about fight or flight or kill or be killed. My adrenaline stems from the fact that I am sitting with my new one week old son in my lap as I type this. We adopted Van from Indiana. He’s healthy and beautiful and terrifying. It’s terrifying now much and how quickly you can care for someone and hope that everything in their life is wonderful. Hence the adrenaline. How do you turn a flawed, hard world into something perfect for the people that you love? You can’t. You can only try.
This brings me back to when my wife and I adopted our first son, Leo. I was in the middle of writing Children of Paranoia when we started the process. I already had the idea for the secret war around which Children of Paranoia is built and I had visions for most of my main characters. Then my family got into the process of adopting Leo and that process took over and drove my writing. It sent the story places that I never thought it would go. When something that big is going on in your life, it can’t help but to infect your writing. That’s why the book is dedicated to him.
People who read Children of Paranoia often ask my wife if she’s sure it’s safe to live with me. What they don’t realize is that the fear, the paranoia and the adrenaline the characters face in Children of Paranoia aren’t foreign to any people with ordinary lives. That’s why people like reading thrillers. Thrillers aren’t simply about getting people to turn pages. They’re about crystallizing the regular fears in people’s own lives. Good thrillers are about taking the life altering decisions that ordinary people make over a lifetime and squeezing them down into single make or break moments. As I sit here, staring down at my newborn son, I sometimes yearn for that make or break moment because real life is often just as hard and rarely quite as simple. In books, characters can prove their worth in a moment. In real life, it takes an entire lifetime.