Twelve years ago, Linda’s sister Anna was murdered. Her killer was never caught, but Linda saw him. And she’s just seen him again on TV. He’s become a well-known journalist, and Linda—a famous novelist and infamous recluse—knows no one will believe her if she accuses him. She does the only thing she can think of: she sets a trap, writing a thriller called Blood Sisters about the unsolved murder of a young woman. When Blood Sisters is published, Linda agrees to give just one media interview. At home. To the one person who knows more about the case than she does…
Publicist Alice Lewinsky had a chat with author Melanie Raabe about her unputdownable debut novel, The Trap.
What was your inspiration for writing The Trap? How did the book start to take shape in your imagination?
As an author, I am always looking for fresh and interesting things to write about. One evening I was having dinner with a friend. At some point she told me about a magazine article she had read about a reclusive author who never leaves her house. I immediately put that down in my notebook: reclusive author. On my way home from dinner I started thinking: why doesn’t she leave the house? What happened to her? What would need to happen to make her leave the house again? That was the origin of The Trap.
Did you know every twist and turn before beginning the writing process? Or was this something that began to unfold as you were writing the book?
I planned everything meticulously before I started writing. But when I first planned out the book, I thought it would mainly be about whether or not Linda gets Lenzen to confess and if so, how. But when I started writing I realised that the question of whether Linda was actually right was at least as compelling. So I made a lot of changes. I think it pays off to stay open to new ideas.
The novel is brimming with a sense of unease and paranoia. How did you establish this atmosphere?
I did my best to really get into Linda’s head and put myself into her shoes. I have been a stage actor for many years. It was little more than a hobby, but it really helps with character development. Very often I was really feeling what my protagonist would feel when I was writing. I think readers pick up on that.
What is the process around writing an unreliable narrator? Did it ever become difficult to keep Linda’s story straight?
Well, I knew the truth from the very beginning. I knew what really happened to Linda’s sister. I just had to keep that in mind. There were difficult parts, but writing around an unreliable narrator was actually really, really fun.
Were you required to undertake any research in order to better understand Linda’s agoraphobia?
I did a bit of research on people who do not leave the house, but I mostly pulled from my own emotions and experiences. I am not afraid of leaving the house, obviously, but fear is universal. And I think most of us have had the feeling that the world is a dangerous place at some point in our lives. Linda is extreme, but I think her fears are still relatable. At least they were for me.
The Trap contains excerpts from Linda’s own novel, which makes for a thoroughly intriguing reading experience. Can you tell us a little about the process of writing a novel within a novel?
I realised that it would be confusing to me to write the whole book in chronological order. So I kept strictly separated the frame and the novel within the novel. I first wrote the frame—everything that happens between Linda and Lenzen. When I was completely finished with that, I started to work on the novel within the novel. I wanted those chapters to have a slightly different style—Linda’s style. I imagined that it would be hard for Linda to write this book, so I decided on a somewhat rushed style with short, breathless sentences. When I was finished, I made up my mind about where to strategically place those chapters within my novel. And with a heavy heart I threw out many chapters of Linda’s novel that were nice—but a bit unnecessary.
Sisters and their enduring bonds have long been a great source of inspiration to writers and novelists. Why do you think authors and readers are so fascinated by the sisterly connection?
Relationships between sisters are often rather complicated, and I think that is very intriguing to writers and readers alike.
I don’t have a sister, I have a brother. But I have talked to enough people to know about the sometimes strong dynamics between sisters, and I thought it might be interesting to write about that. I love complex characters and relationships. Things mostly aren’t as simple as love or hate, there are always different layers. Relationships are fluid, and I wanted to explore that. Writing about sisters gave me the perfect opportunity.
There seems to have been a wonderful influx of female authors writing sharply crafted (and wildly popular) thrillers in recent years. Why do you think this is?
I have no idea why this is. :-)
All I can say is that I love it. I love to read these novels just as much as I enjoy writing them.
The Trap is available on 29 March. Order online or at your favourite bookshop now.