You’re not alone. Someone’s waiting. Someone’s watching…Someone’s listening.
In SOMEONE’S LISTENING (Graydon House Books; July 28; $16.99) Dr. Faith Finley has everything she’s ever wanted: she’s a renowned psychologist, a radio personality—host of the wildly popular “Someone’s Listening with Dr. Faith Finley”—and a soon-to-be bestselling author. She’s young, beautiful, and married to the perfect man, Liam.
Of course Liam was at Faith’s book launch with her. But after her car crashes on the way home and she’s pulled from the wreckage, nobody can confirm that Liam was with her at the party. The police claim she was alone in car, and they don’t believe her when she says otherwise. Perhaps that’s understandable, given the horrible thing Faith was accused of doing a few weeks ago.
And then the notes start arriving—the ones literally ripped from the pages of Faith’s own self-help book on leaving an abusive relationship. Ones like “Secure your new home. Consider new window and door locks, an alarm system, and steel doors…”
Where is Liam? Is his disappearance connected to the scandal that ruined Faith’s life? Who is sending the notes? Faith’s very life will depend on finding the answers.
WHEN I WAKE UP, IT’S BLACK AND STILL; I FEEL A light, icy snow that floats rather than falls, and I can’t open my eyes. I don’t know where I am, but it’s so quiet, the silence rings in my ears. My fingertips try to grip the ground, but I feel only a sheet of ice beneath me, splintered with bits of embedded gravel. The air is sharp, and I try to call for him, but I can’t speak. How long have I been here? I drift back out of consciousness. The next time I wake, I hear the crunching of ice under the boots of EMTs who rush around my body. I know where I am. I’m lying in the middle of County Road 6. There has been a crash. There’s a swirling red light, a strobe light in the vast blackness: they tell me not to move.
“Where’s my husband?” I whimper. They tell me to try not to talk either. “Liam!” I try to yell for him, but it barely escapes my lips; they’re numb, near frozen, and it comes out in a hoarse whisper. How has this happened?
I think of the party and how I hate driving at night, and how I was careful not to drink too much. I nursed a glass or two, stayed in control. Liam had a lot more. It wasn’t like him to get loaded, and I knew it was his way of getting back at me. He was irritated with me, with the position I’d put him in, even though he had never said it in so many words. I wanted to please him because this whole horrible situation was my fault, and I was sorry.
When I wake up again I’m in a hospital room, connected to tubes and machines. The IV needle is stuck into a bruised, purple vein in the back of my hand that aches. In the dim light, I sip juice from a tiny plastic cup, and the soft beep of the EKG tries to lull me back to sleep, but I fight it. I want answers. I need to appear stabilized and alert. Another dose of painkiller is released into my IV; the momentary euphoria forces me to heave a sigh. I need to keep my eyes open. I can hear the cops arrive and talk to someone at a desk outside my door. They’ll tell me what happened.
There’s a nurse who calls me “sweetie” and changes the subject when I ask about the accident. She gives the cops a sideways look when they come in to talk to me, and tells them they only have a few minutes and that I need to rest.
Detective John Sterling greets me with a soft “Hello, ma’am.” I almost forget about my shattered femur and groan after I move too quickly. Another officer lingers by the door, a tall, stern-looking woman with her light hair pulled into a tight bun at the base of her skull. She tells me I’m lucky to be alive, and if it had dropped below freezing, I wouldn’t have lasted those couple hours before a passing car stopped and called 911. I ask where Liam is, but she just looks to Sterling. Something is terribly wrong.
“Why won’t anyone tell me what happened to him?” I plead. I watch Detective Sterling as he picks his way through a response.
“The nurse tells me that you believe he was in the car with you at the time of the accident,” he says. I can hear the condescension in his voice. He’s speaking to me like I’m a child.
“They said ‘I believe’ he was? That’s not a— That’s a fact. We came from a party—a book signing party. Anyone, anyone can tell you that he was with me. Please. Is he hurt?” I look down at my body for the first time and see the jagged stitches holding together the bruised flesh of my right arm. They look exaggerated, like the kind you might draw on with makeup and glue for a Halloween costume. I close my eyes, holding back nausea. I try to walk through the series of events—trying to piece together what happened and when.
Liam had been quiet in the car. I knew he’d believed me after the accusations started. I knew he trusted me, but maybe I’d underestimated the seeds of doubt that had been planted in his mind. I tried to lighten the mood when we got in the car by making some joke about the fourteen-dollar domestic beers; he’d given a weak chuckle and rested his head on the passenger window.
The detective looks at me with something resembling sympathy but closer to pity.
“Do you recall how much you had to drink last night?” he asks accusingly.
“What? You think…? No. I drove because he… No! Where is he?” I ask, not recognizing my own voice. It’s haggard and raw.
“Do you recall taking anything to help you relax? Anything that might impair your driving?”
“No,” I snap, nearly in tears again.
“So, you didn’t take any benzodiazepine maybe? Yesterday…at some point?”
“No— I— Please.” I choke back tears. “I don’t…” He looks at me pointedly, then scribbles something on his stupid notepad. I didn’t know what to say. Liam must be dead, and they think I’m too fragile to take the news. Why would they ask me this?
“Ma’am,” he says, standing. He softens his tone. This is it. He’s going to tell me something I’ll never recover from.
“You were the only one in the car when medics got there,” he says, studying me for my response, waiting to detect a lie that he can use against me later. His patronizing look infuriates me.
“What?” The blood thumps in my ears. They think I’m crazy; that soft tone isn’t a sympathetic one reserved for delivery of the news that a loved one has died—it’s the careful language chosen when speaking to someone unstable. They think I’m some addict or a drunk. Maybe they think the impact had made me lose the details, but he was there. I swear to God. His cry came too late and there was a crash. It was deafening, and I saw him reach for me, his face distorted in terror. He tried to shield me. He was there. He was next to me, screaming my name when we saw the truck headlights appear only feet in front of us—too late.
Excerpted from Someone’s Listening by Seraphina Nova Glass, Copyright © 2020 by Seraphina Nova Glass.
Published by Graydon House Books
Q&A with Seraphina Nova Glass
Q: Please give the elevator pitch for Someone’s Listening.
A: Faith Finley has survived a lot of trauma in her own past, so in her current profession, she helps victims of abuse. Her career is just starting to take off when a very public sex scandal stops it in its tracks. She hopes her husband, Liam, believes her when she says she says the accusations against her are lies, but when he disappears and she becomes a suspect, her world falls apart.
She doesn’t handle the crisis well. It’s easy to give advice to others, but as things escalate, she leans on alcohol and pills to cope with her anxiety and her worst fears. She decides to take matters into her own hands and search for the real reason behind Liam’s disappearance. The closer she gets to the truth, the more she is putting herself in danger.
Q: What’s the “story behind the story”?
A: In October of 2018, I was directing the Fall play at the university where I teach. It’s a bit of a commute, and since I was to be there every evening for rehearsal, I decided to listen to audiobooks. A Ruth Ware novel was the first thriller I had ever read/listened to. I like thriller movies, but never meandered outside literary fiction much as a reader. I was immediately in love and said, “that’s what I am going to do. I’m gonna write a thriller.” The play closed mid- October, and I started writing immediately afterward. I finished Someone’s Listening ten weeks later.
I was annoyed that it was Christmas time because I had to wait until after the new year to send it out and try to get an agent. Yes, it was completely crazy that I thought I’d just send out a first draft and get anywhere. I really didn’t expect to, but I didn’t know how to revise it. I’d written the story I wanted to write and would put it out there and see. A few weeks later I signed with Folio Literary Management, and my agent quickly sold it to Harper Collins, Graydon House imprint.
It’s still surreal. I had been writing screenplays and had a bunch of Hallmark scripts under option, and I was getting nowhere, really. It was just a lot of waiting and disappointment, but I found that writing thrillers is exactly where I want to be. My second book will come out next summer, and I’m about halfway through writing my thrisd book now.
Q: Which came first: the characters or plot line?
A: I always start with plot. Well, I start with atmosphere first which is not intentional, forming the idea for the book just seems to always begin with a feel–winter in Chicago or summer in rural Louisiana. I really think about the world the characters are in–the sensory details and how that will feel to a reader. Then plot because I’m an outliner. I have to know exactly where the plot is going, how it will end, what chapter each twist and turn will be in and how that will lead to the next. I cannot imagine winging any of that. I think the characters sort of materialize in my peripheral while I am plotting, and I know who they are by the time I am familiar with the plot.
Q: Why do you love Faith and why should readers root for her?
A: Faith is suffering an unthinkable loss. I think everyone knows what loss feels like, and we all handle it differently. Simply because Faith is a psychologist doesn’t mean she has the coping skills to handle the love of her life missing on top of the scandal and suspicion surrounding her. Her occupation also doesn’t mean she doesnt struggle with addiction and might turn to sleeping aids or booze when her life is falling apart the way many people might do to numb some of the pain.
She’s carved out a great career for herself and enjoyed some local fame, but ultimately, she is going through the darkest time of her life. When someone critiques her as “not likable” I think, would you be very likable in the midst of this much loss and uncertainty?” I don’t think she needs to be a protagonist who does and says the right things to be the hero of the story. I think we root for her because she screws up and makes desperate and flawed decisions because she is desperate and flawed. We root for her because she’s out there risking quite a lot to uncover the truth about her husband despite the danger, and who wouldn’t want that kind of love –someone who would go to any length for their partner no matter what the cost?
Q: Which character is most like you and why?
A: Writing in first person gives me a pretty strong bond with all of my protagonists. I think, inevitably, there is a lot of me in all of them, so I have to say I’m most like Faith. The way she sees the world and navigates her insecurity with her professional drive and ambitions is a constant balancing act. She’s a natural introvert trying to live outside of her comfort zone in order to meet success which makes managing her anxiety an ever present struggle. .
Q: What was your last 5 star read?
A: I really enjoyed the Sundown Motel by Simone St. James, and I recently started reading Lisa Jewell. It’s like Christmas discovering an author you really like and you’re late to the party, so they have several other books you still get to read. I just finished The Family Upstairs, and loved it.
Q: What is one thing about publishing you wish someone would have told you?
A: It’s really, really slow. I finished writing this book a year and a half ago, and finally it’s getting released. It will be another year’s wait for the second book. If you write fast, this is sort of torture.
Also, as a private person who only just signed up for Twitter and Instagram recently and find it hard to remember to even check, all of a sudden having your work out here for public opinion is tough. No matter how many good reviews, you can’t obsess over the readers who don’t like your work. Not everyone will, of course, but you have to get quickly comfortable with being out there and try not to obsess over every comment.
Q: Do you have any specific writing rituals?
A: Not really. I don’t write every day or keep a journal or anything. I don’t have multiple projects or ideas going at once. I guess the only thing consistent, is that when I am working on an idea, I keep really fixated on developing it, and I have to write it quickly. I feel like too much time away and I’ll lose my understanding of the world and the characters and I need to stay totally engaged and invested in the story until it’s all out on paper. I can’t spend months doing that. I have to dedicate large chunks of time and get it done in a handful of weeks. Revise later.
Q: What can you tell us about your next project?
A: My next book comes out summer 2021. It was titled The Seduction, so you’ll notice an excerpt in the back of Someone’s Listening with that title, but that will be changing. Another unexpected part of publishing, but I trust the marketing team knows more than me about that!
It’s another mystery revolving around a woman in small town Louisiana who had dreams of being a scholar, and having a career as a writer, but she puts that on hold when she and her husband have their second child and he has special needs. She finds herself a stay-at-home mom which she loves on one hand because she adores her family, but she also finds it hard to see herself in this role she never expected. When she meets a semi-famous romance writer, she feels guilty at how taken she is with him–jealous of his jet-setting life and freedom. She gets too close to him and makes a string of bad decisions that put her marriage and family in danger, and someone ends up dead. The lengths she goes to distance herself from this suspicious death shocks even herself.