The Woman in The Attic, a psychological thriller by Mount Pearl author Emily Hepditch, has been voted this year’s NL Reads contest winner.
“It’s been my dream to be a writer since I was a little girl,” said Hepditch, an O’Donel High School graduate. “So, just having the book published is the biggest dream completed. To be nominated for NL Reads was the win for me. To be alongside the amazing writers who were also up for the award, I felt so honoured and humbled. That was a win alone, a win in and of itself. And then to win, on top of that, I was completely mind blown.”
Other authors up for the title were Gemma Hickey, Douglas Walbourne-Gough, and Séan McCann with Andrea Aragon.
Hepditch, an avid fan of psychological thriller writers such as Lisa Jewel and Gillian Flynn, describes the novel as a traditional psychological thriller set in Newfoundland, inspired in part by road trips around the province.
“One of the things that really struck me the summer I wrote it was how haunting the geography is in Newfoundland,” said Hepditch. “You can go to any kind of abandoned or resettled community and see these salt box homes that are left there to rot. And I thought, ‘What a perfect setting for a thriller.’ Because honestly, it’s creepy, but still so hauntingly beautiful. I thought that the setting could be a character in and of itself.”
The genre could be described as a psychological narrative, largely dealing with a character’s innerworkings and understanding of the world as it appears to be, in a thriller setting. They often share elements of mystery, Gothic, and horror fiction, including murder, paranoia, and family secrets.
“I think everybody likes a good scare from time to time,” said Hepditch. “I think it was a book that appealed to a lot of readers, young and old. It’s a book people can pick up and feel the thrills.”
The story revolves around a young woman who returns home to help her mother transition into assisted living and discovers that her mom, and maybe even the very home, hold dangerous secrets.
Written in August of 2019 and published in April of 2020, the novel was released just as Newfoundland and Labrador was entering its first COVID-19 lockdown — and looking for books to read.
“People have told me that it’s been a distraction,” said Hepditch. “People, over the course of quarantine, have said, ‘This has been a nice break from my current reality.’”
Hepditch, who has since released a second novel, a thriller that follows four friends on a hiking trip that turns dangerous, shared some advice for those interested in pursing a career in writing.
“The best thing to do is build your network,” said Hepditch. “So, we have an amazing network, the Writer’s Alliance of Newfoundland. I strongly encourage anybody to join, even if you’re at the very earliest stages of your writing career, because it really does provide you with a support system. Because other writers want to support each other.”
She also recommended that aspiring writers be willing to step outside their comfort zone to make their voices heard.
“It’s a long road to get published. And, it can be very lonely and very scary, but at the end of the deal, if you have a story you feel compelled to tell, you’ve got to fight for an opportunity to tell it, so don’t give up,” said Hepditch. “Everybody who has a story to tell deserves the opportunity to share it.”
Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News