With more than eight million copies of 68 books in print, acclaimed USA Today bestselling women’s fiction and romance author Nicola Marsh could rest easy. Instead, this prolific author now conquers new thriller territory with a domestic suspense nail-biter, THE SCANDAL.
Marisa Thurston has it all—wealth, a successful husband, a mansion in the Hamptons, twin girls in college, a fulfilling career in social work, and enough volunteering to make her a pillar of the community. But empty nest syndrome hits hard. A garden club that consists, not of gardening, but of monthly wine and cheese gatherings with her friends, Claire and Elly, takes the edge off, but all three women harbor secrets. When a young pregnant woman, Jodi, turns up on Marisa’s doorstep, Marisa’s instinct is to help her. What none of the women anticipate is how Jodi’s search for her baby’s father will impact them all, and how their secrets will turn their world upside down.
THE SCANDAL will have you wide-eyed at two a.m. with twists and turns on an emotional roller coaster. The coolest part? You won’t see those twists coming. Really.
The Big Thrill recently delved into this engrossing story with author Nicola Marsh.
What was the genesis of THE SCANDAL?
The plot came to me one summer. Each night when I got into bed, a scene would play out like a movie, and I’ve never had that happen before. I outline chapter by chapter in Scrivener, usually a one-line summary. I write a clean first draft, so the twists happened organically.
Although Marisa, Claire, and Elly don’t seem to have much in common, they are friends. What keeps them together?
I like the thought of clubs in which characters from all walks of life come together for a mutual interest, so I created the gardening club for Marisa, Claire, and Elly. They’re all misfits in their own way, hiding secrets, but relying on each other through the tough times.
What is your view of women’s friendships, and why was that important for this story?
Women’s friendships fascinate me. Women can be friendly and lovely one minute, but talk behind your back the next, and there’s definitely a hint of competitiveness in most friendships. Yet, women tend to forgive quickly, and that is the key to supporting each other—forgetting the bad and moving forward.
What attracted you to write a thriller, and what was the biggest challenge?
I’m an avid reader of thrillers, so when the idea for THE SCANDAL popped into my imagination, it seemed natural to try it. Compared to my romance and women’s fiction novels, the thriller has more plot threads that must be interwoven without giving too much away. The biggest challenge was ensuring a big enough twist at the end.
I didn’t see that big twist coming. Did you have it in mind all along as you wrote the story, and how did you plan it out?
In the first draft of the book, I had a completely different ending. But my agent and editor wanted the book to have more of a women’s fiction/domestic suspense feel, so I added more characters in the second draft. I thought, “Who would be the least likely to be suspected?” and that’s how I came up with the last page twist.
What inspired the characters of Marisa (Ris), Elly, and Claire, and how about Avery and Dane, as well as Claire’s partner Ron?
I wanted three totally mismatched women bound together by an odd friendship and the sharing of secrets. I think many of us have known men like Avery, the consummate cocky control freak who walks into a room and commands attention, the guy who’s married, but there’s a hint of sleaze behind every interaction with a woman, even his wife’s friends. Dane is the stand-up guy with secrets, and Ron is merely a foil for Claire professionally.
What was the inspiration for the main characters’ emotional journeys?
I drew on my women’s fiction background for the characters’ emotional journeys. Ris, the empty-nester, is struggling to break free from her trophy wife mold and be recognized as a professional in her own right, and I wanted to highlight this journey in particular. Claire struggles with infertility and guilt, while Elly is driven to escape the demons of her past in the most unorthodox of ways.
You nail the portrayal of life in the Hamptons really well.
I’ve never been to the Hamptons, but I’d love to visit. I loved the Hamptons’ atmospheric appeal as depicted in The Affair, so I researched small towns in the area and invented the rest.
What other research did you do?
The beauty of this story for me was the small amount of research I actually had to do. After getting a general feel of the geographical area, I invented the rest. I spent the most research time on adoption laws in the US.
What was your biggest challenge in writing THE SCANDAL, and what did you learn?
My biggest challenge was giving Marisa, Claire, and Elly equal billing in the story and making each of their emotional arcs relevant. I learned that you can combine the mystery/thriller angle of a story with richly developed characters of women’s fiction.
What feedback are you receiving from your readers?
Readers have been incredibly generous in their praise for THE SCANDAL. As my first foray into the thriller subgenre, I was nervous, but I love the story, and I’m delighted readers do, too.
Your next thriller/domestic suspense novel will be out soon.
The Last Wife releases October 11th, with four sisters-in-law who don’t like each other very much, a husband who disappears, a powerful matriarch, and a family hiding toxic secrets.
We can hardly wait to read it.
She has published 68 books and sold over 8 million copies worldwide. She currently writes women’s fiction/rural romance for HarperCollins Australia Mira imprint, emotional domestic suspense for Bookouture and contemporary romance for Harlequin Dare.
A physiotherapist for 13 years, she now adores writing full time, raising her two dashing young heroes, sharing fine food with family and friends, barracking loudly for her beloved North Melbourne Kangaroos footy team, and her favourite, curling up with a good book!
To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.