When I’m nutshelling Dark Rooms, when I’m trying to make it sound maximum enticing in minimum time, I describe it like this: sex, murder, glamour and intrigue set at a New England boarding school. Because, oooee, right? Because, who wouldn’t want to read that book? Really, though, Dark Rooms is a mystery/coming-of-age story. I first got the idea at my ten-year high school reunion. Which, by the way, I had the best time at, a total blast, but later found out no one else did, at least not any of my friends, because they all took bad ecstasy and I just say no to drugs. (Actually, I didn’t even get to say no in that instance since nobody asked!) I’m straying off topic, though. The point is, the reunion got me thinking about high school again. I loved high school. For me, high school was the beginning of adult life. Suddenly, it was on, all of it. Everything was viable – sex, drugs, serious consequences, the whole kit and caboodle. A lot of your firsts happen during those years. First love. First sex. First heartbreak. First disillusionment. First betrayal. It’s a beautiful time. It’s a painful time. It’s a time that’s rife with dramatic possibilities, and is thus great for fiction.
And I loved the idea of using a boarding school as a setting. I went to one – Milton Academy, which is just outside Boston. These schools are worlds onto themselves. The students don’t just go to school at these places, they live there, too. (I mean, obviously they live there. Hence the term boarding school.) But it’s more than even that. Many of the students are legacies, have brothers or sisters, or dads or moms, or even grandfathers or grandmothers who’ve attended. So there’s a sense of history and ghosts, a sense that you’re part of an ongoing story. Plus, a lot of the teachers live on campus, either in faculty housing or as dorm parents. And the schools, consequently, have these claustrophobic, hothouse atmospheres. Atmospheres that are hormone-addled and hysteria-prone, too. When something happens to one person – a suicide attempt or a breakdown or a drug freak-out – it seems to affect everybody on campus. Moods are contagious, infectious. So, again, great for fiction.
And, finally, the mystery part. The mystery genre is for me the most seductive genre. I mean, hands down, without a doubt, no contest. The basic, most fundamental reason why people read is to find out what happened next. Mystery novels take care to answer that question in exciting and unexpected ways. Why wouldn’t I want to be part of that tradition?
Like the sound of Dark Rooms? It’s out on 4th June, but you can pre-order your copy now!
Or if you can’t wait until next week, start reading now with our free sample!