An Insight into the Writing Process
I’m often asked whether I found it difficult, transitioning from writing adult psychological thrillers to writing young adult thrillers. The short – and possibly irritating– answer is no! When I started plotting The Treatment I approached it in the same way as one of my adult books – by identifying the premise, the main character’s goal, her flaw, her emotional arc and the obstacles that would stop her from reaching her goal.
I already knew the premise – ‘Prison Break meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ – as it was an idea I’d had for several years. I’m a huge fan of Prison Break (season 1 in particular) as it’s pacey and gripping with a memorable main character and fascinating secondary characters. It’s also rammed with secrets, mysteries, obstacles and cliff-hangers. In Prison Break the main character, architect Michael, gets a plan of the prison tattooed on his body, then he deliberately gets arrested so that he can rescue his brother Lincoln. What if there was a prison for teenagers, I wondered, and a teenage girl got herself sent there to rescue her brother? What kind of skills would she need?
The second question was what provoked the ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ element of the book. I’ve got a degree in Psychology and one of the things I’m fascinated by is brainwashing and thought control. In The Lie, my second psychological thriller for adults, I explored how those two techniques can be used to start a cult but I wanted to do something different with The Treatment. I wanted to explore obedience, and compliance. I began researching mind control techniques in the Korean War. How did the Chinese make their American prisoners of war co-operate with them? It made for fascinating, and terrifying, reading.
All the elements of the novel began to fall into place. The ‘prison’ would be a residential reform academy for excluded teenagers and the ‘cuckoo’ element would be the way in which the school would try to turn them into model citizens. My heroine, Drew Finch, would be the child of missing psychologist Dr David Finch and her skill would be her knowledge of psychology. Her goal would be to rescue her brother, her flaw would be her reluctance to trust people her age (as a result of bullying at school) and the obstacles she’d have to overcome…well, you’ll have to read The Treatment to discover what those are…
This guest blog was provided by CL Taylor. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups.