With Don’t Look In, the debut in his newest series, Tom Saric pens a twisting novel of psychological suspense, introducing a psychiatrist trying to save lives while battling his own demons.
We talked with Tom about writing his new series— from the inception of main character Gus Young to what his writing weakness is. Read the interview below!
SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for Don’t Look In, and what can you tell us about the plot?
TOM: Don’t Look In started with Gus Young. The idea of a grizzled looking man, with a thick beard, wearing work boots and hunting jacket while being an exceptional psychiatrist spoke to me. In the years after I finished my training in psychiatry, I realized that working as a psychiatrist wasn’t the idealized version I had fantasized about. In addition to seeing patients, my day was filled with paperwork, managerial pressures to see more people more quickly, and therapy was something psychologists did while psychiatrists seemed to be expected to prescribe medications only. So, the idea of this pure, genuine psychiatrist who wasn’t afraid to buck the trend and do his own thing in his own way appealed to me.
The seed for the plot came from realizing that in order to maintain the purity of his work, confidentiality of his patients would have to be absolute. And he would have to take this duty further than the average therapist would.
The plot really developed from there. It follows Gus as he is working in the small practice that he operates out of the back of a hardware store in a rural town. When a patient of his is murdered, he seeks to find out who did it, but in doing so it will put him in conflict with many of his deepest held values.
SRP: How did you choose this setting?
TOM: The story takes place in a fictitious town in Maine. I decided against using a real place in part to make my life easier by giving the setting flexibility for future books. But the town itself has elements of a few different places I’ve visited, worked in or lived in in Eastern Canada and the Prairies. On top of this, I love the East Coast, I love Maine. I find the entire region rich, and atmospheric. The rain, the fog, the hurricanes, the history just give it so much richness that I couldn’t see the book being set anywhere else.
SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
TOM: I think the most difficult part was trying to describe psychological processes without the jargon in order to make it accessible to people. Psychoanalytic writings and theory is its own language. It took me years to become comfortable with the language and nuance of the differing theories. That’s my biggest criticism (and Gus’) of psychoanalysis: It is largely inaccessible and can come across as elitist. But, in fact, it should be anything but. It is likely the richest understanding we have of the human mind.
So, in keeping with Gus’ character, I was mindful that he would be able to avoid jargon and explain complex theories simply. So it required constant iteration to get it right.
SRP: What’s next for the series?
TOM: I’m already working on the second book in the series, titled Believe In Me. In this book a young woman is found wandering on the outskirts of Bridgetown with no memory of who she is. Gus is called in to help police recover her memories. As he works with her, she begins to show abilities that verge on the supernatural. I don’t want to reveal much more than that at this point, but it will test Gus’ abilities in a way that he hasn’t yet faced.
SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?
TOM: I started reading a couple of books by C.J. Box recently because after I submitted Don’t Look In, my publisher compared it to his novels. I hadn’t read his books previously, though I’d known about them. I picked up Bitterroots and loved it. He has a masterful way of creating setting and atmosphere. So what I said about Don’t Look In not being able to be set anywhere but Maine, perhaps Montana would be a close second.
SRP: What is your writing Kryptonite?
TOM: Social Media. I have a real love hate relationship with social media. On the one hand, it allows me to connect with readers, and other authors. On the other hand, I have spent 4-5 hours mindlessly thumbing through Instagram photos when I meant to be writing. I’m always telling my kids to set limits with screen time. Maybe I should take my own advice.
Don’t Look In launches October 6.
Click here to buy Don’t Look In. The e-book is $.99 for a limited time!