Published by Thomas & Mercer
ebook and paperback (25 January 2018)
Welcome to my turn on the blog tour for Forget Her Name. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for including me on the tour. I have a very interesting guest post from the author, Jane Holland to share. Thanks Jane, I’ve never really thought about colours in this way before.
The Colour of Thrillers
by Jane Holland
One of the first things I noticed on starting to re-read my new thriller FORGET HER NAME is its use of colour. Including a lack of it. For instance, it opens on white. Pure cold absolute white. Snow blanking everything out.
Snow is also potentially dangerous though. Most of us have memories of playing in snow as a kid, the fun of it, the high jinx, its virgin purity asking to be destroyed with boot prints. But you also shiver and wish to be safe indoors, warm by the fire. Snow is about winter and Christmas and all those mysteries wrapped up in the darkest time of year. ‘Winter is coming!’ as George R.R. Martin puts it in his Game of Thrones.
So the whiteness of snow has powerful connotations, some contradictory and emotionally resonant for us as readers. Basically, it’s about an absence of colour. A lack. A nothingness. And that’s part of what makes it scary.
Scary? That’s right. Because colours represent emotional shorthand in fiction. On the most basic level, black is for evil and fear. White is for good and happiness. Red is for danger and feeling threatened. Blue is for sorrow. And so on.
Of course, as novelists, we don’t go through a book ‘inserting’ colour to make scenes more emotionally resonant. It happens organically as we write. We reach for a feeling, and colour follows naturally. So my thriller opens on snow, because I knew the ‘tone’ of that opening image, and my mind automatically took me to a snowy scene. I wanted coldness, distance, emotional numbness, but also innocence of a kind. So it begins in Switzerland.
Some colours can be evoked rather than stated on-the-nose though. Something ‘heavenly’ might suggest the colour blue. Hence cerulean, meaning ‘heavens’. (Think of the Virgin Mary – you never see her depicted in orange, do you?) And some colours get attached to other words for good, and lose resonance: pitch-black, blood-red, hot-pink, sky-blue, nut-brown. Good writers avoid those clichés.
In a thriller, readers may find black mentioned frequently – suggesting the darkness of night, when crimes can occur without anyone seeing the perpetrator, and so traditionally the colour of secrets and evil, of mysteries and fear. There’s a good reason some novels are described as ‘dark’ or some comedy as ‘black humour’. It’s a sharp wrench to the negative that thrills readers and makes them apprehensive.
Red, the colour most associated with blood and danger, is also a pre-requisite of the thriller. Villains slash and stab their victims. Bright red blood gushes and pools and darkens almost to black, and we love it. Sylvia Plath famously wrote, ‘The blood jet is poetry.’ Yet red isn’t simply a little ghoulish daubing to make readers shiver. It’s the colour of war and violent death, yes. But red is also about new life: women bleed during childbirth, and at menstruation. Red is the colour of passion, sexual desire – ‘the red light zone’ – and the loss of virginity. It’s a dangerous colour, and not to be sprinkled too liberally. Too much lessens its impact.
Green and yellow seem less likely to be found in a thriller. But are they? Green is about freshness and renewal, inexperience and innocence. However, it can also signify greed – dollar bills are green – and envy, and so provides a motive for murder. Yellow signifies renewal too; also high-minded values like fairness and equality. Yet a sickly yellow, like bile, could signify bitterness, cowardice, a lack of integrity. All murderous qualities.
The colour least associated with a thriller is blue. People feel ‘blue’. But grief isn’t thrilling; it’s deadening to the senses. Blue also has connotations of faith – see the Virgin Mary again – and therefore heavenly peace and love. It’s a kindly and benign colour, a lap to lay our heads in. Homely too, as in Anne Tyler’s novel, A Spool of Blue Thread.
The only time it might play into a thriller’s colour scheme would be in terms of water. The deep, pitiless blue of the ocean, a blue that suggests drowning and tears. Some novels set in very hot places play on their relentless blue skies – Camus’ L’etranger, for instance, set in North Africa – and the sticky unease that accompanies such heat. But blue is not a common trope in thrillers.
What colours did you spot in the last thriller you read? And how did they make you feel?
| About the Book |
Rachel’s dead and she’s never coming back. Or is she?
As she prepares for her wedding to Dominic, Catherine has never been happier or more excited about her future. But when she receives an anonymous package—a familiar snow globe with a very grisly addition—that happiness is abruptly threatened by secrets from her past.
Her older sister, Rachel, died on a skiing holiday as a child. But Rachel was no angel: she was vicious and highly disturbed, and she made Catherine’s life a misery. Catherine has spent years trying to forget her dead sister’s cruel tricks. Now someone has sent her Rachel’s snow globe—the first in a series of ominous messages…
While Catherine struggles to focus on her new life with Dominic, someone out there seems intent on tormenting her. But who? And why now? The only alternative is what she fears most.
Is Rachel still alive?
| About the Author |
Jane Holland is a Gregory Award–winning poet and novelist who also writes commercial fiction under the pseudonyms Victoria Lamb, Elizabeth Moss, Beth Good and Hannah Coates. Her debut thriller, Girl Number One, hit #1 in the UK Kindle Store in December 2015. Jane lives with her husband and young family near the North Cornwall/Devon border. A homeschooler, her hobbies include photography and growing her own vegetables.