Five Questions with Emma Dibdin

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Debut author Emma Dibdin shares her thoughts on suspense writing and more in our Five Questions Interview about her new novel The Room By The Lake. Dibdin will take the stage at our next IFOA Weekly event with fellow suspense writer Becky Masterman on Wednesday, November 15, 7:30 pm. at Harbourfront Centre.  Andrew Pyper, Author of The Demonologist, will moderate the conversation.

IFOA: What can you tell us about The Room By The Lake?

Emma Dibdin: The Room By The Lake is about a young English woman, Caitlin, who’s just out of university and on the verge of a breakdown. Desperate to escape after years of being a caretaker to unstable parents, she spontaneously books a flight to New York, which feels like a place she can become truly lost. Once there, she falls hard for Jake, a charming and slightly damaged former soldier who whisks her away to meet his family at their idyllic lakeside house upstate. But his family isn’t what it seems.

IFOA: The suspense sounds palpable. What drew you to the Thriller genre?

Dibdin: I think thriller is the genre that lends itself most readily to a psychological story – a paranoid, unstable setting can mirror a paranoid, unstable mind in interesting ways. Caitlin is very troubled and almost obsessed with the history of mental illness in her family, which feels to her like a curse, and so that naturally creates a sense of tension even before things around her get dangerous.

IFOA: What’s your approach for maximising suspense in your writing?dibdin-emma-the-room-by-the-lake

Dibdin: For me, it’s a subtle sense that something is just off. Setting up an ordinary scene – a dinner party, or a crowded bar, or a therapy session – and then weaving in just a couple of lines that suggest something is deeply wrong in that room. I think if you do this right, the reader won’t notice it for the first several times, but over the course of a book you can build up a real sense of dread even if most of what’s happening seems fairly routine.

IFOA: What are you currently reading?

Dibdin: I just finished Emma Donoghue’s The Wonder, and I’m now reading an oral history of Tony Kushner’s Angels In America (it’s called The World Only Spins Forward and will be out early next year). I often prefer to read non-fiction while I’m actively writing fiction, and this is a really incredible, exhaustive oral history of one of my favourite plays.

IFOA: What will you work on next?

Dibdin: I’m working on my second novel, which will be out next summer. It’s a thriller that takes place in modern Hollywood, following a young journalist who becomes drawn into the life of a very famous actor she’s assigned to interview. Unlike The Room By The Lake, this book draws a bit from my own experiences (I’ve been an entertainment journalist for years) but the book is really about the
culture of abuse in Hollywood, and how the industry protects powerful bad men.


dibdin-emmaEmma Dibdin grew up in Oxford, and now lives in New York. She is a writer and journalist whose work has appeared in Esquire, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, and Total Film. Her first novel, Room By The Lake, was published by Head of Zeus in August.