- BC Games
Station: Words with Chevy Stevens
It’s what might happen that gives the creeps to thriller-writer Chevy Stevens.
She’s scared herself through three novels that have grabbed readers’ attention — and landed the south Cowichan native on the New York Times and international bestseller lists.
But speaking from her home in Cedar, Stevens simply aims to keep honing her addictive style with characters, plots, places, and her fear-based formula propelling folks to the next page.
“It generally starts with an interesting premise that’s scary to me,” the frank wordsmith said when asked how she hooks her flock of fans. “It’s partly skill, and you can improve that craft. It’s hard to describe what you just do — you just scare yourself.
“I tend to be a what-if person. What terrible thing could happen? What if this thing happens, and how would these people deal with it? What if something worse happened?”
That brand of suspenseful surmising surfaces in her third novel, Always Watching (released in June), where shrink Nadine Lavoie faces her demons by treating tormented head cases.
Stevens’ books are punctuated by closets stuffed with plenty of skeletons to max nail-biting.
“I end a chapter with a suspenseful note,” she said of one of her addictive devices.
“I don’t try to be like anyone else. You have to have a natural affinity (for writing) then improve your craft.”
Still, Stevens had the nightmarish knack from book one, Still Missing.
When it won the 2011 International Thriller of the Year Award in the Best First Novel category — and has been published in some 30 countries — Stevens had found her calling.
“I wanted (writing) to be my job. It’s what I want to do more than anything else.”
It also spawned her penchant for projecting bad stuff happening to her characters.
Her debut terrifier turns on ‘What-if a female realtor — such as Stevens was back then — is kidnapped by a psycho and dragged to a remote cabin?’
“It was a story that I kept hearing in my head; that I felt I had to write.”
Daily life turns terrible with her fiction’s wicked little wrinkles.
“I was aware women are vulnerable in any situation; I’m cautious of where to park my car. Being a realtor, I was aware you’re alone in the (show) homes, and things could happen.”
Stevens knew she could write, but accepted it wouldn’t be easy.
“The first one took four years,” she said of Still Missing. “I kept rewriting it, but now I work on outlines. I talk with my publisher and discuss (plot etc.), and brainstorm. When I have an approved outline, I start writing.”
She spent seven weeks oiling the outline for her current, untitled, fifth book due in 2015.
Set in Campbell River (she likes familiar settings on her native island), shocker five sees Toni Murphy and her boyfriend falsely convicted of whacking Toni’s younger sister, then trying to prove their innocence once out of jail.
“I’m not thinking of real crimes, but something will intrigue me and work its way in.”
Despite outlines Stevens is not adverse to improvising when the muse calls.
“Something might inspire me and make me think ‘I never talked about her early childhood.’”
Creative flexibility lets Stevens stretch “but not off in mad directions; you don’t just throw aliens into your book.”
Throwing herself into “constant goals” squeezes out some 10 pages daily.
“I work on the first draft. I clean up the first 100 pages then move forward. Even if I’m just throwing really rough ideas down, I’m always moving forward and backward.”
A critique partner reads Stevens’ stuff too.
“It’s very valuable having someone read your work because you won’t see everything when you get too close to it.”
Stevens and a proof reader then scour the finished product.
With sales hitting a million-plus copies — and maybe a movie deal for novel two, Never Knowing — she’s happily directing twisted plots into words.
“It’s like seeing a movie in your head and trying different ideas, then building the story,” said Stevens.
“It’s stepping stones — one thing leads to another, then another. Who wants what, and who’s trying to stop them?”
Human elements crouch inside her distinct characters. “I have to care about them or I can’t write about them.
“I’m just trying to write a really great book,” said Stevens.
Who is Chevy Stevens
Age: 40, Married, one child
Born: Rene Unischewski at Cowichan District Hospital
Education: Elsie Miles, Discovery, George Bonner schools, 1991 Cowichan secondary school graduate
Books Penned: Still Missing, Never Knowing, Always Watching, That Night (coming June 2014)
Influences: Stephen King, Gillian Flynn, Dean Kootnz, Ed McBain, Piers Anthony.
Hobbies: Camping, canoeing
Trivia: Pen name Chevy Stevens comes from her dad’s nickname Chevy, and her brother Steven’s first name. If not writing, she’d likely study arts, history or psychology.