A Flicker in the Dark
By: Stacy Willingham
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: 01/11/2022
Format: Hardcover, e-book, audiobook
Narrator: Karissa Vacker
My Rating: 5 Stars + (ARC)
JAN AUTHOR Q&A
From debut author Stacy Willingham comes a masterfully done, lyrical thriller, certain to be the launch of an amazing career. A Flicker in the Dark is eerily compelling to the very last page.
When Chloe Davis was twelve, six teenage girls went missing in her small Louisiana town. By the end of the summer, her own father had confessed to the crimes and was put away for life, leaving Chloe and the rest of her family to grapple with the truth and try to move forward while dealing with the aftermath.
Now twenty years later, Chloe is a psychologist in Baton Rouge and getting ready for her wedding. While she finally has a fragile grasp on the happiness she’s worked so hard to achieve, she sometimes feels as out of control of her own life as the troubled teens who are her patients. So when a local teenage girl goes missing, and then another, that terrifying summer comes crashing back. Is she paranoid, seeing parallels from her past that aren't actually there, or for the second time in her life, is Chloe about to unmask a killer?
About the Author
Photo Credit: Mary Hannah Harte Photography, LLC
Stacy Willingham worked as a copywriter and brand strategist for various marketing agencies before deciding to write fiction full time. She earned her BA in Magazine Journalism from the University of Georgia and MFA in Writing from the Savannah College of Art & Design.
Her first novel, A Flicker in the Dark, will be published on January 11, 2022 by Minotaur Books, an imprint of Macmillan, and in February 2022 by HarperCollins UK.
She currently lives in Charleston, South Carolina, with her husband, Britt, and her Labradoodle, Mako. Website
Connect with the Author:
The White Noise of the South: PW talks with Stacy Willingham
Emma Stone’s Fruit Tree, A24 to Develop ‘A Flicker in the Dark’ Series at HBO Max
HBO Max is developing a series adaptation of the upcoming Stacy Willingham novel “A Flicker in the Dark” that hails from Emma Stone and Dave McCary’s Fruit Tree and A24, Variety has learned exclusively. READ MORE
“Willingham skillfully intercuts Chloe’s anxious first-person narration in the present with flashbacks to her childhood, ratcheting up the tension. Atmospheric prose and abundant red herrings amplify the tale’s intensity. Willingham is a writer to watch.” ―Publishers Weekly
January 2022 LibraryReads Pick
“A smart, edge-of-your-seat story with plot twists you’ll never see coming. Stacy Willingham’s debut will keep you turning pages long past your bedtime.” ―Karin Slaughter
“I have not felt this excited about a thriller in years. I could not put this book down. It's fabulous.” ―Chelsea Cain
"Don't trust anyone in this wickedly good debut by Stacy Willingham. A twisty and propulsive thriller." ―Peter Swanson
"A psychological thriller in the truest sense -- an engaging, propulsive read, loaded with surprising twists, that genuinely thrills as it gets deep under the skin of its fascinating heroine, Chloe Davis. I tore through this book." ―Alison Gaylin
"Haunting, lyrical and utterly compelling! These are just a few of the words of praise one could use to describe A Flicker in the Dark. Author Willingham takes us on an unstoppable journey through the psychology of evil, and of courage (in many senses), all told in a pitch-perfect literary style. Once you start reading, you will not put it down." ―Jeffery Deaver
"A great addition to any mystery/psychological thriller collection, with an unforgettable character haunted by her past in an authentic Louisiana setting, which ups the creep factor."
Q&A Elevator Ride with
debut author Stacy Willingham
"Behind the Book and the Author" | #AuthorElevatorSeries
Exceptional Authors. Standout Books. Elevator Talk.
INTRIGUING QUESTIONS | INQUIRING READERS WANT TO KNOW
Thank you for joining us today. We cannot wait to learn more about your latest thriller everyone is raving about, A FLICKER IN THE DARK, and more about yourself.
I am native Carolinian (southerner), then Georgian—ultimately Floridan, and excited to have you join the talented lineup of stars in the southeast. I love Charleston, SC and formerly had hotel clients there and visited as often as I could.
Readers: Be sure and check out my review below 5 STARS, top books of 2022 and a killer debut. Let us dive in!
Q. Describe A FLICKER IN THE DARK in three words or less?
STACY: Swampy, suffocating and spine-tingling (I have a thing for alliteration… can’t help it!)
Q. SETTING: Tell us more about the book setting and why you chose it?
STACY: A Flicker in the Dark is set equally between Breaux Bridge, Louisiana and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I’ve spent the majority of my life in Charleston, South Carolina, and there’s just something about the South that I love writing about. One of my favorite things to do is walk out onto my parent’s dock at sunset and just listen to the noises around me: you’ll always be able to hear or feel something like an animal slithering around or the humidity in your hair. It’s so visceral and provides endless inspiration for me when it comes to writing.
I chose Breaux Bridge as the past setting because it’s the crawfish capital of the world. I wanted to depict a small Southern town where everybody knew everybody, so when Chloe’s father was arrested, the ripple effect of that would be impossible to escape for Chloe and her family. Setting the present-day portion in Baton Rouge was more of a logistical decision. I needed her in a larger city still in the state that was within driving distance of her hometown, and Baton Rouge and Breaux Bridge are fairly close to each other. Then, of course, there’s the proximity to Louisiana State Penitentiary, which is where Chloe’s father is serving out his life sentence. It always felt like his presence was still looming over Chloe even after all these years—kind of like this invisible, off-the-page antagonist—and the fact that, in reality, he is only an hour away from her at any given time felt a little creepy to me.
Q. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: What fantastic character development! Your favorite character to write and/or your most challenging?
STACY: This might come as a surprise to some people since she isn’t necessarily a main character, but my favorite character is Lena! I love her so much. She’s a troublemaker of a teenager, but once you get to know her more, you understand why she is the way that she is. She has a tragic story arc, if you really think about it, made even more heartbreaking by the fact that, despite how she acted, she was just a kid. Lena is also the reason why Chloe feels so compelled to dig for the truth all those years later. Without her, who knows how the story would have played out.
Q. TOPICS: Name 1-3 topics or themes addressed in A FLICKER IN THE DARK?
Anxiety and trauma:
Chloe obviously deals with a lot of complicated emotions throughout this book, and by writing her in the first person and spending so much time in her head, I really hope readers can experience a little taste of what anxiety, trauma, anger and pain might feel like from the perspective of someone who lives it. There’s also the fact that she is a smart and capable psychologist that adds an additional layer to this: she is able to dole out advice, but has a hard time accepting it herself. I think this is true of many, many people: there are doctors out there who make terrible personal health decisions and lawyers who break the law. Human beings are incredibly flawed, complicated people, and I hope riding alongside Chloe as she tries to grapple with this stuff can make readers a little more empathetic to those who are battling demons the rest of the world can’t see.
Nature versus nurture:
I’ve always been interested in psychology, particularly the nature versus nurture argument: are people “born bad” or are they “made bad”? When I was thinking about what it would be like to be the daughter of a serial killer, I kept coming back to this: how would you view yourself if you knew that you were the direct descendent of someone truly evil? I imagine you would have a really hard time accepting yourself as good—or, maybe, you would go out of your way (and potentially putting yourself in danger) trying to prove that you are good. Chloe deals with some serious identity crises throughout this book because of who her father is, and I think it opens up some really interesting dialogue about how we view ourselves in relation to our families.
The female experience:
The vast majority of serial killers are middle-aged white men who prowl on women and I talk about that a lot in the book, as well as what it’s like to live as a female and know the inherent risks that are associated with that. Women are forced to take so many more precautions than men to in order to keep ourselves safe throughout the day—and not only that, but we have to deal with little microaggressions in seemingly safe environments, too. I wrote a scene where Chloe keeps getting interrupted by a male detective that really resonated with me—she finally snaps at him, apologizes and feels embarrassed by the way he’s looking at her for her outburst, sort of questioning her own sanity… but at the same time, should she? She’s not in any kind of physical danger here, but she’s being treated in a certain way largely because she’s a woman. I’ve been in that exact situation so many times, and I’m willing to be a lot of female readers have, too.
Q. WRITING: What draws you to this genre?
STACY: That edge-of-your-seat feeling when you physically cannot turn the pages fast enough. I love the experience of a thrill: I’ve been bungee jumping, skydiving, waterfall rappelling, ziplining, anything to get my heart pumping and my mind racing. When a writer can produce that reaction in someone who is literally just sitting on their couch… that’s amazing. I think it’s my own interest in going on these wild, thrilling journeys that makes me think up these story ideas in the first place, then I love the challenge of trying to tell them in a way that allows readers to feel it, too.
THANK YOU, Stacy! These are fascinating. Now for some fun facts about the author!
Give us Your Best Elevator Pitch for
A Flicker in the Dark
STACY: The daughter of a serial killer is plunged back into the past when copycat killings start taking place on the anniversary of her father’s murders.
Your favorite life lesson?
STACY: “For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald
Favorite reading format?
STACY: Hardcover. I’m going to blow my life-savings on hardcovers (which, in my opinion, is a good way to do it).
When you receive a spark of inspiration for a book:
Do you immediately get out of bed or stop what you are doing and start typing? Totally immersed.
STACY: Whenever possible, yes. When inspiration strikes, I gotta grab it and run. If that’s not possible, I make notes in my phone and obsess over it until I can stop what I’m doing and start typing.
Your favorite place to write?
STACY: A cozy coffee shop with soothing music, lavender lattes and comfortable chairs (with my back facing the wall, ideally, because I’m always paranoid about people reading over my shoulder).
What is your favorite horror movie (or love story)?
STACY: This is probably more thriller than horror, but I love Misery based on the Stephen King novel. The writer in me thinks that storyline is just incredible, and Kathy Bates is a genius.
Introvert or extrovert?
STACY: Extroverted introvert? I love people, but I also love being alone.
The best part of your day?
STACY: When my dog lets me snuggle with him.
One bit of advice you would give an inspiring author?
STACY: If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will, either. Believe in yourself with a degree of certainty that is borderline delusional (but also: be humble, because you will need help). Publishing is full of rejection, and if you let it get to you, you’re likely to quit before you’ve ever even given yourself a real shot.
Best (or worst) part about being a debut author?
STACY: It’s funny: in my opinion, the best and worst thing about releasing a debut is actually the same thing, and that’s hearing other people’s reactions to it. I used to be very protective of my writing. I didn’t tell anyone but my immediate family and a handful of friends that I was even interested in being an author, let alone that I was writing a book. Novels are incredibly personal, so the entire concept of releasing this book out into the world and opening it and myself up to criticism was terrifying… but despite the inevitable bad review or mean comment that has gotten under my skin, there have also been floods of incredibly kind and encouraging messages from strangers all over the world. Having the privilege of talking to the readers who have enjoyed this book has been the most rewarding part of it all, truly. I don’t think I expected that.
What do you want to be remembered for?
STACY: Hopefully, I’d like people to remember me as someone who made them feel good in one way or another.
Wine, mixed drink, beer, or other?
STACY: Red wine, all the way. You may notice that my characters are always drinking red wine… and that’s because I, too, am always drinking red wine.
STACY: Social media manager at a marketing agency. Fun fact: I used to run the Twitter account for a well-known beef jerky brand.
Best part of being an author?
STACY: Getting to do what I love every day of my life. Also: getting paid to make stuff up. Sometimes I can’t even believe it.
At what age did you consider becoming a writer?
STACY: It’s always been the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do, probably since learning how to read and write around the age of four.
If you could give your younger self some wise advice, what would it be?
STACY: Don’t care as much about what other people think. That’s always a work-in-progress for me, but I really had to throw that out the window the moment I decided to publish a book. It’s been incredibly freeing.
If your food is bad at a restaurant, do you say something?
STACY: Oh my God, I could never! I’d eat it with a pained smile on my face and probably tip 30%. My husband, on the other hand, would definitely say something. It’s why we’re good together.
Have you ever cried at a movie?
STACY: LOL I cry during commercials.
Something you will never try again:
STACY: I recently accidentally skied down a black diamond mountain in Jackson Hole and I will, hand on the Bible, never do that again.
What are you freakishly bad at?
STACY: Estimating things. Once time at the DMV the woman renewing my driver’s license asked me how many miles were on my six-year-old Jeep and I guessed something insane like 500,000. She looked at me like I was crazy, sent me outside to check, and it was like 30,000. I literally never drive.
If you were not a writer, what would be your ideal career?
STACY: Investigative journalist… which, I understand, is still technically a writer.
THANK YOU, STACY. This has been so much fun! I am with you on the "never again"—I experienced the same in Telluride, CO (double-black diamond). I made it down alive. Never Again!
Readers, be sure and pick up A FLICKER IN THE DARK, available in hardcover, e-book, paperback, audiobook, and audio CD. Also check out upcoming events (live and virtual).
Check out a fun #debutreview with Stacy.
Other #AuthorElevatorSeries Interviews
The new star DEBUT author Stacy Willingham delivers a knock-out smashing psychological thriller— A FLICKER IN THE DARK, both haunting and compelling.
Series adaptation news: Emma Stone’s Fruit Tree, A24 to Develop ‘Flicker in the Dark’ Series at HBO Max.
Trust no one!
If this is a debut, I cannot wait to see what comes next. This small-town thriller gets under your skin— with a twisty creepy vibe and atmospheric setting.
Meet Chloe, protagonist — a medical psychologist living in Baton Rouge, LA. Chloe had had a rough life and experienced PTSD due to her tragic childhood when she was twelve.
Her father (Richard) was convicted of murdering six girls in the small rural town of Breaux Bridge and currently serving time in prison.
It is approaching the 20th anniversary of the killings, and girls are missing in much the same way. A copycat killer?
Chloe is engaged to be married to Daniel, and instead of planning the wedding, she is caught up in the new murders and has to re-live her past over again.
She is responsible for turning over evidence against her father, which drove her mother (Mona) to attempt suicide. She has been incapacitated since, and Chloe still visits her.
Chloe is self-medicating, dealing with her anxiety and nightmares, and keeping it from Daniel (pharmaceutical sales) and her soon-to-be husband.
Cooper, her brother, is worried about her and does not care for Daniel. Daniel also has a past with his younger sister, who went missing 20 years earlier. They both are keeping things from one another.
When she is contacted by a journalist who wants to interview her for an anniversary story—things get stressful for her, and another girl is murdered.
So was her father possibly innocent? Is this someone new killing again? What about the trophies from the victims?
Smartly written, the author keeps you on the edge of your seat as the suspense builds to the explosive ending where all is unraveled. From past to present, we learn about the murders and how they connect with the present.
Dark and twisty, with nail-biting tension and jaw-dropping surprises. There are red herrings and twists which keep you guessing.
Complex, richly atmospheric, and thoroughly riveting fans of authors Mary Kubica, Heather Gudenkauf, and Kimi Cunningham Grant's These Silent Woods will enjoy this gripping debut and newfound author's lyrical prose.
A special thank you to #NetGalley and #MinotaurBooks for an ARC digital copy and from #MacmillanAudio an audio ARC performed by Karissa Vacker for an award-winning performance. Also purchased the hardcover copy.
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 5/of 5 Stars
Pub Date: Feb 11, 2022
Top Debut 2022
Top Books of 2022