Lynn Hightower: On Being a Thriller Writer
Lynn Hightower is the author of numerous thrillers, including the Sonora Blair and Lena Padget detective series. Her internationally bestselling novels have been included in the New York Times List of Notable Books, the London Times’ bestseller lists, the WH Smith Fresh Talent Awards, and the Shamus award. Also, Lynn teaches Master Novel classes in the UCLA Extension Writing Program, and works as a manuscript consultant/writing coach for novelists. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
In this post, Lynn discusses the curiosity that led her to write her new paranormal thriller, The Enlightenment Project, her advice for other thriller writers, and more!
Name: Lynn Hightower
Literary agent: Matt Bialer, Sanford J. Greenburger & Associates
Book title: The Enlightenment Project
Publisher: Canongate/Severn House
Release date: March 1, 2022
Genre/category: Paranormal, Supernatural Thriller, Medical Thriller
Previous titles: The Piper; Even in Darkness; High Water; Flashpoint; Eyeshot; The Debt Collector; No Good Deed; Satan’s Lambs; Fortune’s of the Dead; When Secret’s Die; Alien Blues; Alien Eyes; Alien Heat; and Alien Rites
Elevator pitch for the book: Cutting-edge science meets demonic possession: the long-awaited new supernatural thriller from award-winning author Lynn Hightower. This is a scary tale of suspense … inspired by actual scientific research … into the likelihood of dark evil forces, demonic forces, invading the body.
What prompted you to write this book?
I’ve always wondered what happens to people who survive being possessed. I started researching, and was astonished to learn that Demonic Possession is a recognized condition in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Disorders).
So, Noah Archer was born—neurosurgeon who survived being possessed as a child. And he wants to understand how this kind of thing can actually happen, and how to fight it when it does. Have you ever known anyone who survived being possessed? You do now. You’ve met me.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?
I ran this by my agent, Matt Bialer, and I had no idea how he would react. But he loved it. He told me it was ambitious, so take my time and do it right, to break barriers and boundaries.
And I was interested in how this childhood trauma would ripple through Noah’s life. How he kept it a secret from everyone, even his wife, and how that affected his marriage—because how can you say, “Oh by the way, I used to be possessed by demons.” And then comes the danger of it all starting up again. And the spiritual journey he takes as he tries to create enlightenment on demand for his patients. And how it backfires.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
My editor, Rachel Slatter at Severn House, was terrific. She encouraged me to write two more scenes that had enormous impact. I loved how she didn’t rein me in with the story, but encouraged me to go for it.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
Yeah, daily. The more research I did, the more astounded I was. It was not about making things up, it was about staying up to date with the reality of the science on this. I mean, they had an exorcism hotline set up in Milan that was mobbed. I have a letter on my desk from an exorcism team that says that since the pandemic they have been overwhelmed with people who need help.
When I found out that M. Scott Peck, psychiatrist and author of The People of the Lie, spent the last years of his practice quietly doing exorcisms … I was off and running.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
Look, I’m a thriller writer, and I write about what scares me. So this book is going to keep you up at night. But it’s also a spiritual journey for Noah. And it’s about the danger of keeping secrets. How this shakes his marriage and puts his family and his patients at horrific risk. How he and his wife fall back in love. And how he deals, finally, with the childhood trauma of possession.
If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?
Tell the story you wish someone would tell you.
And listen, if you are going to write something that terrifies you like this did me, it’s smart to get a very big dog like my Shepherd, Leah. She keeps me safe.