Eden Baylee left a 20-year banking career to become a full-time writer. She incorporates many of her favorite things into her writing such as: travel; humor; music; poetry; art; and much more. Stranger at Sunset is her first mystery novel, on the heels of several books of erotic anthologies and short stories.
Loren Kleinman (LK): You are a literary erotica writer originally. How did you make the shift to writing a mystery novel?
Eden Baylee (EB): I've written short stories and flash fiction in multiple genres including: thriller, mystery, and romance. Given that, it was not a huge leap to write a mystery.
When I set out to write full-time, I started with erotica as it was a genre I knew well. I've been reading it since I was 11, but I also knew I would not write it forever. I wanted to challenge myself by writing a novel.
I read different genres, so I enjoy creating in multiple genres too.
LK: Can you talk about some of the challenges you faced?
Changing genres was not as challenging as writing a full-length novel. I've never had to plot my short stories. With Stranger at Sunset, I knew I had to be more diligent with planning, but it wasn't easy. I struggled to outline because it's not part of my make-up. I like to jump right in and start writing.
Ultimately, I fleshed out the story in the end with my editor, but it was a painful process.
LK: Stranger at Sunset is set post Hurricane Sandy at a struggling luxury resort. But it's not the Hurricane that's destroyed the hotel; it's a scathing review by travel writer, Matthew Kane. While Dr. Kate Hampton is staying at the hotel she feels compelled to help the hotel and is sucked into understanding the motivation behind Kane's review. Why did you decide to make your main character a psychiatrist? How does that play into her motivation throughout the book?
EB: I've had a love for psychology ever since studying Freud and hold a strong fascination for what goes on in people's minds. At one time, I even considered going into the psychiatric field. As I enjoy dissecting motivations of my characters, Dr. Kate Hampton seemed the ideal protagonist.
She is not your typical doctor though. She is caring and helpful, but she also has a dark side. It's what makes her a unique character. Love, like, or hate her, she's not someone readers will easily forget.
LK: Does the reader feel any empathy for Matthew Kane? Was making him likable difficult?
EB: I suppose it will be up to the readers to decide if Matthew Kane deserves any empathy. I created him to generate conflict, so he's not particularly likable, though some people might not find him offensive. Many of the characters have a duality about them, which is symptomatic of how I see some people in real life.
We all have different sides to us, and not every side will appeal to everyone.
LK: Talk about your writing process for this book. What did you learn about yourself?
EB: The lesson from this book is I need to train my mind to sketch the story upfront, especially since Stranger at Sunset is the first of a series. For me, creating an outline has always been a challenge and perhaps why short stories seemed so much easier to write.
I also confirmed for myself that I'm damn impatient! I had wanted to release Stranger at Sunset last year, but it was not ready. It's frustrating not to be able to write a novel as quickly as I write short stories, but I hope to change that over time.
LK: Can readers expect any erotica in the pages of your new thriller?
EB: The book is for an 18+ readership due to language and adult content. Parts of it are sensual and sexy, but I would not classify any of it as erotic. The motivation of the story is to arouse a mysterious, uncertain atmosphere, eliciting a sense of conflict, suspense, and anticipation in the reader.
Erotica has another purpose. It arouses libido, which is something different altogether.
LK: What do you consider the major elements of a good mystery/thriller novel? How can the writer create them? How does that play into the reader's perspective?
EB: Great characters go a long way to creating a certain mood for a mystery/thriller novel. I believe a story exists because the characters make it happen. Characters do not exist because of a story. Even though mystery/thrillers are considered genre fiction, which assumes it is largely plot-driven, it doesn't imply you can have a great story at the expense of great characters.
In my book, I found it helpful to create tension between characters in a place where you would not normally have any. A tropical resort in sunny Jamaica is the antithesis of conflict, and yet, that is exactly what happens because of the relationships and personalities of the characters.
Stranger at Sunset is not a traditional mystery because although there is a crime, you will not know who the victim or perpetrator is from the start. It's not a "whodunit?" There is no detective.
From a reader's perspective, the story stimulates mood with a focus on moral conflict. I use unreliable narrators to drive the psychological tension in unpredictable ways. What I'm exploring are the characters' motives and how they see the world, which is different from how you and I may see it.
LK: If you could date one of the characters from your new novel who would it be and why?
EB: There are some extraordinary men in my book, but there is only one man who appeals to me in the romantic sense. When he appears, it will be obvious. Why? Because the heart wants what it wants, and that is not always logical.