The Big Idea: Lee Matthew Goldberg
Sometimes, the killer hook for a thriller isn’t a plot point, or even the first line of the novel, but something else… something that comes even before that. Lee Matthew Goldberg explains in this Big Idea for his latest story, The Stalker Stalked.
LEE MATTHEW GOLDBERG:
The first germ of a Big Idea I had for my novel Stalker Stalked was the title. After writing eight books, none of them summed up the plot so succinctly: What if a stalker finds herself stalked as well?
My last novel The Ancestor had recently come out, a historical thriller about a man who wakes up in the wilderness with amnesia, believing he was frozen in time from the Gold Rush era. It required a lot of research, since a good chunk takes place in the late 1800s. I’d also written it after my father passed away and death really permeates throughout the book. So, coming off that, I needed to write something lighter. I’ve penned Sci-fi and YA too, but I’m most at home writing thrillers, and luckily, the title just popped into my mind.
From there, the novel began to form. My stalker Lexi would be obsessed with reality TV and fixate on the star of a horrible show called Socialites about six rich frenemies navigating the NYC socialite scene, everything Lexi aspires to be. She’s a pharma rep, hawking drugs to doctors, and addicted to Monolopins, little blue pills which she refers to as her “my blue heavens”. After her boyfriend breaks up with her, Lexi’s splits from her own reality: hallucinating and imagining herself as one of the Socialites, with the star Magnolia Artois as her best friend.
But while she’s stalking Magnolia, Lexi begins to see a shadow of a person outside her window, following her on the train, staring at her from across the club. Is it the “my blue heavens” causing these visions, or is someone after her for nefarious reasons? One of her exes, a doctor who knows she’s stolen pills, her best friend Pria, a detective investigating her case, or maybe, Magnolia herself turning the tables? If Lexi wants to survive, she needs to use her own stalking prowess to overcome her pursuer.
After heavy research for The Ancestor, the research for Stalker Stalked was very different. I watched a lot of really terrible reality TV. I wanted to get in the headspace of the self-absorbed people who are on these shows, but also those addicted to them. On TV, a heightened reality is created that’s not entirely fake, but played up for the cameras, all with the notion of keeping eyeballs glued and sponsors happy.
With social media these days, anyone is accessible in some form. It’s how Lexi stalks Magnolia, and how she becomes stalked as well. We put up a shiny version of our lives on display, a sliver of our realities to gain likes and followers. For lonely Lexi, it becomes her means of interacting with the world. It’s something I struggle with as well. As an author, you’re meant to have a social media presence. I’ve had publishers ask how many followers I have to do promotion, and it never seems enough. Gone are the days of a J.D. Salinger or Thomas Pynchon who don’t need to promote their work. We’re required to feed this system now, but at what price?
For Lexi, the journey she goes on in Stalker Stalked is one of self love. How did her past shape her into the needy individual she became, and is there happiness waiting for her at the end? She wants to be noticed so much that she enjoys being stalked. It gives her a purpose, a never-ending cycle where she feels safe and loved. For her to move forward in life, she needs to break this cycle, turn off the TV, cancel her social media accounts, and fully unplug.
Sometimes that doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.