This is a book that came up in a recent search on Overdrive, and had been sitting in my wishlist since then. Recently, it came up in the Kindle Daily Deal, so I went ahead and took a chance on it. I’m certainly glad I did!
The debut novel from Diana Urban, All Your Twisted Secrets instantly reminded me of Christopher Pike’s novels, and I’m really impressed as this is Diana’s debut novel (at least from a major publisher)! Six teens meet at a restaurant where they had supposedly been invited for a scholarship dinner, only to find themselves trapped and a timer counting down to certain death? Who confined them, and why?
Copied here are some Q&As from Diana for FAQs she has received (copied with her permission):
How did you get the idea for All Your Twisted Secrets?
One day, my husband and I started speculating the shortest timespan you could set a book or movie to, throwing ideas back and forth. Could an entire book take place over just fifteen minutes? No way, that’s not enough time to accomplish anything. But what about an hour? What if you locked a group of people in a room for an hour? What if someone died at the end of the hour? What if the trapped people killed one of them? What if they had to choose someone to kill, or else they’d all die? We exchanged this look that was like, “Bingo,” and I raced to my desk and started scribbling down ideas for characters I could put into this crazy situation.
All Your Twisted Secrets takes place in one room over the course of an hour. What were some of the challenges of working with such a tight locale?
The challenge wasn’t so much with the locale, but the time constraints. Most of the action in the locked room spans one hour, such a limited time to get to know each character. I thought interspersing flashbacks in the locked-room narrative would kill the tension as they confront this impossible choice. So instead, I alternated real-time chapters with flashback chapters—all from Amber’s POV over the past year as she struggles to win over the intimidating queen bee (who’s drama club director) to score the school play and get into her dream music school. These flashback chapters get to the heart of the story: the characters’ relationships and how they deal with many of the pressures teens face today, from bullying to college admissions to losing a loved one—all while dropping clues about whodunit and who might die.
What were some of your techniques for building suspense?
Ending each chapter on a cliffhanger is one of my main strategies. And that’s harder to do than you’d think, without it seeming cheesy or like you’re intentionally withholding information to keep readers hooked. Also, you want a few overarching mysteries that span the full novel, and then mini-mysteries in individual chapters to create these little cliffhanger. And each chapter needs to build in tension until you cut it off. But, in my opinion, you have to have the payoff for each mini-mystery come fairly quickly in the next chapter or two, otherwise readers will get frustrated.
To learn more about Diana’s writings, as well as her informative blog, her website is https://dianaurban.com/