What lurks beneath perfection: Robyn Harding

UK best-selling author, Robyn Harding, discloses to Maggie Baron how a real-life experience inspired her latest novel, The Perfect Family (Simon & Schuster, 2021).

Hi Robyn, firstly congratulations on The Perfect Family—a perfectly crafted story of family dysfunction in the modern world.

Thank you so much!

On the outside, your fictional family shows all the hallmarks of a successful group happily in pursuit of their dreams. But all is not as it seems. Where did the concept of this story come from?

Unfortunately, this story was inspired by my real-life experience. We used to live across from a park where a lot of kids hung out late at night. They started knocking on our door and running away. Then they threw eggs, fruit, a firecracker … It never escalated to anything dangerous, but it was scary and unsettling. And we never found out why there were targeting us. That made me think about a family with secrets – secrets that they’re keeping from the outside world and from each other – that could be the cause of these frightening attacks.

The story has a Bonfire of the Vanities feel and pace. Did you plot this storyline or jump in and see where the tale took you?

That’s a huge compliment! I always plot out a rough framework for my thrillers. I have done a lot of screenwriting and that structure is helpful in ensuring I hit the right plot points at the right times. Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat! is a screenwriter’s bible. Now, there is a book called Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. There are some great tips in it.

What are you hoping to bring to the reader in traversing this piece about family life?

I write to entertain and to offer an escape, but if there is something to be gleaned from this book it is that perfection is usually a façade. We never know what goes on behind closed doors, and often those who present themselves the most fastidiously have the most to hide. The Adler family certainly does!

Getting the feel right for teenagers/young adults is challenging. How did you tap into the thought processes of the two children?

I have two kids who are now young adults. My daughter always reads my manuscripts and vets them for believability: the music, the lingo, the technology young people use. While I have a really good memory for the feelings of promise, insecurity, and uncertainty that accompany the teen years, growing up today is a lot different. My daughter’s insight is invaluable.

Can you tell your readers what you’re currently working on?

I’m working on a new thriller. It’s about Lee, a chef who lost her restaurant due to the pandemic and now lives in her car. She’s parked at a secluded beach in an upscale enclave where she can sleep safely, when she hears a woman trying to drown herself in the ocean. Lee rescues the wealthy woman and an unlikely friendship forms. But can the drowning woman be trusted?

More about Robyn Harding here.