Emma Curtis: how far would you go for the life you deserve?
At the beginning of 1990, a new-born baby girl was stolen from St Thomas’s hospital in London. I was due to give birth to my first baby in the same hospital a month later, so the idea that something like that could happen was extremely disturbing.
That story had a happy outcome, but I’ve often thought of that baby, knowing that a month earlier and it could have been mine. It’s always struck me that the story might have played out very differently. The kidnapper could just as easily have got away with it and brought the child up as her own – an irresistible starting point for a psychological thriller, and the inspiration behind Keep Her Quiet.
Leo is certain his wife’s pregnancy has nothing to do with him and feels betrayed and angry, but he’s an ambitious man, and his wife’s money allows him to pursue his dream of becoming a famous author. I like the idea of pragmatic choices, of pretending to believe someone else’s lie in order to maintain your comfortable life. Leo chooses financial security over confrontation and the ruin of his marriage. People’s capacity for self-delusion fascinates me. You can pull the wool over your own eyes much more easily than someone else’s.
It’s March 1989. Leo is driving through a heavy storm a few hours after Jenny has given birth to the baby that he knows isn’t his. Drunk and exhausted, he hits a woman. She survives, but she makes him believe he has caused the death of her baby. Leo is compelled to make an unimaginably difficult choice – his career, reputation and freedom, in exchange for facilitating a crime which will destroy his wife’s happiness and lead to a lifetime of lies and regrets.
Cut to 2005. Sixteen-year-old Zoe has seen the media coverage surrounding the anniversary of the abduction of a baby girl born two days after her. An imaginative and socially isolated teenager, she wonders if she could be that missing girl. Excited by the possibilities, she naturally assumes that if the Creaseys do turn out to be her parents, they will be deliriously happy to find her. She’s in for a shock.
I wanted to write a book that was both a domestic drama about believable, flawed characters, and a fast-paced thriller. Jenny wants a baby, but so does a troubled young woman who has lost her own. Leo wants freedom and success at any price. It’s those all-consuming, all too human desires that ultimately lead to a heinous crime. How far would you go for the life you think you deserve?