How I Wrote It

Robyn Harding's thriller is about discovering that a parent at your kid's school is a violent convicted felon

The Vancouver-based writer takes us behind-the-scenes of her new domestic thriller, Her Pretty Face.
Her Pretty Face is a domestic thriller by Robyn Harding. (robynharding.com)

In Robyn Harding's new domestic thriller, Her Pretty Face, two moms bond as outcasts at their children's elite primary school. Feeling isolated from the other parents, Frances and Kate become indispensable to one another — that is, until horrific secrets begin to emerge involving the murder of a 15-year-old girl.

The author of the bestselling book The Party, talked to CBC Books about the process of writing her Her Pretty Face.

Parental vulnerability

"I am a mom of two kids. I've spent many years standing on the school playground making friends with other mothers and parents. It was the centre of my universe at the time. The thought of someone with [a violent] history infiltrating such a safe place was fascinating to me.

"There had been an ugly domestic incident at my kids' elementary school and the police were called. When you send your child away, you get used to it. It happens every day, but there's a certain level of vulnerability. It's your nature to want to watch them when they're little, 24/7. Of course, you can't, and it wouldn't be healthy if you were. But when you hear that the place you send them that feels so safe [is visited regularly by] someone who is capable of violence, it's really scary as a parent."

Model sociopath

"I'm interested in personality disorders. I read a lot about how a sociopath can have relationships. It had never occurred to me before that someone could be a wife and a friend and a mother and a sociopath. I'm a highly emotional person. I feel a lot. I can't imagine how, especially as a parent, you don't have those kinds of emotions, you don't have empathy, you don't have necessarily the same moral compass. But some people can do it. They learn what society expects and ways to engage. I thought that was fascinating to explore."

Early bird

"I get up quite early, about 6:30 a.m., and I grab a cup of coffee and start writing before I do anything else. I don't eat breakfast. I don't shower or walk my dog.

"I write for probably two and a half to three hours and then I get ready for the day. My productivity and my creativity in that early morning window is a million times better. The rest of the day is just all downhill from like 10 a.m. onwards. I read that the morning is your most creative and productive time because the rest of the day hasn't begun to bombard you yet. Everything I write is just so much more fluid, it's easier and it just works a lot better. I never, ever, ever work at night."

Robyn Harding's comments have been edited and condensed.

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