The Next Chapter

Joy Fielding on her 25th novel, Someone is Watching

In her latest work, best-selling author Joy Fielding tackles the aftermath of a brutal sexual assault.
"Someone is Watching" is Joy Fielding's 25th novel. (Submitted by Penguin Random House.)

In her latest work, Someone is Watching, best-selling author Joy Fielding tackles the aftermath of a brutal sexual assault. The heroine, Bailey Carpenter, is a smart, savvy private detective, who becomes a recluse after a horrifically violent experience on the job. Fielding has spent 40 years creating strong female characters and placing them toe-to-toe with dangerous foes. 

ON HOW SEXUAL ASSAULT IS PORTRAYED IN POP CULTURE

"One of the things that has always struck me about either books, movies, TV shows, whenever a woman is attacked, is how quickly she seems to get over it. At least, in the hands of male writers, you know she'll have this violent attack, she'll almost be killed and in the next episode she's out putting herself at great risk again. It always bothered me. I think women are extremely strong and resourceful and  complicated and wonderful, but something as traumatic as being beaten and raped would have a very long lasting effect on you. Certainly, if you are able to put it behind you relatively quickly, it would still affect every decision you make for the rest of your life. That's what I really wanted to show: that you will be suffering from post-traumatic stress."

ON HER OWN EXPERIENCE WITH SEXUAL HARASSMENT

"When I was about 12, I was getting on a bus and I suddenly felt this man's hands on my butt. I remember slapping the hand away and turning around and this man looking at me with this horribly eerie smirk on his face. It's funny because I don't think I was especially traumatized by the event, although I think it made me feel quite icky, but I've never forgotten it. I actually remember what I was wearing and it wasn't a school uniform. This sort of thing, once it happens, it really doesn't leave you. It was a violation."

ON WHY, IN THRILLER NOVELS, SHE DOESN'T CARE ABOUT "WHODUNNIT?"

"When I'm reading a book, I don't really look to solve the mystery. To me, that's the least interesting part. I don't care who did it. I am much more interested in the way people react and the way they react to each other. I just really want to tell a good story. The perpetrator in this case, there is somebody who has done something terrible and you do find out who did it and it should make sense, but that's not my prime purpose."

ON WHAT SHE'LL DO NEXT

"I've just always wanted to tell stories about women in an entertaining context. I have lots of ideas. Getting the idea has never been the hard part. It's figuring out what to do with it. I'm probably not as ambitious as I was when I was starting out. Things have changed so much in the publishing world. I'd like to try other aspects - I'd like to do a play, I might like to do a screenplay. As long as the ideas come, and I enjoy doing it, then I'll keep doing it."

Joy Fielding's comments have been edited and condensed.

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