Keeping you in suspense
Dr. Freda Hansburg
After living and working in the northeast I retired from my psychology practice and moved to the beautiful South Carolina Low country to devote myself fully to writing. I now live in a villa overlooking the Intra coastal on Hilton Head Island – an idyllic setting for a writer. When I’m not working on my suspense novels, you’ll find me on the Pickleball court or sitting on the dock, watching dolphins cavort.
Suffer Little Children
A tense psychological thriller…one of those page turners that kept me riveted from beginning to end. There’s nothing like a story where children are in immanent danger…And trust me. You won’t know if it will be okay
Author's Life Journey
Over my years of work with individuals, couples, groups, and organizations, I became well acquainted with the signs and symptoms of psychopathology, the tug-of-war between intimate couples, and the dynamics of conflict on many levels. As a longtime aficionado of the thriller genre of books, the challenge of crafting tales of suspense out of these experiences was irresistible. That calling produced my two psychological/medical thrillers. Tell on You, a story of dangerous infatuation, won the 2020 Independent Press Award for Best Psychological Thriller, the 2019 NYC Big Book Award for Best Psychological Suspense Novel, and was a 2019 Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist for the Psychological Thriller category. Shrink Rapt, a medical thriller is a story of suspense and romance, featuring hypnosis, psychiatry, murder, and academic intrigue. My new psychological thriller, Suffer Little Children, pits a dedicated nurse against an unscrupulous mother, who will stop at nothing to get her terminally ill son admitted to a research program. Winner of the 2022 Independent Press Award for Suspense, the novel was also a Distinguished Favorite for Suspense in the 2021 NYC Big Book Award.
How did your work as psychologist inspired you to become a medical thriller author?
As a psychotherapist, I spent many years listening to people’s situations, helping them to construct and embrace their personal stories. As a writer, I invent stories that are alchemies of pure imagination and a deep understanding of the human heart and mind. I’ve always been drawn to the genre of suspense. Thrillers are the mythology of our time.
What is your medical thriller Shrink Rapt about?
A talented young psychologist, recovering from her husband’s betrayal, confronts murder, mystery, hypnosis, and intrigue within the halls of academic medicine. It’s a suspense/romance thriller, set against the real-life backdrop of the fraught alliance between Medical Research and Big Pharma.
How did you first discover the character of April?
There’s a lot of me in April, I confess. I used to be in her shoes, directing a treatment program and contending with an arrogant bully of a department chairman. My challenge was to transform her into a person in her own right – braver, harder-drinking, struggling to bounce back from heartbreak, a woman who goes from giving in to refusing to give up. And I gave her a handsome, sexy, jaded detective as a sparring partner. Maybe I secretly wished for one of those myself. It was fun creating their chemistry.
Does this kind of digging scare you or hold you in suspense as you write your book ?
In the process of writing a psychological suspense thriller, I start off with some basic assumptions about my characters and then discover them more fully as I write. They surprise me at times, which I find exciting, rather than scary. The arc of a character’s development unfolds with and drives the story’s progress. I had to discover how far April was willing to go – how much she’d risk – to do what she believed was right. In the end, I was proud of her.
What are the takeaways and insights we can learn?
Woven through the story are themes of abandonment, sexual trauma, abuse, and addiction. I’ve tried to depict them in a way that’s sensitive, without being heavy-handed. Most of us are recovering from something at a given point in our lives. It takes courage to move forward.
What kind of research went into the psychological components of Shrink Rapt ?
Most of the time, I was on familiar territory, based on my background as a psychologist. I drew on my experience as a therapist, my understanding of the patients I treated, my take on the best and worst of academic life. I also asked some of my clinical colleagues to serve as beta readers to double-check me.
What should readers know about the “helpers?”
Detective Sam Perone is a street-smart, intuitive cop, who’s built a shell around his vulnerable core. He and April navigate a journey of healing and building trust. Shrink Rapt features a quirky and volatile mix of supporting characters, with their own excellent motives for murder. My goal was to misdirect and keep the reader questioning the killer’s identity throughout the story – and then shock them at the end.
How do you craft suspense and tension when we already know early on who the killer is?
Well, in Shrink Rapt I didn’t let you know who the killer was until the very end. So, much of the suspense derived from making you guess who it was. But an important aspect of suspense is not only who did it, but why. That’s where the character motivation is key and drives the plot. The reason someone kills or commits another extreme act needs to be both shocking and believable at the same time to grip the reader.
You’re about to release your third psychological thriller! What excites you the most about new book?
I really went out on a limb with Suffer Little Children, my third suspense novel and second medical thriller. I did a lot of research. The story is based on a real-life, state of the art cancer study, letting the facts anchor, but not get in the way of a gripping domestic drama. I’ve created a truly creepy, highly manipulative antagonist who’ll stop at nothing to get special medical treatment for her terminally ill son. Her target is a dedicated nurse trying to make a fresh start in her career and personal life. It becomes a shakedown, with children’s lives on the line. I’m hoping my readers will find it a thrilling ride!
Do you know my friend that each one of us in a dark mystery, a maze of conflicting passions and desire and aptitudes?