Friday, 8 March 2013

Guest Post: Ilsa J. Bick on Tackling Taboo Subjects in Drowning Instinct.

Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick || Release date: February 2013

Jenna is sweet sixteen, the age when a girl is supposed to find her prince.

Instead she finds Mr Anderson – intelligent, handsome, married Mr Anderson, who just happens to be her chemistry teacher. With a dark past and a difficult family, Jenna is just happy to have someone to protect her, to worry about her, to love her.

But should she be suspicious of Mr Anderson’s reputation for helping ‘damaged’ students? Why is the most popular girl in school suddenly jealous of her? And where is Mr Anderson’s wife?

This is a love story that breaks all the rules, but that won’t stop it breaking your heart.


Ilsa J. Bick talks tackling taboo subjects in Drowning Instinct....

To be honest, I’m not sure that I’ve tackled such a taboo subject as much as I’ve tried not to be formulaic about it.  Many novels out there see this kind of relationship as very black and white, cut and dried, good and bad: the adult is a smarmy shmuck who manipulates his innocent victim.  When she comes to her senses, the victim may feel torn but ultimately acknowledges that the adult was a smarmy shmuck who then gets his comeuppance.  I’m not condoning abuse or predators; far from it: as a shrink, I find true predators—the real sociopaths out there—to be pretty scary people.

But being a shrink, I also tend to think more about and live in those gray areas with my patients.  I’m less interested in absolutes because, frankly, then I’d have ended up being a policeman or lawyer or judge.  What I find much more compelling are the lengths people go to justify their behavior to themselves, and we’re talking adults and kids.  I’m intensely interested when good people make terrible decisions; when a manifestly decent guy does something that starts out one way and ends up another; when a kid gets in way over her head, and vice versa.  When people try to fix themselves the best way they know how because, really, we’re talking about relatively good, quietly desperate people in pain that they sometimes don’t know about and couldn’t articulate if they did.

So, for me, the task in writing this was to avoid being preachy and taking sides. What I was out to do was to create doubt; to blur the distinctions between victim and predator; to make the whole scenario a lot less clear-cut. 

This would’ve been a very different novel if I’d chosen to do it from, say, a third-person POV or multiple POVs or Mr. Anderson’s.  But I really wanted this to be Jenna’s story.  I wanted it to be her truth.  Is that the same as reality?  Who cares?  Does it matter?  It’s Jenna’s story as she remembers and needs it to be. If my readers come to this book believing one way and then close it thinking that, maybe, things are not as comfortable and tidy as they thought; if they question their assumptions and end up rooting for the impossible  . . . then my job is done.



  1. Oh, I love the idea of grey areas and self-justification for your actions.  Sounds like a great read!

  2. You definitely did your job. You caused a little argument between my heart and my head. A really stunning novel. 

  3. I didn't know you were a psychologist that's cool! And it must alter your perspective on some books--especially books like this one. I personally loved this book I loved that I was never sure who the villain really was. It's like everything was so baffling. I loved it!

  4. Thanks, Giselle. Yeah, actually a child psychiatrist, and it sure does influence my take on things. Glad you enjoyed the book :-)

  5. Ah, excellent, Sophie :-) I'm a happy woman.

  6. Sally@Always Lost in Stories10 March 2013 at 13:37

    I loved this book- I loved how confused it made me feel. And I loved that it was only told from Jenna's perspective as everything is completely open to the reader's own interpretation. 
    Best book of 2012 in my opinion. 

  7. daisychainbooks11 March 2013 at 12:10

     So many people have told me this is one of their favourite reads of the last time. I need to read it soon for sure. My review copy went missing in the post or otherwise I'd have read it already. Need to add it to my list! :)


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