Thriller author Megan Collins had to ‘take a step back’ when writing ‘Behind the Red Door’

In her newest book, “Behind The Red Door,” Megan Collins takes a walk on the dark side. Billed as “dark and disturbing,” the author’s sophomore novel which was released on Aug. 4 lives up to all that and more with a wealth of long-kept secrets. The book ticks off all the elements one could want for a psychological thriller. A cold and controlling father. An anxious young woman still seeking a father’s love and haunted by recurring nightmares that night be memories. A creepy neighbor. A cold case that has suddenly gone red hot.

Working from her home in Manchester, Collins specializes in penning thrillers and in this followup to last year’s “The Winter Sister,” she crafts a tightly-woven page-turner. The plot follows the threads Fern Douglas, the main character, tries to tie together from her childhood that she can’t quite trust or even understand.

When Fern sees a news report about Astrid Sullivan, a young woman gone missing, she feels some kind of connection and starts having nightmares about Astrid. When Fern discovers more about her own past than she hoped as well as a connection between the two women, an ugly past rears up to strike again.

Collins does not have a psychology background but did a fair bit of research for this book. Fleshing out Fern’s struggles with anxiety that often spirals, however, was fairly intuitive though as Collins said she too suffers from anxiety. This marks the first time she has written a character with anxiety.

“It was actually really cathartic getting to write a character that experiences the same kind of anxiety that I do. I feel like there’s so many times where if you have an anxious mind and you are kind of stuck on these ideas that other people can just move on from, people are like ‘You’re being crazy’ and then you just kind of internalize that,” she said. “In writing Fern, I was able to be a lot kinder to myself.”

Ted, Fern’s father, was the most interesting character for her to write. “I actually had the most fun writing Ted because I think he is so far from my own perspective and my own experience that that gave me the freedom to explore some sides of humanity that I don’t don’t get to explore very often,” she said.

There were some very dark parts of the books however when Collins needed to take a break from her computer and get out of the heads of the characters she was writing at the time. “I think that’s the case with everything that I write because I’m writing psychological suspense. I’m going into those dark places so that sometimes I have to just take a step back and be like ‘OK, I got to go and watch some bad TV to just erase this from my mind.’”

Between child abuse and homophobia, several characters in this book have to navigate tough childhoods. Collins said while this theme tying the characters together made perfect sense, it came together rather serendipitously. “I always knew that it was going to be some aspect of that because Fern is also wondering at the same time what it means to be a good parent and how do you be a parent even,” she said.

As an author, she enjoys getting to explore the effects of the legacy that a parent leaves for a child and how that changes a child when he/she becomes an adult. “I’ve always been interested in how the way a person was raised affects who they are as an adult,” she said.

One positive relationship that doesn’t get a lot of pages in the book but was a fun one for Collins to write was between Fern and her husband, Eric. “He is an actually kind human being and that is something she has really lacked a lot of in her life,” she said, “So I liked being able to give her someone in her life like that.”

Already hard at work on her third book, Collins is writing another thriller that shares some similarities to the current book in that it centers on a family and buried secrets, literally. “It’s about a true crime-obsessed family that returns home to bury their father,” she said. “When they open up his burial plot, they find the body of their long missing brother already there.”

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