The Writing Retreat” by Julia Bartz

Review by Yvonne Selander, collection development librarian

Alex has always dreamed of being a novelist. When the opportunity to participate in a monthlong, all-female writing retreat at Roza Vallo’s estate in the Adirondacks is practically dropped in her lap she doesn’t hesitate to accept the offer. Vallo is her idol. Her horror-tinged tales are all instant bestsellers and each novel, released years apart, is so distinct yet so signature Vallo, readers are in awe and Alex is no exception. Alex is trying to keep it together and embrace the experience but a falling out with her former roommate and best friend, who is also at the retreat, resulted in writer’s block that has lasted for months. Sadly, Alex doesn’t have time to ease into writing with exercises and workshopping. Each participant needs to hand in a minimum word count per day, no editing, no changes, to a novel that must be completed by the end of the month. The winner of this process as judged by Vallo? A publishing deal with a $1 million advance.

The whole idea of writing a novel under a tight deadline makes me break out in a sweat. Add in Alex’s increasing paranoia about Vallo, who is a bit unnerving to say the least, the deadlines, her fellow writers and some strange things that happen and I was on the edge of my seat. Excerpts from Alex’s novel based on the haunted past of the house that Vallo lives in show how Alex’s feelings are evolving over the course of the retreat. I think it’s safe to say that any writer will find this book to be more horror than thriller – but my lips are sealed as to why. In fact, I’m not writing another word about this novel, you need to experience this retreat for yourself.

This book is released on February 21 so psychological thriller fans put your holds on now!