Separated from her controlling husband, romance author Zoe Swan meets a charismatic art history professor on the beach and begins a torrid affair. But who is he really? By the time Zoe finds out, she’s on the run with her husband, his jewel thief brother, and a priceless painting stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. With the FBI and the murderer in pursuit, the trio heads to Boston. The only way to prove their innocence is to make a deal with the very people who want them dead.
I started interviewing Polly Iyer several years ago before she published. Having read all of her seven books, in my opinion, Indiscretion is her best. She has created the perfect, insidious setup incriminating main character Zoe Swan and her husband, David. To avoid charges of art theft and murder, they must rely on David’s brother, Paul, a criminal, to elude the FBI.
The tension Polly has created among the characters propels this story. The brothers share a pained relationship that parallels Zoe and David’s disintegrating marriage. As the mysteries of their relationships unfold so does the resolution of the crimes for which the FBI seeks their arrests. The plot is complex. The characters feel real, their flaws and strengths exposed. Like a painting created over top of another, in the end Polly strips off the layers of naiveté and self-delusion to expose the truth. Indiscretion explores the falsehoods of relationships. Polly wrote with cutting honesty, requiring courage.
Please welcome Polly back to WWK! E. B. Davis
You’ve numbered and named each chapter by a descriptor. In one of my own manuscripts, I did the same thing. Why do some manuscripts harken us to do that?
I’ve created chapter subtitles in every one of my books. Once I started it, I kept going. It’s also easy to find a certain scene while I’m writing. Besides, I think it’s fun to give the readers a hint of what’s to come.
You could have written Indiscretion as a mystery, but you chose to write it as suspense. Why did you decide on that structure?
Most of my books incorporate mystery, suspense, thriller, and bits of romance. This one has a hint of women’s fiction, I think, because it delves into a marriage. I’m definitely a mixed-genre writer, which keeps me from relying on any formulas.
In the opening scenes of your book, main character Zoe is living at the beach on a trial separation from her husband. She launches a sexual affair with a man she meets on the beach. Even though Zoe and her husband, David, are separated, we give her a “you go girl,” which is an inappropriate response. Zoe is still a married woman. Why do we applaud her behavior?
I’m not sure everyone will, and that was a consideration while writing Indiscretion, especially because it’s not something you usually find in a mystery, etc. genre. I know my critique partner cheered when Zoe stood up for herself when David, Zoe’s husband, is introduced. If we applaud, and I did, it’s because someone validated who she was as a person.
Zoe’s lover is murdered. She finds his body. After being questioned by the police, she returns home to find that her condo has been ransacked and, the next day, her husband shows up. Why does she confess to the affair?
She really didn’t have a choice. She’d already called the police, and David would have found out anyway from that. Better to face the situation head on.
Zoe was an art history major in college. She helped build her husband’s advertising firm into a success. She started writing and made herself into a bestselling romance author. If Zoe wanted to make a success of her marriage, she could. Why doesn’t she?
That depends on what you mean by a success. Success in that relationship would be to do whatever David wanted and to put up with his belittling. I don’t see that as a successful marriage.
When Zoe and David are setup for murder charges and trapped, they turned to David’s brother, Paul. Why doesn’t Zoe know Paul better?
David and Paul have a secret, and David never wants Zoe to find out what it is. Therefore, the two brothers have kept their distance, so Zoe hasn’t had much contact with Paul.
You’ve drawn a portrait of David and Paul’s lives, but we find out little about Zoe’s personal history. David acts as if he is injured by Zoe, making her feel defensive and insecure. She acknowledges her youthful insecurity and that she fell for his game playing throughout their marriage. Why was Zoe an insecure young woman?
I think creative people are always a little insecure. If we’re not, we’re probably somewhat egomaniacal. We put ourselves out in our writing and in our art and music. We depend on people liking what we do. We fret over bad reviews. Worry whether what we’ve done/are doing is good enough. Insecurity comes with the territory.
Eluding the police, Paul takes David and Zoe from the Cherry Grove, SC beach condo to Charleston and then to Boston. Is Cherry Grove real? Are you familiar with all of your settings?
Cherry Grove is not only real, Zoe’s condo was mine before we sold it in 2013. That’s where I came up with the story.
While in Boston, they stay with a couple, who are both artists and who are old friends of Paul. While surrounded by the drama of housing, protecting, and helping people wanted by the FBI, the couple continue to work. They seem unflappable. Are these characters based on anyone?
Yes. The female was my best friend since we lived together in Rome decades ago. She passed away in 2010. I still miss her. We all went to college together. The house is exactly as I described it.
Why did art theft interest you?
I’m from Boston and went to art school there, just like Zoe. The theft from the Gardner Museum left many art lovers sad, especially when you see the empty frames in the same places where the stolen painting were. Where have the paintings been all these years? Where are they now? What a premise to build a story around.
While on the run, Zoe’s respect for David plummets while Paul’s negotiations on their behalf and the impressive company he keeps increases her respect for him. We champion Paul. As a criminal, again we seem to have an inappropriate response. Is it our repulsion at David and/or do we like bad boys?
A little of both. I always mention that all my books have characters who cross ethical lines. There’s a fine line between good and bad. I tend to elaborate on that premise in my stories, whether it’s a charlatan psychic or an ex-call girl. What made them that way? Some people present a “good” face, but they’re really hiding a bad soul. I like to play with my characters’ characters. I try not to condone those who’ve done questionable acts, but I like to make readers think about the reasons good people might be forced to do bad things. I make some strong correlations in this book.
Throughout their ordeal, David never fails to remind Zoe that their dilemma resulted from her “indiscretion.” Paul reveals that he has made bad choices, too, making him sympathetic to Zoe. They start to identify with each other. How can a criminal and a law abiding wife and mother have much in common?
What determines who has what in common? Sometimes it’s a simple as being on the same wave length, hitting that inner chord that binds two people. Going deeper than the surface we all present to the world.
When you plotted Indiscretion, which element of the plot came first—the crime or the relationships?
Hmm, interesting question. I think it was Zoe’s attraction to her lover, then the twist, then it went on from there. It was definitely a “What if” story.
After they exonerate themselves, Zoe finds her sales increase from her notoriety. Are people curious, morbid, and/or perverse?
Definitely curious and probably a bit of both the others. We don’t need to look much further than today’s sensationalistic news coverage and the people who are famous for being famous, without anything else to offer. Haven’t you heard? There’s no such thing as bad publicity.
Tell us how you made the decision to put Indiscretion into the Kindle Select competition and what were the results.
I had written Indiscretion a few years back and was tentative about publishing it because I kept hearing the case was going to be solved and the paintings found. After twenty-five years, and the capture of Whitey Bulger, who had been mentioned as being involved in the theft after the fact, and he divulged nothing, I felt more secure. Since the book was finished, I had nothing to lose by entering it in the Scout program. The plus of being chosen is Amazon’s marketing. I’m fortunate that after thirty LONG days during which people had to nominate the book to keep it “hot and trending,” Amazon chose Indiscretion for publication by Kindle Press. I received my edits, and they were outstanding. The editor found a major plot hole, which took some rewriting to fix, but I was very pleased with the thoroughness of the edit. I sent it off this week. I assume it will be out sometime at the end of the month or early September.