by Deborah Serani

Interview with author Deborah Serani and a review of her exceptional psychological thriller The Ninth Session

The Ninth Session is an edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller that brings a unique mix of psychotherapy and Sign Language and Coda Culture. Just when you think you have it figured out, think again! 

Dr. Alicia Reese takes on a new patient. Lucas Ferro suffers from crippling anxiety, and as the sessions progress, he begins to share the reasons why he’s struggling. As Ferro’s narrative becomes more menacing, Reese finds herself wedged between the cold hard frame of professional ethics and the integrity of personal truth. And, finally, when Ferro reveals his secrets, Reese learns how far she’s willing to go, willing to risk and willing to lose to do the right thing.

Duffy’s Thoughts On The Ninth Session

As a book blogger who’s gaining a bit of traction, I have been inundated with book review requests, often from small publishing houses or self-published authors. These books need to cut through the piles of glossy, prominent author, big book deal reads and distract me enough from the obligations of the major publishers. I review books for free, and my time is important to me, where I can, I choose books to read which will garner shares and likes of course, but I need to enjoy the time I spend reading.

It goes without saying that a cut and paste, impersonal email template and tired tropes will not get further than my inbox. The Ninth Session cut through, stood out and piqued my interest. Why? well, author Deborah Serani is not only a practicing psychologist and writer, she has also advised on one of my favourite shows Law & Order SVU.

The Ninth Session is a dark thriller with plenty of twists and turns. I love the unique and inclusive take on CODA culture and a positive focus on deaf characters. When the twist came, I was surprised, and given the fact I read dark thrillers for fun, it really takes something sharp to keep me guessing.

If you’re apprehensive about reading an indie author, I get it. But, in this case, trust that the author knows her character arcs and the complex boundaries and roles of a psychologist because she is one. Who was it that said, “write what you know?” Serani does this with The Ninth Session and does it well.

Dark, psychological and a lot of fun.

Delve deeper into the mind of Deborah Serani and her experience at Law & Order SVU below!

Q&A with author Deborah Serani

So, I, like millions around the world will put on a Law & Order SVU episode whenever it appears in the TV listings. You mention in your bio that you were an advisor on the show.  What was it like being around the goddess that is Mariska Hargitay and how did it feel to have a character named after you? 

Well, let me say that I’ve never met Mariska or any of the actors on the set. As a technical advisor, I was sent the scripts by mail and asked to check their psychological validity and offer suggestions for dialogue, etc. That being said, I did meet Dick Wolf when I was on the Universal Studios grounds in LA one time. He was in his office, which was decorated with regal furniture and big swag curtains across the windows. Having a character named after me is a big kick. Funny trivia, the character started out as a woman judge and just recently the character, Judge D. Serani, became a man. Still, my name on the screen is so fun to see. 

In your thrilling novel The Ninth Session, I felt I understood the professional role and boundaries of a psychologist clearly.  Did you have to check yourself to make sure you didn’t put too much terminology in the story?

I’m a psychologist by training – and a certified psychoanalyst. So my writings do tend to be very clinical. Of course, that’s good when I’m writing a non-fiction book or academic or journal paper, but not so good when writing a fiction. So, yes, I had to edit and rewrite often to lose my clinical leanings.

Wow. You know how to throw a reader through a loop with a plot twist! Do you get sweet satisfaction as a writer being able to make your readers say ‘What the hell?” 

When I write, I let the story unfold without too many planned turns. I like to see where my mind takes me. Sometimes, it does lead to twists and surprises that make readers say, “Whoa. I didn’t see that coming.” And yes, that’s a delight when a reader tells me that. 

I really loved the unique and inclusive take on the main characters and their CODA families. Is there a personal sentiment there? Or, are you simply looking to create more diverse characters. 

I learned American Sign Language as a teenager and volunteered with a community social group of Deaf kids as a young adult. As I got older, I took more ASL courses in college and became fluent. As a psychologist, I work with Deaf patients, but also with many individuals from diverse populations. I always saw Dr. Reese as a solitary character – and creating her within a CODA world felt organically right.

What one thing do you wish you knew before you started out with an Indie Published book? 

Writing is such a rewarding and enjoyable experience for me. The hard part about being an Indie author is getting your work noticed. So, publicity and marketing are harder for Indie authors than authors who land deals with traditional big publishing houses. I wish I knew just how much it takes, energy-wise and budget-wise, to launch a successful indie book campaign. I would’ve spent less on gifts last Christmas, and worked out more on the treadmill, if I knew in advance. 

Will we hear more from Dr Alicia Reese and dastardly Lucas Ferro? 

Oh yes. Working on a sequel right now.

Thanks Deborah, I cannot wait to read the sequel when it’s ready!