Talking Thrillers with Rebecca Roque: Till Human Voices Wake Us

"Debut author Roque confidently weaves together dynamic characters with complex histories to riveting effect." – Publishers Weekly

Rebecca Roque comes from a long line of proudly ungovernable women. After graduating from Rush University, she hit the ground running as a critical care nurse, often finding herself at the crossroads of the most fascinating human stories. When she isn’t annoying her neighbors by luring everything feathered, furred, and feral to her backyard, Rebecca enjoys true crime podcasts and hiking in places true crime podcasters would probably advise against. Till Human Voices Wake Us is her debut novel, and we sat down to chat about this incredible story Kirkus is calling an "absolute nail-biter". 

TFx: Where did you come up with the idea for this book, and what can you tell us about the plot?

Roque: For me, books come to life in waves. The characters come first. I had a strong sense of Cia, this badass girl who’d overcome so much, but who was still haunted. The ghosts of trauma have long, sharp claws, and it can be tempting to think turning your back on them takes their power away. But that rarely works the way we want it to, and I knew that would be a big part of Cia’s journey.


Once I knew Cia, her story started to take shape. It would be about loyalty and chosen family, the wounds we all carry and what we choose to do about them. Do we love harder for the pain we’ve endured, or do we weaponize it to protect ourselves? I also wanted to explore the dark side of love. The most compelling antagonists, for me, are those whose motivations I can relate to, or at least empathize with. Where is the line between hero and villain when broken systems create impossible choices? 

TFx: What draws you to writing in the thriller genre?

Roque: A good thriller is built on secrets. We all have them, and yet we settle into our comfortable routines taking for granted that if we play by the rules the rules will protect us—that we can trust those we let close. Thrillers question that complacency, pulling back the veneer of order and exposing whole worlds previously hidden. I was always the kid who made up entire (often lurid) backstories for my stuffed animals, so this genre was a natural fit.

TFx: How much research went into the writing of this book?

Roque: So much! But I’ll be honest, that’s one of my favorite parts. I am and have always been an unapologetic research geek, and if I don’t have to include APA-style citations, even better! Authenticity is important, and I love learning new things when I read, so I spend a lot of time on the fine details like fire department command structure, police reports, toxicity levels of various minerals found in quarries, etc. I also have attention deficit disorder, and when you combine those two superpowers, you end up down some deep rabbit holes. For example, I had only the millennial-zeitgeist level of knowledge about the dark web before writing this book. Naturally that meant I had to install Tor (behind a few healthy layers of protection, on the advice of those much wiser than I) and spend several long evenings spelunking, figuring out the basics so my characters could dip their toes in (and get into the necessary amounts of trouble there). 

TFx: What is the significance of the title?

Roque: The title itself refers to a verse from a T. S. Eliot poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” He could always find the haunting in the humble, painting the most resonant imagery with his words. “We have lingered in chambers of the sea / By sea-girls wreathed with sea-weed of red and brown / Till human voices wake us, and we drown.”

 

Alice’s death by drowning in the quarry is a physical manifestation of Eliot’s metaphor, and Cia is convinced that Alice was killed for something she knew. Awakening in Eliot’s poem, breaking from the illusion of the sirens’ song, also leads to a kind of death. In the poem, the true danger comes only when the illusion is dispelled and the narrator awakens. This book is the beginning of Cia’s awakening, setting up the choice she must make between the safety of the world she’s always known, or risking everything to expose the truth.

TFx: Tell us something fun about you that readers might be surprised to know?

Roque: For my last birthday, I spent the night in a haunted castle in Wales. It was originally built in the 1200s, and eight hundred years of history will leave their mark on a place. We had a private guided ghost hunt that very night, which led to some truly unsettling experiences! In the derelict part of the castle where renovation funds haven’t quite stretched, my friend had her chair nearly pulled out from underneath her, and in the underground tunnels that used to serve as kitchen storage, we felt a wave of icy air hit us after we challenged the spirit of an 18th century cook infamous for his cruel treatment of children. I can definitively say that Welsh ghosts are some of my favorite birthday party crashers.

TFx: Books often have a central message or theme. What do you hope readers take away from your latest work, and why is this message important to you?

Roque: In the past several years, we’ve witnessed a collective mask-dropping that showed many of us we had been sleeping way too comfortably at night given the monsters among us. I don’t mean individuals—I’m talking about ideas that refuse to die. White nationalism. Xenophobia. An increasingly shameless global oligarchy of the wealthy elite. Human history is a series of crossroads, choices we’ve collectively made as a species that charted an irreversible course. This book was born out of the question of who we will allow to chart our course from here: the dreamers or the fear-mongers? The builders of bridges or the builders of walls? And can anything correct our course if we choose wrong?

Get Rebecca Roque’s latest release, Till Human Voices Wake Us, out now on Amazon

"An engrossing thriller."  – Foreword Reviews

Black Mirror meets A Good Girl‘s Guide to Murder when a teenage girl’s relentless investigation into her best friend’s death plunges her deep into a dangerous underground society where every secret has a price.

Seventeen-year-old Cia lived in a house of secrets until she was five, when her father literally burned it all down. The price of his clandestine operation? Cia’s entire family, and her leg. So, when her best friend Alice says she has a secret too, Cia wants nothing to do with it—even if it could shed light on her family’s dark past. But Alice doesn’t let go so easily, especially when her search for answers might help find Noah, the boy who broke her heart before going missing two months ago.

But then the police find Alice’s body floating in the quarry.

Now Cia would give anything to know Alice’s secrets. Because Alice would never have jumped, no matter what the cops think. Desperate to figure out what happened to her friend, Cia picks up the threads of Alice’s investigation, plunging deep into a shadow world of augmented reality. As she untangles one web of lies after another, Cia finds herself pursued by an enemy that will pay any price to keep their secrets buried. But the girl who already lost everything isn’t about to back down now. Her only chance to avenge Alice lies in exposing an underground society preying on those they think no one will miss—but danger lies closer to home than she imagined.

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