The Writing Retreat: A Novel (Hardcover)
March 2023 Indie Next List
“This story takes ‘never meet your heroes’ to a whole new level. I loved the use of tension in the book, and how the author played with supernatural elements while still keeping the story grounded in reality. Twisty, dark, and even fun!”
— Ann Branson, Beach Books, Seaside, OR
“Sex, suspense, and the supernatural fuel this propulsive debut.” —People
A young author is invited to an exclusive writer’s retreat that soon descends into a pulse-pounding nightmare—in the vein of The Plot and Please Join Us.
Alex has all but given up on her dreams of becoming a published author when she receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: attend an exclusive, month-long writing retreat at the estate of feminist horror writer Roza Vallo. Even the knowledge that Wren, her former best friend and current rival, is attending doesn’t dampen her excitement.
But when the attendees arrive, Roza drops a bombshell—they must all complete an entire novel from scratch during the next month, and the author of the best one will receive a life-changing seven-figure publishing deal. Determined to win this seemingly impossible contest, Alex buckles down and tries to ignore the strange happenings at the estate, including Roza’s erratic behavior, Wren’s cruel mind games, and the alleged haunting of the mansion itself. But when one of the writers vanishes during a snowstorm, Alex realizes that something very sinister is afoot. With the clock running out, she must discover the truth—or suffer the same fate.
A claustrophobic and propulsive thriller that “will keep you up all night with its intriguing premise and gasp-worthy twists” (Kirthana Ramisetti, author of Dava Shastri’s Last Day), The Writing Retreat expertly explores the dark side of female relationships, fame, and the desire to have our stories told.
— Wendy Walker, nationally bestselling author of DON'T LOOK FOR ME
"The book's pacing—a slow roll of dread and horror—is exceptional . . . A perfect winter night's haunting."
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"An audacious psychological thriller debut...Boldly drawn characters complement Bartz’s gleefully twisted plot....Sara Gran fans, take note."
— Publishers Weekly
“Stomach-clenchingly thrilling from beginning to end . . . Highly recommended for fans of authors like Ruth Ware and Riley Sager.”
— Booklist (starred review)
"Julia Bartz’s shrewd, suspenseful debut takes the typical writer’s anxieties and obsessions and transforms them into a pulse-pounding, impossible to put down thriller. THE WRITING RETREAT is bonkers in the best way, and it left me with a brutal case of author envy."
— Layne Fargo, author of THEY NEVER LEARN
"A wild ride into the pressures of publishing that is equal parts nightmare and erotic fantasy as five would-be writers are pulled deeper into the secrets of Blackbriar and its inhabitants. In THE WRITING RETREAT, Julia Bartz captures the hunger to have our stories told and the desperate measures some will take to cut through the noise."
— Jennifer Fawcett, author of BENEATH THE STAIRS
"THE WRITING RETREAT is a sexy, thrilling, compulsive mediation on art and competition amongst women who ought to be sisters, only something malignant gets in the way. I couldn't put it down."
— Sarah Langan, award-winning author of GOOD NEIGHBORS
"THE WRITING RETREAT will keep you up all night with its intriguing premise and gasp-worthy twists. A suspenseful story of ambition and envy, friendship and survival, this novel asks how high a price will one pay to achieve their dreams. THE WRITING RETREAT is the very definition of a page turner, and a remarkable debut from a gifted writer."
— Kirthana Ramisetti, author of GMA Book Club pick DAVA SHASTRI'S LAST DAY
"NIGHT FILM meets THE SECRET HISTORY in Julia Bartz’s bold, brilliant, and genuinely scary debut. THE WRITING RETREAT masterfully delivers everything thriller readers crave: palpable atmosphere, sinister characters, full-body chills, jaw-dropping twists, and stay-up-all-night suspense. I am obsessed with this book. I never wanted it to end."
— Megan Collins, author of THE FAMILY PLOT
"THE WRITING RETREAT by Julia Bartz is a wild ride from page one. I’ve been on a good few writing retreats myself and thought I’d seen it all - I was wrong. Blending themes of friendship, ambition, creativity and courage, this thrill-packed story brims with secrets, intrigue and murder. Bartz wrangles tension of the highest order, and executes a fiercely original story with vigour and style. A five-star read that’s intelligent, accomplished and exciting. I dare you to put it down."
— Janice Hallett, internationally bestselling author of THE TWYFORD CODE