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The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz

Thriller

The Writing Retreat

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Julia Bartz, on your first book!

by Julia Bartz

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Quick take

Pro-tip: read the fine print before a writer’s retreat lest you end up stuck with a kooky horror writer & your ex-BFF.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Psychological

    Psychological

  • Illustrated icon, Creepy

    Creepy

  • Illustrated icon, Rural

    Rural

  • Illustrated icon, Writers_Life

    Writer's life

Synopsis

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’s desperate to discover the truth and save herself.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Writing Retreat.

The Writing Retreat

Chapter 1

Fuck her.

These were the words that got me down the subway steps. I was going to Ursula’s book party, and if Wren was there, too, well, she could just go fuck herself.

But my fingers were shaking in the moment before I gripped the subway pole. So much for bravado. And I had to admit: this wild, frenetic energy coursing through me wasn’t rage, exactly. It was more like abject terror.

Friday night commuters filled the sweaty subway car. I stood over two seated girls who were maybe in high school, their mascara-laden eyes darting, hands pulling nervously at hair. One leaned in and said something into the other’s ear. She nodded sagely, and they regarded each other with smirks.

The interaction jabbed like a penknife in the ribs. Their shared world. Their undeniable certainty that they were a team. It reminded me of early days with Wren, holding hands as we rode out to Bushwick, wearing cheap pleather leggings, swigging from a shared plastic bottle of vodka and soda.

Stop. I curled my fist in my pocket, digging my fingernails into my palm. I couldn’t show up like this, with soft, pathetic yearning in my eyes. Wren and I were no longer best friends. Or friends at all. And that was fine. I was thirty years old. It didn’t make sense that I was still so broken up about a goddamn friendship.

The doors slid open. I followed a small stream of people out, throwing a final glance back at the teen girls. One stared directly at me, her gaze both curious and hostile.

Pete was waiting for me in the hotel lobby, a mishmash of leather couches, gleaming wood surfaces, and golden chandeliers.

“Alex, hello!” He jumped up, then stuck his hands in his pockets and grinned. “Don’t tell anyone, but I’m definitely not cool enough to be here.”

I’d been more relieved than I’d let on that Pete, my one work friend, had agreed to come to the book party. Seeing him in his smudged glasses, loose jeans, and non-ironic running shoes caused my heart rate to slow.

“Careful.” I smiled, shrugging off my heavy coat. “They can smell your fear.”

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Why I love it

Clear your schedule. Turn off your phone. Guzzle some coffee right before bed—once you start this book, you won’t want to stop. I was beyond lucky to read an early copy of The Writing Retreat last year, and I have not shut up about it since. To say I’m obsessed would be an understatement.

Aspiring author Alex gets the opportunity of a lifetime when she’s invited to a writing retreat led by her favorite horror writer, Roza, at the author’s luxurious estate. So what if Alex’s ex-bestie is there too? It’s all about the writing, after all. In fact, it turns out that the retreat participants are all competing for a massive publishing deal . . . as long as they can write a novel within a month. That’s stressful enough, but soon the vibe in the house becomes deeply unsettling, even sinister. As tensions rise, Roza’s behavior grows increasingly strange, and it’s abundantly clear there are secrets hidden within the estate. And that’s all before someone disappears.

This masterful debut is packed with eerie atmosphere, suspicious characters, and shocking twists. It chilled me to the bone, and as a writer who previously found the idea of a writing retreat to be both appealing and idyllic (not anymore!) I will forever be haunted by this story.

Member ratings (30,801)

  • Katelyn F.

    North Branch, MN

    Loved this & I’m shocked more don’t! Amazing twists! I do wish the ending was different & found it anticlimactic + the book itself didn’t need to be so “woke” but I finished it in 48hrs! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Kaylee R.

    Litchfield Park, AZ

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This book has to be 5 stars it can’t be anything else. I would love to give a review on this book, but I don’t think I can… because it would kill me. So just know this book was fantastic.

  • Lexi J.

    Fairview Park, OH

    I can’t even begin to describe how amazing, terrifying, and clever this book was. If I had a shot for every time I gasped, my funeral would be tomorrow. I loved every heart stopping second! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Kayla A.

    Maitland, FL

    SUCH A GREAT READ! I absolutely loved all the intricate details of this book & wondering what was true & what was false! Speed read through at a record pace to figure out fact from reality. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Julia M.

    Toms River, NJ

    Absolutely captivating from the very beginning. This is the first book in a while that I felt the need to finish in a single sitting. Made me go from sad to the edge of my seat in a second ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thriller
First Lie Wins
No One Can Know
Listen for the Lie
A Talent for Murder
One Perfect Couple
Darling Girls
Kill for Me, Kill for You
Murder Road
Daughter of Mine
The Fury
Only if You’re Lucky
The Other Mothers
The Resort
When I’m Dead
The Soulmate
What Lies in the Woods
She Started It
The Only One Left
Dark Corners
Blacktop Wasteland
All the Dangerous Things
The Only Survivors
The Broken Girls
The Family Game
The Push
We Were Never Here
Things We Do in the Dark
The Golden Couple
The Collective
The Stranger Upstairs
Gone Tonight
Too Good to Be True
The Last Word
You Are Not Alone
Rock Paper Scissors
Not a Happy Family
A Flicker in the Dark
The Last Flight
Reckless Girls
The House Across the Lake
The Wife Upstairs
The Last Thing He Told Me
The Maidens
Everything We Didn't Say
Invisible Girl
The Paris Apartment
You're Invited
The Last Party
Dark Places
Pieces of Her
The Wife Between Us
Sharp Objects
None of This Is True
The Silent Patient
The Winter Sister
The Other Woman
Necessary People
The Family Upstairs
The Night Swim
Girl A
The Hunting Wives
Just Another Missing Person
First Born
The Lies I Tell
Breathless
Thriller
View all
First Lie Wins
No One Can Know
Listen for the Lie
A Talent for Murder
One Perfect Couple
Darling Girls
Kill for Me, Kill for You
Murder Road
Daughter of Mine
The Fury
Only if You’re Lucky
The Other Mothers
The Resort
When I’m Dead
The Soulmate
What Lies in the Woods
She Started It
The Only One Left
Dark Corners
Blacktop Wasteland
All the Dangerous Things
The Only Survivors
The Broken Girls
The Family Game
The Push
We Were Never Here
Things We Do in the Dark
The Golden Couple
The Collective
The Stranger Upstairs
Gone Tonight
Too Good to Be True
The Last Word
You Are Not Alone
Rock Paper Scissors
Not a Happy Family
A Flicker in the Dark
The Last Flight
Reckless Girls
The House Across the Lake
The Wife Upstairs
The Last Thing He Told Me
The Maidens
Everything We Didn't Say
Invisible Girl
The Paris Apartment
You're Invited
The Last Party
Dark Places
Pieces of Her
The Wife Between Us
Sharp Objects
None of This Is True
The Silent Patient
The Winter Sister
The Other Woman
Necessary People
The Family Upstairs
The Night Swim
Girl A
The Hunting Wives
Just Another Missing Person
First Born
The Lies I Tell
Breathless