Swipe Right: How a Few Bad Online Dates Led to My New Thriller

Wendy Walker takes us through a pair of real-life online dates that helped inspire her new thriller The Night Before. Plus, comment below for a chance to win a copy!

As the author of psychological thrillers, plot ideas often come out of nowhere. I’ll be running at the track and see a plastic bag in the woods—hmmm, what if it was used to kill someone that morning? I’ll hear a creak on the wood floor outside my room—hmmm, what if it’s not the dog or a kid, but that stalker who’s finally decided to make her move? But sometimes, the idea begins in a different way. Not from an out of place object or strange noise, but one that patiently knocks on the door of my subconscious.

After a decade of being immersed in the world of Internet dating—not just my own dating experiences as a middle-aged woman, but also those of a vast and varied community of comrades—I finally answered that door.

Over the years, I began to notice a commonality among every bad Internet date story I encountered: lies. Internet dating sites and apps are not monitored. Just like Facebook and Instagram, people can post whatever they want about themselves. They can change their age, height, weight, hairline, marital status, income, job history, and name, where they went to school and live, what they like to do and are capable of doing, and whether they have children, dogs, or cats. They lie with their words and they lie with old or even fake photographs.

Truth becomes fiction. A real person becomes a character.

Some men create fictional characters to lure in more attractive “matches.” They figure once their date has ventured out of her home and paid for a drink, there’s a small chance she’ll stay long enough to see what a great guy he is.

I began to notice a commonality among every bad Internet date story I encountered: lies.

But others employ more serious offenses and have more sinister motives. Here are two real-life stories from the front lines of Internet dating that shaped the plot of The Night Before.

The Still-Married Man

When I was constructing the Internet date for my leading lady, Laura Lochner, I knew I was going to use an amalgamation of the numerous “still-married man” stories I had collected. Sadly, the stories about men who claim to be divorced on their profile, but then confess on the first date that they are still married or separated, have become commonplace. Not unlike the guy who looks nothing like his profile picture, these guys think their transgressions are harmless. Because they know their dates will either stay or go after they learn the truth—no harm, no foul.

But for my purposes in The Night Before, I needed the guy to do something sinister enough to ignite Laura’s rage. After all, I gave her a dark, violent history. I wanted readers to be more afraid for her date than they are for her! So, what if he was a serial liar, and had an infrastructure that supported his lie—a sparsely furnished bachelor pad that he hid from his wife, and a detailed story about his divorce that wouldn’t raise an eyebrow? That could make a woman very angry! For this, I looked no further than one of my own experiences. To this day, I can recall every detail one man shared about his “divorce,” and the three years that had passed since that “painful” time. I remember, too, his unfurnished apartment, lacking plates and glassware. Nothing in the fridge. It was my first lesson in the pathology of a serial liar—one I would never have to learn again.

The Professional Con Man

True story: I was at lunch with someone I’d met online. He looked very young for 45. He claimed to be a trust fund kid, born and raised in Greenwich, CT, and said he was a professional race car driver who now had the enviable job of test-driving sports cars. The story sounded so preposterous, I knew within a few minutes this would be our first and last date. But there was something else that gave him away. He had horribly crooked teeth. What trust fund kid from Greenwich is deprived of proper dental care?

When I was driving home, I remembered something he told me about dating another mom from my kids’ school. It was enough for me to track her down. When I texted her and asked her about this man, she wrote back one word in all capital letters—RUN! It turned out he was a professional con man who used his story to gain access to free housing in the mansions of wealthy, divorced women.

Things got even stranger the following week when a guy friend told me he’d been on a date with a woman who’d been conned by a race car driver. I agreed to speak with her. She shared the details of his con, explaining how he juggled three to four women at a time, told some he needed to borrow money because his mother had cut him off, and then spent that money on the new women he was luring in! It was a house of cards that eventually collapsed, given the insular nature of our community. He left town—probably taking his playbook to a new, wealthy suburb where no one had heard of him—yet.

Just like the still married man, I will never forget the feeling I had when I saw the word, RUN!, on my phone, and later learned the reason for such alarm.

* * * 

These stories, and countless others, have waited years to find their way into a novel. I wanted to capture the feelings they provoked in me and my brave comrades, so I created a split time frame where readers could live a perilous Internet date hour by hour with Laura, but also follow along with the discoveries made the following morning when she doesn’t arrive home.

Sometimes life is stranger than fiction. But sometimes weaving them together makes for the perfect thriller!

About The Night Before:

Rosie and Laura are as different as two sisters can be. One is stable and has the perfect family. The other struggles to break free from her troubled past. When Laura disappears after going on a blind date, Rosie takes matters into her own hands.

But as Rosie begins to search for her sister, her greatest fears come to the surface. Could Laura be more of a danger than the stranger she meets, or is the night before her last night alive?

Told in dual timelines—the night before and the day after—The Night Before is a riveting thriller about family loyalty, obsession, and what happens when the desire for love spins out of control.

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Night Before by Wendy Walker!

To enter, make sure you’re a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

The Night Before Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/swipe-right-how-a-few-bad-online-dates-led-to-my-new-thriller/ beginning at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) May 14, 2019. Sweepstakes ends at 12:29 p.m. ET May 28, 2019. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


  1. Angela

    Well this makes me want to read this EVEN more!

    • Marsha Kamish

      I’m almost scared to read this! LOL!

  2. Mehva Roffman

    can’t wait to read this, have my share of online dating disasters and love over the years

  3. John Smith

    I’d much rather read this than go on some ooky date!

  4. William Rowell

    Sounds like a good read.


    I’ve been on several blind dates myself, luckily none as bad as your stories!

  6. Melissa Baird

    Been there, done that and rather read about it than do it again!

  7. Jean Feingold

    Lots of fakes in the online dating world

  8. Christine

    Definitely need to read this one!!

  9. Keri Justice

    I can’t wait to read this book! I’ve been looking forward to it for awhile now.

  10. Blake Dee

    I love Wendy Walker & this makes me want more

  11. Cris

    This sounds like an amazing story!

  12. Shannon

    Can’t wait to read this!

  13. Desmond Warzel

    Count me in, please!

  14. Shannon Wise

    I met my husband through an online dating site and I think God every day that he didn’t turn out to be a conman or serial killer, lol. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

  15. Suzanne McMannis

    no lie- looks good!

  16. Christine Smiga

    The book sounds really good. Probably the scariest part is that some parts were inspired by real people.

  17. Mary Kearney

    Sounds great. I have met men of these types over the years.

  18. Kerri

    This is on my TBR list. And reading this definitely wants to me to read it. Seems like a nonstop one day read

  19. Rena

    Can’t wait to read this one!

  20. Tiffany

    Can’t wait for this one

  21. carloshmarlo

    A totally spooky concept and right on the money too. Thanks for the chance to win The Night Before!

  22. Janice

    Sounds like a great read, but I’ll bet real life dating disasters are much worse. Everyone has at least one story.

  23. Carolyn

    I can’t wait to read this. It looks great!

  24. Michael Carter

    This sounds really good.
    Please count me in for this sweepstakes.

  25. Janice Milliken

    Always more interesting to read of other people’s dating disasters!

  26. Margot Sondgeroth

    This looks like a good story!

  27. Kathleen Goodrich

    Oh, I know THE TYPES! I want to read more!

  28. Julia Shkolnik

    Love this writer! Another one of her books, Emma in the Night, is a longtime favorite of mine.

  29. RD

    This book looks like a winner for sure! Can’t wait to read it!

  30. Christian M. Mericle

    I would like to read this.

  31. Pellington

    Ok, this sound amazing.

  32. Mona Garg

    Although the horror stories make me wary of ever trying Internet dating myself, they ARE fascinating to read about. Sounds like a great read — thanks for the chance.

  33. Anne

    Intriguing and riveting.

  34. Sally Kohlenberg

    sounds like a really good premise. look forward to reading it. Thanks

  35. Pearl

    Suspense filled storyline.

  36. Karen Mikusak

    Sounds great! Would love to win.

  37. Erika Harris

    I have been on several awful blind dates. This sounds like an awesome book and it has been on my wishlist for awhile now!

  38. Toni Laliberte

    This book sounds awesome! Thanks for the chance to win it.

  39. Nikki Masterson

    This has been on my TBR list since I first saw an advertisement!

  40. Johannah Brookwell

    I really enjoy a good thriller and I’d love to read this one!

  41. Magda Flores

    Funny. Back in the 90’s one of the crazy ladies in my office married a guy she met on the internet. Office gossip feared more for her new husband than for her.

  42. Dana Damato

    The online date from hell is a great subject for a book!

  43. vickie dailey

    Wendy Walker is a new author to me. The plot line sounds very interesting

  44. Rhonda Stefani

    Lol exactly why I have zero interest in the online dating world, ughh! Would love to read the book, it’s one of my most anticipated reads this year!

  45. Deb Philippon

    Lordy, I’m glad to be happily married and out of the dating scene. Wish me luck in the draw!

  46. DanielM

    sounds like a fun one

  47. ravensfan

    I want to read this.

  48. bellows22

    i love Wendy Walker’s books!

  49. Michelle L

    Online dating scene = way to scary!

  50. Burma Turner

    I love this author and can’t wait to read this!

  51. Frances Perry

    Oooh! I can’t wait to read it!

  52. Trude

    I would love to win a copy of this book!!

  53. Lynn Pallaske

    Love the 2 Wendy Walker books and completely hooked!

  54. Linda Peters

    on my to read list, thanks

  55. ajhager

    Sounds like a great book. Can’t wait to read!

  56. Joanne Hicks

    I’m very grateful that I’m happily married as online dating seems dangerous. Reading about online dating is an entirely different.

  57. Karen Hester

    Sounds like an interesting read

  58. Jana

    I like that this story is told in dual timelines.

  59. truebookaddict

    Doubtful I would ever try online dating. Probably especially after reading this. Sounds thrilling!

  60. Jackie Wisherd

    A great theme for a story. I think I would enjoy reading it.

  61. Janet Gould

    Great article.

  62. Karen Terry

    Sounds interesting.

  63. Earl Messer

    Both the premise and the structure sounds great. Can’t wait to read this.

  64. michael babb

    I can’t tell you how many times I met several women like this as well in my former years of online dating. Every story and lie you could possibly hear. It totally made me give up even thinking of dating someone I met online. I can’t wait to read this!!!!

  65. Allison McMillan-Lee

    Ready to read it, but NOT experience it!

  66. Jennifer Doucet

    Love these types of thrillers. Looking forward to reading this.

  67. L

    Internet dating. *shudders* It would be kind of fun to see how the tables might turn in this book.

  68. Queerbec

    Frightening to learn about but gripping as a story

  69. Angie

    This sounds like a book that I will not be able to stop reading until the very end!

  70. Saundra K. Warren

    Sounds like a great read!!

  71. Peg Nittskoff

    So glad this was after my dating era!!!!

  72. Christal Mormann

    Thank you for the chance

  73. Kimberly Dull

    This sounds like it’ll be a really fun read.

  74. Trisa @ Absolute Bookishness

    Sounds VERY interesting!!!

  75. happy wheels

    I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article.

  76. Lennette Daniels

    This looks so good. I can’t wait to read it.

  77. Susanne Troop

    Sounds great!

  78. Donna Hebb

    What a vivid imagination; who thinks of discarded plastic bags as a used murder weapon?! With a mind like that this book must be terrific. Can’t wait to read it.

  79. Scrangela

    I really like the chance that the heroine of this book might be person to fear the most. The fed-up-with-bad-dates revenge element intrigues me. Looking forward to reading The Night Before!

  80. Adrien Toro

    Yikes, the modern dating world!

  81. Ellen Zuckerman

    Sounds like a great read!

  82. Marisa Young

    Wow. Loved the article. I can’t wait to read the book.

  83. Sarah

    Sounds like a fine novel premise.

  84. Michael Nethery

    What do these guys think! No dishes or cutlery? Weird fellows. But I do want to read what Wendy has written. I do hope someone gets their comeuppance! Thanks for the chance Wendy.

  85. Teresa Ryan

    This one sounds good!

  86. Ruth

    I’d much rather read about it than live it.

  87. Jill M

    The word Lies really does sum up the online dating world!

  88. Victoria Fisher

    Wow! Never considered the victim would be the one we assumed was the “evil one”! Can’t wait to read this.

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    Sounds great. Thanks for the contest.

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