Deborah Goodrich Royce, Novelist

Leading Ladies 2024


While the genre of true crime is ubiquitous today, appearing in everything from documentaries to films, when DEBORAH GOODRICH ROYCE played Ted Bundy’s wife in a 1986 television miniseries – at the same time the infamous killer was awaiting execution – the salacious details of real criminals’ lives was only just becoming a rampant source of household speculation and intrigue.

For esteemed author Deborah, whose career in the arts has seen many chapters over the years, a fascination of mystery and secrets has compelled her since childhood, and resonates in her thriller novels, including Reef Road, which was named one of the best books of 2023 by Kirkus Reviews. Following two women whose worlds collide when a severed hand washes ashore in the wealthy enclave of Palm Beach, Florida, Reef Road harkens back to a brush with crime Deborah’s own mother experienced at a young age when her childhood friend was killed, and the case never solved.

Deborah has garnered recognition for her thriller novels, which examine “puzzles of identity,” including Finding Mrs. Ford and Ruby Falls. Her most recent, Reef Road hit Publishers Weekly’s Bestseller list, Good Morning America’s Top 15 list, and was an Indie Next pick by the American Booksellers Association for January 2023. Ruby Falls won the Zibby Award for Best Plot Twist, and Finding Mrs. Ford was hailed by Forbes, Book Riot, and Good Morning America’s “best of” lists in 2019.

But before Deborah’s life story brought her to a writing career – encouraged by none other than Gene Wilder, who frequented a movie theater in Connecticut she and her husband Chuck restored – the multifaceted creative turned the page on a successful acting career. After earning a bachelor’s degree in modern foreign languages and a minor in dance at Lake Erie College in Ohio, she headed for New York, where she landed a role on popular soap opera All My Children in the ‘80s, and then LA, appearing in multiple films and TV shows. While raising her two children, she turned to working as a story editor at Miramax Films, developing Emma and early versions of Chicago and A Wrinkle in Time.

Well-known in Westerly for her loving restoration of the Ocean House Hotel, Deborah and Chuck have also restored United Theatre, Savoy Bookshop & Café, and other revitalization projects in Rhode Island and beyond. Today, the Ocean House Author Series turns the seaside destination of Watch Hill into a literary hub, attracting world-class authors and fans to salon-style conversations facilitated by Deborah. Past authors have included Zibby Owens, Emma Straub, Annabel Monaghan, Zain Asher, and many more. On March 20, the series brings Jeffrey Blount to the Ocean House.

In the pages of our own Hey Rhody magazine, Deborah writes a regular Rhody Reads column, sharing essential titles to add to your TBR list, with picks for all types of readers and every season, whether you’re cozying up inside on a cold day with a page-turning drama or seeking a new thriller to get lost in. Immersed in the Ocean State’s literary network, Deborah often highlights titles by local authors, many even featuring familiar Rhode Island locale.

Whether penning probing psychological thrillers or giving a platform to authors at the luxurious Ocean House, Deborah’s next chapter is sure to be as absorbing as the last.