But there’s always time to meet new authors and new fave books. I’m delighted to alert you to a fab share-fest from (my wonderful publisher) Odyssey Books. Throughout October, they’ll be featuring one author a day from their amazing list. I just love their ‘mission statement’: Odyssey Books : where books are an adventure.
Welcome, Cindy, it’s lovely to have you. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?
Cindy: I’ve had a lifelong interest in the countries of the Middle East, particularly Turkey and Iran. I lived in Turkey several years ago and have returned regularly ever since. While there I learned to speak Turkish. The idea for my first novel came from talking to the migrants and refugees who came from Iran after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. I also think that a novel about Iran’s recent history is relevant at the moment.
I taught English language for most of my life and the main character in the novel is an amalgamation of the many students I met. It took me five years to research and write The Afghan Wife. I’ve been in demand this year to give talks about Iran because it is such a topical subject.
However, as a writer I cut my teeth on writing travel articles and had several published in airline magazines for Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand and one was translated into Arabic for Emirates. I also wrote short articles for the Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend magazine. So by the time I came to write the novel, I’d had plenty of practise as a wordsmith.
That sounds rather exotic and completely fabulous. You lived in Turkey and speak Turkish: that’s amazing.
Esfahan, Iran. Photo by Cindy Davies.
What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
Am I allowed to have two? (haha of course!)
The first is when Karim and Zahra meet for the first time before the Iranian Revolution. She’s a teenager from a small town in Afghanistan and he’s a sophisticated Iranian in his twenties. This is pre-revolutionary Iran and the Shah is still on the throne. Zahra makes some terrible social gaffes—thinking that a house in Martha’s Vineyard in the USA is actually in a vineyard. When he says ‘your tiny hand is frozen’ she doesn’t get the reference. Her social innocence endears her to him immediately.
The other scene is when Karim is trying to get back to his house after taking part in a raid on the American embassy. It’s midnight and pitch black. Four young hooligans, armed with sub-machine guns, are in a jeep which comes tearing down the deserted lane Karim is running along. He’s terrified that if they spot him they’ll open fire.
Ooh, very exciting! I’ve noticed that your characters seem very real. How do you make them believable?
I know everything about them—I write a biography of them in point form even down to what their favourite colour is. The author has to know how a character will think and feel in any given situation. Very occasionally, though, a character will surprise me.
One of my reviewers obviously found Karim so real that she wrote that if she ever met him any time, any place, he would be her man. I didn’t have the heart to say that he really only existed in the novel and even then he wasn’t perfect.
Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
Leo Tolstoy the 19th century author was a master at writing love scenes. Think of the scene between Anna and Count Veronsky at a deserted railway station: she’s already attracted to him, but she’s married. She steps off a train at a deserted station, the steam from the train clears… and he’s standing there!
Although by modern standards seem wordy, the nineteenth century novelists like the Brontë sisters understood the human condition. People want to read good stories.
I love Kate Atkinson, Ian McEwan, Sebastian Faulks, Margaret Atwood, Joan London(WA writer). Australians Liane Moriarty and Jane Harper are excellent story-tellers.
I read a lot, always with a critical eye as I ask myself how the author is keeping me interested.
Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
Don’t procrastinate—get started on that book!
Great advice. What’s next for you in the world of writing?
I have at least four synopses already written but no novel planned out as yet. I have a ‘snippets’ folder for ideas. I’m currently collecting malapropisms. Recently someone said to me ‘I believe you collect small vinegrets about people.’ She meant vignettes of course—I added that to the file, I’ve got a character in my who makes these kinds of mistakes all the time.
That’s an interesting project! (Mrs Malaprop returns *I’d better be careful*)
And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
I identify with Zahra, my character in The Afghan Wife. She had no choice but to escape from Afghanistan with her husband, cousin and young son. As a migrant to Australia myself, I arrived with three young children and had to make a new life here. Zahra’s situation was worse because she had a violent husband and a manipulative cousin. Zahra was strong for the sake of her child and eventually she made the best of what life had thrown at her.
A great choice. What’s been your best achievement since the publication of your novel?
I was placed third in the Kathryn Hayes competition,’When Sparks Fly’ operated by the New York chapter of Romance Writers of America. I was thrilled, especially as my novel is not strictly a romance but is in the Women’s Fiction category. I’ve also been the keynote speaker at one of the biggest book groups in Sydney, as well as at the NSW Society of Women Writers.
Congratulations! Here’s wishing for more success, and more books arising from your ideas. Thanks for speaking with me today, Cindy.
Nicola Pryce writes romances featuring Cornwall, adventure, drama, handsome heroes, and foregrounding remarkable women – an irresistible combination. If you’re a bit keen on Winston Graham’s Ross Poldark, or Jane Austen’s Captain Wentworth, or any well-written historical fiction, then you need to meet Nicola asap. Not in 1773. Now!
*Plus read on for a bonus scene!*
Welcome, Nicola. It’s great to meet you. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?
Nicola: If I have to reveal secrets, then it’s that I sail, certainly, but not across vast oceans. I’m more of a harbour hopper, sailing in and out of the towns and secret coves in Cornwall that I describe in my books. My characters inhabit my world, only 226 years before me. I follow their footsteps – every mile they walk, I walk; I have been to every harbour they anchor in, every river they row up, and every inn they dine in. Every mad dash they make across Bodmin Moor, I’m racing behind them. The houses they live in are all there, the streets they walk, the moonlit rose gardens and clifftops where they meet. And I wake to the same hammering in the shipyard, the same bleating of the sheep, the same crowing of the cockerel.
That’s great to know! What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
My favourite scene is in The Captain’s Girl. My aristocratic heroine, Celia Cavendish, finds herself on a fast cutter in the charge of the rather secretive Captain Arnaud Lefèvre. It is two in the morning, the wind is gentle, the stars bright above them. Captain Lefèvre serves freshly caught seabass, grilled on a bed of herbs; they drink Chablis, watch a shooting star, and all the while the south coast of Cornwall is drawing closer. As she breathes the salt air, relishing the wind in her hair, Celia feels free for the first time in her life. At daybreak, she must return to rigid protocol and social niceties, but more importantly, she must explain her sudden absence.
Oooh, how intriguing! If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?
Badly! I could see it hadn’t gone well when I saw Madame Merrick staring down at me from the first floor of her dressmaking establishment above Pengelly’s Shipyard. The sun was glinting on her lorgnettes and knew that as soon as I opened the door, her hawk-like eyes would pin me into submission.
And I was right. Her silk petticoats rustled as she swung to face me. Elowyn and Mrs Pengelly took refuge in the storeroom, but I knew I must stand my ground.
‘A figment of your imagination? Her French accent is always more noticeable when she’s cross. ‘I think not!’
I had to be brave. Most would turn and run, but I had to explain.
‘You’re a character in my stories, Madame Merrick. You don’t exist off the pages of my books.’
A rise in her perfectly arched eyebrows, a slight ruffle in the feathers of her headdress, and then a smile – and it’s always worrying when Madam Merrick smiles.
‘Well, perhaps it is not such a bad thing. Maybe it is better they think you have fabricated my existence. Yes, let them think that – let them believe, I do not exist. It might well work in my favour. Will you take a glass of punch with me?’
I had to say I would, but only a small glass as I know only too well what goes into Madam Merrick’s punch.
Oh, that’s marvellous, Nicki, thank you so much! An extra scene. Yippee!
Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
I was a dreamy child, a boarder from the age of eight in a school with limited television and a large library and I spent rather more time reading than I should – even finishing Gone with The Wind by Margaret Mitchell in orchestra practice with tears rolling down my cheeks!
I read everything I could, from Agatha Christie detective novels to John Wyndham’s science fiction, but mainly I read historical fiction. I loved Jean Plaidy, Anya Seton, Elizabeth Goudge, Georgette Heyer, Huge Walpole, R F Delderfield, as well as all the Angelique books which we had to cover in brown paper! I did English A level and I enjoyed discovering the Classics.
At 42, I completed an Open University degree and found myself drawn to the eighteenth century and that has certainly influenced the books I write. My favourite author is Jane Austen, but it was Daphne du Maurier and Winston Graham who introduced me to Cornwall through their books.
The Rebecca and Poldark effect, eh? Perfect. Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
I left school at 18 telling everyone I was going to write a historical novel, but my nursing career and my three children took up all of my time.
Ten years ago, at 52, I decided my children needed to know the real me. They knew me as their mother, and a nurse, but they didn’t know the stories that were always in my mind. I had never written anything down, but I decided to return to the child I was, to the incurable romantic who had read her way through school. So I began writing my first novel – Pengelly’s Daughter. It took me three years. I had never written anything before, but it was picked up by an agent, and then Corvus Books wanted a second book, and a third and a fourth.
What would I say to my myself ten years ago? I’d say, ‘Sit down, take a deep breath because you’re NEVER going to believe this …!’
Indeed, what a fabulous story. Good for you! What’s next for you in the world of writing?
I’m currently writing the fifth book in my series. Each book is written through the eyes of a different heroine. You get to know the new heroine in the previous books and so Book 5 follows The Cornish Lady. It’s now 1799 and Amelia Carew is facing a terrible dilemma.
You can follow the order on my website http://nicolapryce.co.uk/ but all my stories can be read as stand-alone books. I put photos to illustrate the history behind my stories on my website, so there’s background information as well.
Uh-oh, that’s a few more for my TBR pile – but thank you so much, these sound wonderful. And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
This is such a difficult question because, let’s face it, the trouble with books is that you get to fall in love with so many heroines as well as heroes. I would, of course, love to be Elizabeth Bennet, but – and I might regret this – I think I’m going to go for the daring-do, the energy and romance, and the sheer glamour of Marguerite St Just.
I’d like to be beautiful, graceful, witty, highly intelligent and I’d get to go to fabulous balls and wear stunning silk gowns. I’d have the whole of London falling at my feet, and I’d speak fluent French. I’d also have the very good fortune of discovering that the man I loved, and who had disappointed me so very terribly, is none other than the divine Scarlet Pimpernel.
I’d be just as cross with Sir Percy, just as hurt and disappointed; just as petrified of Citizen Chauvelin, and just as desperate to save my brother. But I’d be her, so I’d have her courage – her extraordinary bravery as she sets off across the channel to save her husband. Yes, can I be her, please? The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy.
Thank you so much Clare for inviting me to share your Last Word of the Week. I’ve had a lovely time answering your questions.
Thank you Nicola, you’ve been a great guest and I’d love to talk again – how about when Cornish Saga 5 appears?! In the meantime, of course Baroness Orczy would love to host you in her novel :-).
Marianne: Thanks so much for having me, Clare, and congratulations on the publication of The Ruined Land.
Thank you! It’s very exciting, but let’s talk about you today (or this post will be VERY long!). Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book really ought to know?
Ooh, that’s a hard one, I’m not sure readers need to know anything about me at all! However, part of A Little Bird Told Me is set during the British heatwave of 1976 when I was the same age as my main character, Robyn. I have a particularly strong memory of that summer because my family moved back to the UK after a couple of years in Germany. We found huge cracks had appeared in our lawn, the tarmac on the roads melted and there were ladybirds everywhere. The hot weather was wonderful for us kids but did make everyday life harder for the adults.
We also owned a TV for the first time and I remember suddenly being exposed to pop music, kids’ programmes and lots of American shows and films. It was quite a revelation!
That probably explains the great sense of setting in your novel – you were almost there! What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
There’s a scene early in A Little Bird Told Me that happens after the nine-year-old Robyn is given a gift by a stranger. She’s too tired to tell her mother about it that night and instead asks for her favourite bedtime story about how the family came to live in their home. The story is so familiar to Robyn that she joins in with the telling of it.
I love the way families create these little narratives about who they are and how soothing children find this kind of repetition. In the story, it’s a nice little moment before Robyn starts learning the truth behind her mother’s tale.
Yes, that’s a great family insight. If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?
I think the child Robyn would be fascinated but adult Robyn would be a mix of furious and resentful. At the beginning of the story, she’s trapped by the events of her past and if she discovered that none of that was real I can see a fair bit of foot stomping.
Oh yes, I can see that! Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
My favourite reads over the summer have been Circe by Madeline Miller and The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. I have always had a soft spot for myths and legends but these new retellings from a female perspective combine fantastic writing and innovation and that’s inspirational.
I agree entirely. Some great tips there, thank you! Now, take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
Ten years ago, I had a super active toddler and was coming to terms with a second miscarriage and the death of my Dad. I was pretty exhausted, feeling guilty that I wasn’t like those other mums that set up new businesses in the evening after the baby’s in bed. The thought of writing a book was a very distant dream indeed.
So, I’d tell myself, and anyone else in similar circumstances, to try and worry a little less, be kind to yourself when you need it and enjoy the small moments. A year later I was pregnant with my second child, which was wonderful and unexpected, and my oldest was starting at playgroup. It was that extra time at home with the baby that allowed me the space to think about writing.
So much can change in ten years, can’t it? Kindness is essential, especially to yourself at such times. What’s next for you in the world of writing?
I’m editing another novel at the moment or will be just as soon as the kids are back at school this week. It’s about a young woman who, partly out of loneliness and partly because of her own history, is drawn into the public outpouring of concern and grief surrounding the case of a missing child. Her involvement leads to a series of deceptions that carry her deeper and deeper into trouble.
Oooh, that sounds interesting! Do let us know when it gets to print. And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
Hmm, I’m not sure whether I should be answering with a character that I think is most like me or a character that I would most like to be. That would make quite a big difference!
Reading Circe right in the middle of school summer holidays this year, I found a passage where she discovers that the island she’s been exiled to is quite beautiful, has all the wildlife she needs to pursue her sorcery and, to top it off, her home is self-cleaning and her food replenished fresh every day. I had a very strong urge to be Circe in that moment!
Excellent answer! Thanks so much, Marianne, for sharing with me on Last Word of the Week.
It is my pleasure to be on the blog tour today for Clare Rhoden’s trilogy, ‘Chronicles of the Pale’. Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for including me. I have read all three books, and I am most grateful for my copies of these, which I have reviewed honestly, impartially and individually. […]
Ardent Australian author Sue Parritt (who was born in England) has penned an impressive collection of novels across genres: future dystopia, WWII history, and contemporary fiction for a start. Sue’s writing is all about humanity and how we interact with each other. Providing great characters, detailed settings and fascinating plots, Sue Parritt is a writer to follow wherever she leads.
Author Sue Parritt
Welcome, Sue. I’m thrilled to be able to speak with you today. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?
Sue: I am a feisty sixty-nine-year-old, passionate about peace and social justice issues. My goal as a fiction writer is to continue writing novels that address topics such as climate change, the effects of war, the harsh treatment of refugees, feminism and racism. I intend to keep on writing for as long as possible, believing the extensive life experiences of older writers can be employed to engage readers of all ages.
I’m totally with you, Sue! Writers must write, and from the heart. What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
The scene in my fourth novel, ‘Chrysalis’ p.311 where my protagonist, Jane leaves the comforting cocoon of her sixty-year life to face an unknown future.
“Water seeped into Jane’s shoes as she disembarked at Heathrow central bus station. Stepping away from the puddle, she waited impatiently for luggage to emerge from bus bowels. At least the rain had stopped and grey clouds parted to reveal a washed-out sky of palest blue. She tilted her face, felt a hint of warmth to come. The perpetual promise of spring, new life, new growth and in this her sixty-first year, an opportunity for complete renewal. In an instant she had unzipped, cast-off, dashed over to a nearby rubbish bin and tossed her old jacket inside.
And there was a butterfly underneath, damp wings trembling in straw-coloured sunlight as she prepared to take flight.”
This scene reflects my feelings on taking early retirement eleven years ago to concentrate on creative writing. I took a risk giving up paid work but have no regrets. Like Jane in the final sentence of ‘Chrysalis,’ “today I know for certain true freedom lies within and I alone can birth its endless possibilities.”
How wonderful! How brave! If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?
Sannah the Storyteller, protagonist ‘Sannah and the Pilgrim.’ “As a storyteller I am familiar with the imaginary. An articulate speaker, I employ both voice and body to weave a spell around my audiences, make them believe whatever the government dictates. But never forget that in my clandestine role of Truth-Teller, I share the truth about Earth’s degradation with readers and other characters to evoke essential action.”
Sannah is a great character, very brave, compassionate and intelligent. Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
I have always read widely, however some of my preferred authors are: Helen Garner, Margaret Drabble, Mary Wesley, Sebastian Faulks, Ian McEwan, Kate Grenville, Anita Shreve, Joyce Carol Oates and Elizabeth Jolley.
From my days as a sickly child reading Dickens in my grandparents’ kitchen, I have found inspiration in fiction. Each narrative presents a microcosm of lives and worlds, providing for me not only a rich reading tapestry but also the stimulus to create my own stories.
We share some favourite authors too. I just knew it would be fun to speak with you! Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
Have faith in your writing, learn your craft and never give up no matter how many rejections you receive.
Great advice. What’s next for you in the world of writing?
Back to the future for my eighth novel, working title ‘The Doorkeeper.’ Set in Safety Beach on the Mornington Peninsula in 2100, this novel will deal with overpopulation and extended life expectancy in an increasingly climate-challenged world and the inhumane solutions adopted by a government determined to rid Australia of unproductive citizens. My protagonist will be forced to take up a position as a Doorkeeper, one of the hated individuals that choose who will be granted a continued lifespan or be euthanised.
Yikes, that sounds all too scarily possible. And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
I would be ‘Jo’ in ‘Little Women’ – the tomboy, the writer, the one that isn’t afraid to flout the conventions of a society that seeks to confine her.
Dear Jo! What a role model! Thank you so much for talking with me, Sue, and all the best for your future writings!
Jennifer Bohnet is an English writer whose thirteenth novel was published earlier this month. She has sold hundreds of shorts stories to the women’s magazine market in the UK, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Denmark. She even had her own newspaper column in a group of local Devon papers at one time. Jennifer’s latest book (impressively, number 13), Villa of Sun and Secrets , was published by Boldwood Books on 8th August.
I’m very interested to find out more as Jennifer is a long time resident of France. Not just ‘France’, but a cottage in Brittany, with family and dog and cats and ducks and chickens … It sounds like a dream come true. (What do you mean, I sound envious?!)
Welcome, Jennifer! You live in France, I believe, and have for quite a while. It sounds like it is a brilliant place to write.
Jennifer: I find it hard to believe but I’ve lived in France now for twenty years. After eleven years down on the Cote d’Azur where Richard was a guardien for a villa, we moved from the Mediterranean coast to a small quirky cottage in the depths of Brittany. A bit of a culture shock to say the least!
And your latest book is described as ‘an escapist summer read’ – it looks great. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?
I write contemporary women’s fiction set in places I know well and I stay true to those settings in my books. If I mention a certain street or building by name, or an historical incident that has a bearing on the storyline, it exists or the event did take place. My characters are imaginary though.
What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
In my latest book Villa of Sun and Secrets I really enjoyed writing the scene where Josette meets Gordon for the first time. It’s winter time and Antibes, in the south of France, has had a snow storm – yes it does happen! Here’s a snippet of the scene:
Back in early January, after a disturbed night listening to a ferocious blizzard battering the coast, Josette had got up early and discovered the Riviera slumbering under a heavy and unexpected snowy duvet. Within minutes, she was dressed and stepping out into an eerily silent town, making her way through the empty streets to the nearest park, just one thing on her mind. Once in the park, she began to make a snowball, rolling it through the pristine snow and patting it together. When it was too big to move, she began to make a smaller one.
She barely registered the first snowball that hit her in the back, she was concentrating so hard, but the next one, arriving seconds later, got her full attention. Oooh – somebody wanted a snowball fight, did they? Carefully, she placed the smaller snowball on top of the first one before swiftly bending down, gathering a handful of snow and turning, throwing it expertly at the child who’d thrown the snowball. Except it wasn’t a child. It was a man. A man who smiled and threw another snowball at her, calling out, ‘Game on,’ as he did.
The image of these two people in their 70s having childish fun together brought a smile to my face as I wrote it.
That’s fabulous, I love it. You said earlier that settings and historical events in your novels are based in fact, but that your characters aren’t. If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?
I think Anna, the main heroine in Rendezvous in Cannes, would laugh and say, ‘I’m involved in the film world, darling. Everything in that world is a product of someone’s imagination – including me!’
rendezvous in cannes by jennifer bohnet
She sounds delightful! Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
Oh a difficult question! I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I’ve always read a lot. When I read Katherine by Anya Seton years ago, I longed to write historical stories – and quickly realised that wasn’t my genre when I tried. Penelope Lively’s The Ghost of Thomas Kempe and Philippa Pearce’s Tom’s Midnight Garden had me trying my hand at children’s books, again not my genre to write (although YA might tempt me yet). Favourite authors of the last ten years or so have included Joanna Trollop, Marcia Willett, Veronica Henry, Jill Mansell, Erica James – I suspect all have influenced me and my writing in someway.
Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
To stop worrying about the future that things would work out – and they mostly have.
Good advice! What’s next for you in the world of writing?
My next book with Boldwood Books will be out February 2020 and I’ve got two more books to write for them – as well as editing my backlist for re-publishing. It’s going to be a busy winter!
It certainly is! And finally:Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
I think I’d enjoy being Eloisa from my novella You Had Me at Bonjour. Half Italian, half French slim and fun, she’s a feisty lady with attitude – a good attitude I hasten to add – who grabs life and seizes the day. A true extrovert – unlike me in real life.
You Had Me at Bonjour by Jennifer Bohnet
I’d very much like to meet her – but it has indeed been a pleasure to meet you. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us on last Word of the Week. More power to your pen!
Philippa East, writer of prize-winning short stories, was recently signed to a two-book deal by HQ/HarperCollins. Her debut novel, psychological thriller Little White Lies, will be released next February. It tells the story of a missing child who is found several years later … or is she?
Welcome to Last Word of the Week, Philippa, it’s lovely to meet you. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?
Philippa East, author
Philippa: I work as a clinical psychologist and therapist, so people often ask if I get story ideas from my work. I have come across quite a few unusual and often extreme stories from people’s lives but I’ve never been involved a real-life case like the one in my debut book – probably because it’s a situation that is almost unheard of: a missing child being found alive after such a long time. So even for me, it was quite a leap of imagination to put myself in the shoes of the various family members and think about how this one-in-a-million event might play out.
Saying that, I still wanted to explore in the book some of the themes that I frequently come across in my psychology work. For example, the different ways in which we try to cope with guilt; how trauma affects not only victims but also those closest to them; and how powerful a simple acknowledgement of wrongdoing can be.
Psychologist, eh? *sits up straighter* What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
Oh gosh, that’s a hard question! I tend to grapple so much with writing and editing my scenes that it can be something of a love-hate relationship! Saying that, there’s a pivotal scene in Little White Lies when my two teenage characters visit a fairground and find themselves right on that thin edge between excitement and terror – a sort of borderland between childhood and adulthood. I visited funfairs a lot growing up (one used to set up just across from our house) so the scene brought back a lot of visceral memories for me.
Finding the right ending for the book was a challenge, but also a really rewarding experience. The book is written from two alternating points-of-view (that of the abducted girl’s mother and that of her teenage cousin) and so the ending had to resolve both characters’ arcs at the same time. I talked this aspect of the book through in detail with both my agent and editor, and it was so satisfying to work with them to piece together a resolution that really felt true to the story I was trying to tell.
Oh! – and I also wrote a short story called “Kraken” which featured a sea-bathing woman’s encounter with monstrous sea creature. That was a totally cathartic way to exorcise my own phobia about what lurks in the ocean’s deeps!
So interesting! I can see that quite a lot of thinking goes into the motives and resolutions of your stories. If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?
Hah hah! Well, my teenage protagonist Jess would probably go off in a huff. She is the cousin of the girl who went missing, and since her beloved cousin has been found and come home Jess is really struggling to make sense of this relationship and what it means for her now. Like most teenagers, she is trying to work out her place in the world, who she really is and what it means to grow up. I think if I told her she was imaginary she’d be furious at me for saying all her angst wasn’t “real”!
That kind of teenage response would be very interesting to see. Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
Oh wow, where do I start? I have been such a voracious reader ever since I can remember (I grew up without a TV), and I think at some level every single book I’ve read has shaped me as an author. For a long time in my life though, I didn’t contemplate being a writer, and in fact I tried all kinds of other creative pursuits instead: pottery, photography, music, drawing – you name it. But with hindsight, it’s obvious that stories and books were going to be my thing because, for me, reading is practically on a par with eating and breathing.
If I had to pick one, I do think Gone Girl was very influential for me. Up until that point, I was reading a lot of Penguin Classics and literary works(!!) and was just not up to speed with contemporary, commercial fiction. Gone Girl showed me just how sophisticated and beautifully-written a contemporary page-turner could be. That book got me into psychological thrillers, which were the huge trend at that time. From there, I sensed a gap in the market for a story about an abducted child being found instead of being ‘gone’. So thanks, Gillian Flynn!
I’ve also been incredibly inspired by writers I’ve met along the way such as Joanna Cannon, Tor Udal, Amanda Berriman and Deborah Install who made it into the publishing world ahead of me. Seeing their hard work, persistence and success made me realise the dream was possible – and really lit the fire under me to follow in their footsteps.
Oh, thank you so much for the names here – these books look fab! And for the reflection that reading is as fundamental as eating and breathing. I like that.
Now take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
Calm down, slow down, keep perspective on what really matters. Writing, editing and getting published all take huge amounts of patience; you can’t rush or force things. Also, with every success that you achieve, a parallel risk of failure will materialise alongside (finished a book, won’t get an agent; got an agent, won’t sell; sold, won’t get good reviews; got good reviews, book two will bomb – and on and on). Focus on the writing and learning your craft, which is all you can really control. And always celebrate each tiny success.
What’s next for you in the world of writing?
Well, I’m super excited (and a little bit terrified) about the release of Little White Lies which will be published by HQ/HarperCollins in early February 2020. In the meantime, I’m busy writing book two, and I already have an idea percolating for book three. I think having more than one book published would be the next big dream for me – to know this can really be my career and that I’m not just a “flash in the pan”! So I think writing, writing and more writing is the answer.
I am looking forward to reading it. And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
Maybe George from The Famous Five? I loved all that kind of adventuring when I was a kid. Personality-wise, I’m probably most like Monica from Friends (if TV characters are allowed?) – you know, kind of neurotic and obsessional. Maybe you have to be that way to actually write and finish a novel (and then edit it 39 times)!
Indeed, I think you do! Thank you so much fro speaking with me today, Philippa, and all the best with your writing, writing, writing!