We chatted to the writer of thriller The Lie about what inspires her, her tips for aspiring writers and her next novel...
Did you write stories when you were a child?
I did, I wrote loads. My mum recently cleared out her attic and found a huge pile of books I’d written and illustrated as a child. When I was eight I sent one of them, ‘The Flower Friends and The Evil Weed’, to Penguin Publishers. They rejected it but they did send me a very nice letter with lots of useful advice like ‘Ask an adult to type it up for you’ and ‘Keep the illustrations on separate pages’. I didn’t submit another novel to a publisher for nearly 30 years but I was a little more successful second time around!
What books and authors did you read when you were young?
I was a huge Enid Blyton fan and read everything and anything she’d written. My favourite series was The Faraway Tree. The books were so wonderfully imaginative, the characters so eccentric and fun and there was real peril too when the world at the top of the tree started to turn and the children became worried they might be stuck up there forever.
What helps you come up with plot lines? (e.g, hot bath, long walks)
If I’m stuck with a plot I can almost guarantee that the answer will come to me when I’m lying in bed, just about to fall asleep. When that happens I have to sit up, put the light on and write it down because I know it’ll be gone by morning. Fortunately my partner is very understanding!
What is your writing routine?
Until this year I held down a full time job and wrote whenever and wherever I could. That became very tricky when my son came along three years ago and now I write full time. My son goes to nursery four days a week and that’s when I write. I drop him off at 8.30am then come home and watch an hour’s worth of TV while I catch up on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc) and I aim to be sitting in front of my laptop by 10am. I write for two hours then break for lunch. If I haven’t managed 1,500 words (the target I set myself every day) I’ll continue writing after lunch. At the moment I’m writing my third psychological thriller THE FORGETTING whilst promoting THE LIE which is out on 23rd April. That means I have to carve out some time in the afternoon to write short stories, articles and blog posts to tie in with the publication of THE LIE. If I can I try and stop writing at 3pm and do half an hour on my treadmill then I give the house a quick tidy up (quick being the operative word!) then catch up on my reading until 4.45pm when I go and collect my son from nursery.
What tips would you give aspiring writers?
Write the book you can’t stop thinking about, the one that keeps you awake at night. Readers will pick up on that passion and it will make the book come alive for them. If you try to write a psychological thriller because they’re popular or erotica because you think it will make you as rich as EL James you’ll be setting yourself up to fail because your heart won’t be in it. Agents and publishers can tell when someone is trying to get on a bandwagon. Start your own bandwagon – write the book you have to write. JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter when everyone believed that ‘boarding school books’ were out of vogue but she didn’t care. And look how that turned out!
Do you have an idea for your next novel?
Yes, I’m currently writing The Forgetting which is about a woman called Claire whose fourteen year old son disappeared in the middle of the night two years ago. The family do a press conference/appeal to mark the anniversary but it goes very wrong. The next thing Claire knows she’s waking up in a hotel room six hours later with no memory of how she got there or what happened to her.
Do you have a favourite classic novel?
My favourite classic novel is 1984 by George Orwell. I find the idea of a society that monitors your every move utterly fascinating and terrifying at the same time.
What novels are you reading at the moment?
I’m currently reading ‘The Outcast’ by Sadie Jones for my book club. I’m also lucky enough to be sent advanced copies of books by other authors and We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman and Disclaimer by Renee Knight on are on my ‘to be read’ pile just waiting for me to pick them up.
What’s your favourite literary quote?
It’s this one by Neil Gaiman: ‘Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that – but you are the only you.”