We proudly publish three of your books in audio, All That Is Lost Between Us, The Hidden Hours and your latest release You Don’t Know Me. All involve themes of unreliable memory and/or the truth of past events coming to light – was that a deliberate choice? How do you feel you have explored the theme differently for each book?
Great question! I’m fascinated by the way the past often intrudes into the present in people’s lives, and how it shapes the way they think about or unconsciously experience different situations. In You Don’t Know Me
, both the main characters, Noah and Alice, have dealt with significant trauma at a young age. When they find each other and fall deeply in love, they are desperate for their relationship to signal new beginnings, but Noah is still caught up in the disappearance of his brother’s girlfriend ten years ago, and Alice has her own troubles, which have left her without any family support. These situations will draw them both back to Australia, where they must face their demons before they can move on.
In The Hidden Hours
, my young character Eleanor has fled to London to escape her troubled past, but quickly finds herself caught up in a mysterious death of the enigmatic marketing director of the publishing company she works for. The narrative structure is very different to You Don’t Know Me
, as are the details of the traumas and their impacts on the characters’ lives, and I love the way the setting impacts the mood of the book. The Hidden Hours
includes vignettes at the start of each chapter, which was perfect for capturing the diversity and complexity of London life.
All That is Lost Between Us
is the gentlest of the three stories. Set in the Lake District in the UK, it’s a very intimate tale of a family in crisis, and there’s a huge secret at the heart of the story, concerning the teenage daughter of the family, Georgia. This one is told from all four of the family members’ points of view, and isn’t so much about the unreliability of memory but explores how each individual’s unique perspective can lead them to fateful, irreversible choices that affect the entire family. And of course that secret is just waiting for the right moment to explode!
You Don’t Know Me centres around four characters, Noah, Tom, Alice and Lizzie and how their relationships are interlinked – it makes for a very “human” thriller, where deep set emotions lie at the crux of the novel. Did your characters evolve from the plot, or did the plot evolve from the characters?
I think they began together. I had the image of two brothers having an almighty argument one night at a campsite, where long-held secrets and grudges finally exploded. The brothers stayed but the setting changed, and everything took off from there. I knew early on that their resentments involved a missing girl, Lizzie, who was Tom’s girlfriend when they were teenagers. Then I began to study cold case crimes, and the way inquests and podcasts were highlighting and, in some cases, resolving these mysteries. Alice was there at the start too, as both brothers had girlfriends, but I had to ask a lot of questions about her before she evolved into the character she is today.
There are two types of writers: plotters, who plan out their novels, and pantsers, who “fly by the seat of their pants”. Which type of writer are you? Did your writing process change at all between your novels?
I’m a mixture of the two. I love just to write and see where the story takes me, and that’s fun when I’m in flow and there’s enough time and space to play. However, I’ve always sketched the outline of my books and worked with a simple chapter breakdown that I can use to examine the story arc. Now I’m consciously moving towards a more structured style of planning to see if that proves to be a more efficient way of working.
A true crime podcast is cleverly used as part of the narrative, divulging details pertinent to the plot. Are you a true crime podcast fan? Was this an idea you had at the start or what inspired you to use this structure?
Yes, I do enjoy cold crime podcasts. I’m fascinated by the examination of evidence and the way small details that can make or break a case are often missed and then come to light later. I’m also intrigued by the human side of investigations: the prejudices, strengths and motivations of the investigators as well as possible perpetrators and witnesses. When I was writing the novel these podcasts were rising in popularity – e.g. Serial, and The Teacher’s Pet – and I wanted to bring that contemporary feel into the story. In terms of plotting, it was also a very useful way to feed information to the reader, and I enjoy combining different narrative forms in my stories.
Are you a fan of audio? How have you found the experience of listening to your own books in audio?
I love audiobooks, because as a busy working mum, often in the car or doing chores, they allow me to continue to enjoy stories at times I can’t stop to read. I’m always intrigued by how different narrators handle the stories too. I find it very soothing having books read to me, and my older daughter is already a big fan as well.
It’s fascinating listening to my books being read. I love it, but it’s also strange at times, having another narrator read my stories to me!
We of course recommend that those who have yet to discover your audiobooks, delve into all three available titles over the Christmas break! What will you be reading/listening to over the festive period?
Some of the titles I hope to listen to or read as soon as I can include Alex Michaelides’ The Silent Patient
, Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare
, Daisy Jones and the Six
by Taylor Jenkins Reid, and Sally Hepworth’s The Mother-in-Law
. I’ve heard great things about all of these, so I can’t wait for some downtime to get stuck in.
Thanks for having me on your blog, and wishing you and all your listeners a very happy Christmas!