Author of Lies and 29 Seconds
Why did you choose to write psychological thrillers?
I love to read thrillers of all kinds – it’s my favourite genre. It just seemed natural to write the kind of fast-paced, addictive books that I love to read, which is what I’ve tried to do with 29 Seconds and previously with my debut Lies.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don’t give up, you’ll get there in the end! Try to get feedback from trusted readers at an earlier stage, and listen to what they’ve got to say (also: don’t read your one-star reviews on Amazon, because nothing good can come of it).
Do you have a writing routine?
I will spend 6-8 weeks planning a story, getting the plot, characters and key moments clear in my head. Once that’s done I will dive into it and write every day, without fail, until the first draft is done. I’ll tend to write for 4-5 hours in the morning, possibly more in the afternoon if I haven’t hit my wordcount tally for the day: 1200 on average, 1500 on a good day, 2000 if I’m really on a roll. I keep track of my daily wordcount to keep the momentum going.
What is the first book that made you cry?
The first time I can remember was Before I Say Goodbye by Justine Picardie, a memoir of her last months as she fought terminal cancer.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have one unpublished book, in a box in the cupboard, that was written before Lies but unfortunately didn’t find a publisher. I’d love to have another go with it one day! Watch this space…
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Making them believable, getting their reactions and thoughts right from a female perspective. As with all characters, it’s about putting yourself in that person’s shoes and getting them to live and breathe on the page. Having said that, the scenes with Sarah and her boss in 29 Seconds were tough to write. Without giving too much away, they needed to be realistic but not gratuitous, so there was quite a fine line to tread.
How do you select the names of your characters?
They just need to ‘feel’ right. Sometimes you just put a name on the page and it seems right for the character – it fits. Equally you can have names that don’t work for that person, no matter how much you like the name. Obviously it’s a very subjective process, but the name shouldn’t be a distraction, from what’s going on unless there’s a good reason for it. With a few minor characters, I’ve used the names of friends and family (with permission) just because it’s sometimes fun to do.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I was a newspaper journalist originally, before moving into communications where I worked until last summer. So it would probably be a comms role if I wasn’t writing.
Which author are you excited to read in 2018?
I’ve heard great things about CJ Tudor and her debut The Chalk Man, which has just come out – definitely on my list.
Do you have any desire to write series or will you stick with standalone stories?
I would love to do both – my dream would be to write a series alongside the standalones, like Harlan Coben.
What is your favourite childhood book?
Cheating slightly here, but I would have to say the CS Lewis and the Narnia series. I had a cherished box set of all seven which sadly got lost in one of our house moves.
Your five favourite pieces of crime fiction, old and new?
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Tell No-one by Harlan Coben
The Poet by Michael Connelly
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
What influences your writing?
I get a lot of ideas from everyday life – a conversation, a story on the news, a thought that turns into a ‘what if?’ question that might form the core of a plot. In terms of the writing itself, I try to learn from the work of other authors, from masters of the craft like Michael Connolly and Tana French. To see what works well – and why – on the page.
What’s next for you?
I’ve been writing full-time for a few months now and absolutely loving it! I’ve recently agreed a new two-book deal with Bonnier Zaffre and I’m currently working on book 3 for them, which will come out in 2019. It’s a standalone thriller with the working title Don’t Look Down, set in the south of France where four best friends are holidaying together with their families. As the week goes on, their friendship starts to unravel amid secrets, betrayal and lies, until it becomes clear that someone in the group is prepared to kill to keep a long-buried truth from coming out…
Published 13 Mar 2018