Q&A with Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, author of Bittersweet

Category: Interview

IMG_6884 (4)What drew you to the world of suspense? I wrote four literary novels before I wrote Bittersweet. So although the book has been called a gothic thriller (accurately, I think, at least in hindsight) I didn’t set out to write a “suspense” novel. It’s been fun and fascinating to slip a bit into this other world, since it wasn’t where I started out. That said, I’ve always loved to read literature that sets my hair on end, and so it probably isn’t much of a surprise that I ended up starting to write books that endeavor to do the same.

Tell us about your new book. Bittersweet is the story of Mabel Dagmar, a plain Jane who’s invited—by her beautiful, wealthy college roommate, Genevra “Ev” Winslow—to spend the summer at Ev’s gorgeous family estate. When Mabel first gets there, she thinks she’s won the lottery, but soon she stumbles across a family secret or two, and by the time she realizes the Winslows are not at all what she thought they were, she’s in way over her head. She has to decide—does she risk her own life and expose the Winslows for who they truly are, or does she keep their secrets and become one of them?
This novel was such a romp to write; the twists and turns kept me on my toes. Even I didn’t always know how things were going to turn out!

Is there a lot of research that goes in to your books? Bittersweet is set at a fictionalized version of my grandparents’ vacation home up on Lake Champlain in Vermont. So I guess you could say I’ve been researching the book my whole life. It’s funny; that place is one of my favorites in the whole world, but that’s exactly why writing about it would not make great literature. The key was figuring out that Bittersweet was about Mabel getting pulled into the darkness of Ev’s family; I realized I could turn all the elements of this beloved place into something out of a Grimm’s fairy tale.

What author (besides yourself) do you think that everyone should read? A number of books very much influenced Bittersweet’s story of an outsider looking to belong in an elite world: Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty; Donna Tartt’s The Secret History; Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited; Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children; Ian McEwan’s Atonement; and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, to name a few. Among the books I’ve enjoyed reading in the past couple of years are Lily King’s Euphoria; Aislinn Hunter’s The World Before Us, and Emily Raboteau’s Searching for Zion.

Favourite thing to do aside from writing: I’m a craft-nut. My sister is getting married in September and I spent yesterday making a pinwheel prototype (I plan to make about a hundred), ripping blue cloth into strips (for a banner), and grating up crayons (to melt inside wax bags to make flags). This craftiness definitely comes into play in direct proportion to how much work I need to get done on a given writing project (it’s time to start revising my next novel, June). But I try to think about it not as a form of procrastination, but as a way to use my mind and hands actively, which I find often flexes my writing muscle in unexpected ways (for this reason, I love to cook too).

Advice for someone considering a career in writing: It’s an incredibly rewarding job, some of the time. At its best, you have many readers, the chance at making a good income, and the ability to make your own hours, to work from home, to be more available as a parent and partner, etc. I think those elements are what a lot of beginning writers see when they find themselves wandering down this particular career path, and they are indeed to be celebrated.

But the truth is that this is a job with plenty of hidden (unromantic) pitfalls. Like any small business owner, I have to spend at least half of working time on self-promotion and paperwork (social media, email, author questionnaires, blurbs, fielding requests, etc. After 13 years in this business, I’m only financially solvent for the second time (my husband has been supporting me for most of the rest of that). And “success” is fleeting and not to be relied upon.

You have what it takes to be a writer if you are: humble, stubborn, self-starting, a good literary citizen, persistent, flexible, thrifty, and can’t imagine wanting to do anything more than making up stories for a living (which is why I do it).

What’s your poison?
By day: Ceylon tea, underbrewed, straight up.
By night: A glass of Barbera or Sancerre.

by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore is out now. For the latest from the author, be sure to follow her on Twitter @MirandaBW.

Q&A with author C.L. Taylor

Category: Interview

086605-FC501. What inspired you to write THE LIE?
I wrote THE LIE because I’ve always been fascinated by the nature of female friendships, in particular the dynamics of close knit groups of friends. Most of the time female friendships are healthy and supportive – you literally trust them “with your life” – but sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they’re much more toxic than they appear, with possessiveness, resentment, bitterness, competitiveness and envy lurking under the surface.

I wanted to write a story about a group of women who appear to get along well but whose friendship is riddled with issues that none of them are willing to confront. I was curious as to what would happen if I put those friends in a dangerous, crucible-type situation where they’re forced to trust each other in order to survive? Would they support each other, or turn on each other instead?

2. Did you include any of your own real life experiences in the novel?
Like the women in the novel I went to Nepal on a holiday of a lifetime. Unlike Emma and her friends I had the most amazing time and, if anything, stronger bonds were formed amongst my friendship circle as a result of our experience. But I have also experienced friendships that weren’t
healthy – friends who were effervescent, generous, spontaneous and fun but also unpredictable, competitive, possessive and argumentative. When someone like that is at the centre of your friendship group they can get away with antisocial behaviour because everyone is aware that, if they call them on it, they’ll be frozen out. That can make for a lot of tension, isolation and mistrust – sensations I hope my readers experience when they read THE LIE.

3. Your characters are so authentic. As a writer, how do you get into their psyche?
My characters are an amalgamation of me, people I’ve known, people I’ve observed and my imagination. I always make sure I know what each character desires – something they want more than anything else in the world – and also what they fear most. I also look to their childhoods to discover how their past has shaped them into the people they are now. As well as obvious things like the way they look and the things they wear I also spend a lot of time thinking about my characters’ mannerisms, the way they hold themselves, the way they walk and the way they speak. Sometimes I know everything about a character before I start to write the novel, sometimes it’s not until I’ve written the first draft and fully got to know them.

4. Why did you decide that Emma should work in an animal sanctuary?
Emma always wanted to be a vet and, after her experience at Ekanta Yatra, I felt it made sense to give her a new start that was centred on animals rather than people. Even though she’s still quite isolated socially (she still doesn’t trust people enough to let them get close) I wanted to make her content so that, when the letters and messages start arriving, she’s got a lot to lose. I also liked the similarity between Emma and the animals she cares for. Like Jack, she’s been hurt and mistreated and needs patience and gentleness to teach her to trust and love again.

5. THE LIE has so many unexpected twists and turns. Do you sometimes even surprise yourself when you are writing?
Absolutely! When I was writing the first draft I had a pretty good idea what was going to happen but new twists occurred to me as I was writing it. That sometimes meant I had to veer off in a completely different direction from the one I was planning but that’s one of the magical things about writing, the way your mind can surprise you. It keeps you entertained as a writer and, hopefully, it means some unpredictable twists for the reader too.

The Lie by C. L. Taylor is out Thursday, 23rd April. You can pre-order the eBook or a physical copy today. You can find the latest from Cally via Twitter, her Facebook page, and her website.

Q&A with author Jane Casey @janecaseyauthor #killerfest15

Category: Author Post

Your name: Jane Casey

Tell us about yourself: I was born and brought up in Dublin, then read English at Oxford. I worked in publishing for nine years, specialising in children’s books. I’ve now written ten crime novels: seven for adults and three for teens. I live in London. I’m married to a criminal barrister so essentially we live off crime!

Tell us about your latest book: My most recent book is the fifth Maeve Kerrigan novel, The Kill. Maeve is a Metropolitan police detective constable, working on a murder investigation team that handles complex cases. The Kill is about a policeman who is murdered on his way home from work, in the passenger seat of his car, in a quiet bit of Richmond Park. It looks personal – but then more police officers die . . .

Jane’s new book – After the Fire – is published in June by Ebury Press

When did you start writing? I only started writing properly in 2007 – before then I’d done a few short stories but nothing major. I set myself the task of finishing a novel and that was my only goal. Then I thought I could use the finished book to get an agent, which I did – and that led to a two-book deal, for my first book, The Missing, and the first Maeve Kerrigan novel, The Burning. It was all very easy in one way, but also a huge amount of work and worry. There’s no easy route into publishing!

Where do you write? Wherever I can! I hide from my small children around the house, or work in the local library and in various coffee shops, airport lounges, trains, planes – you name it. I dream of getting my own writing shed. One day…

Which other authors do you admire? I read a lot of crime – I really enjoy Elizabeth Haynes, Erin Kelly, Colette MacBeth and I love Donna Tartt’s writing. I adore Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham too and I started off my life of crime by reading Agatha Christie – no one has ever really done plots better than her!

Book you wished you’d written? The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

Greatest fictional criminal: It has to be Francis Dolarhyde from Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon for sheer creepiness and evil. I’d pick Lecter if he’d only appeared in Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs, but the continuation of his story didn’t work for me.

Greatest crime or criminal from the real world: The trouble with most criminals is that their crimes aren’t really ‘great’ – there’s very little glamour in real life crime! I am fascinated by Ted Bundy, though, in a kind of appalled way.

Greatest fictional detective: My all-time favourite is Lord Peter Wimsey even though he’s too perfect to be real! There’s a short story where he spots the baddy because he uses the wrong adjective to describe himself – in French. No one else notices although they, themselves, are French, and Wimsey is the quintessential Englishman. He’s very entertaining.

What scares you? Random disasters, chance encounters that end badly, freak accidents. I spend a lot of time trying to predict what will go wrong so I can avoid it, but life doesn’t really work that way.

Are you ever disturbed by your own imagination? All the time! I have a truly dark mind. I try to keep a lot of it to myself to avoid disturbing onlookers.

3 crime books you would recommend to EVERYONE

  • The Scold’s Bridle by Minette Walters
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham.

Do you listen to music when you write? Yes, I have a playlist for each book. It usually lasts between ninety minutes and two hours, so I write for that amount of time and then have a break. It really helps me to tune out the world and get into the right mood to write. I play it on shuffle so I don’t get distracted by thinking, ‘Ooh, this song means I’m nearly at the end…’

Are you on social media? All too often! I love Twitter, as most writers do. And I’m on Facebook too – I have an author page.

How can fans connect with you? The best way to talk to me is via Twitter – @janecaseyauthor – as you’re almost guaranteed a response! Or email me via Facebook.