Next Big Thing

The Street in Tankerton

Last week, Rosanna Ley tagged me in her blog for this, which is a sort of chain blog thing, where you answer questions about your next book and tag five other writers to take up from you. It’s a great idea, but I’m suffering from mathematics, because practically everyone I know has already done it.

So I’m not able to pass it on to quite five, but I hope you’ll take a look at the blogs of the lovely writers at the end of this article, who should be posting within a week (but it is the holiday season, so perhaps we can be a bit more lenient about timescale than we might normally be).

So. To the questions.

What is the working title of your next book?

It’s more than a working title, it’s real!  TARNISHED. It started off as Bad Jean, but that gradually grew to be a bit of an albatross, so for a lot of 2012 it was Novel #3, but now it’s set. Because it’s almost typeset.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I’ve always been fascinated by families who don’t talk to each other. The passion behind family separations seems to surpass all reason, and people end up estranged even after the reason for doing so is lost in distant history.
As an offshoot of this, I’m also interested in people who care too much, family skeletons, family secrets and what people choose to hold onto in their lives.

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s a psychological thriller, but it also is about class, race and sexuality in a changing Britain.It may also appeal to Young Adults, though it’s not strictly YA.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Peg, my main character would be played by Zawe Ashton, who was Vod in Fresh Meat. There would be casting problems with Jean because she is about 40 stone. Imelda Staunton could start eating lots of pies now? Loz would be someone like Patricia Rooney Mara, but British, and Nan would be played by Liz Smith.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

When Peg starts to unearth her family history, she thinks it will be a good thing, that it will help her sort her life out; but when the shocking truth starts to reveal itself, she wishes she hadn’t been quite so curious.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It was written under contract as the third of my three book deal with Headline. I am represented by Simon Trewin at WME.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I wrote the first draft really quickly – in two months (the second month was powered along by NaNoWriMo). But then I edited and edited full time for seven months until I felt able to show it to anyone.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

That’s a really hard question. I was told it’s a bit like Gillian Flynn with its backdrop of family dysfunction, so I went out and read her books, which are seriously good. So I’m hoping that others agree with that assessment.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

All my work seems to be inspired by a landscape and, for TARNISHED, I have landed on Tankerton, which is Whitstable’s rather shabby neighbour, with its swathes of green lawns overlooking the murky North Sea/Thames estuary. I was particularly taken with The Street, a sandbank that protrudes sometimes a mile or so out into the water at low tide. It seemed like a nice metaphor for all the family secrets that emerge in my story.

Both my previous novels, CUCKOO and EVERY VOW YOU BREAK involved women in their thirties who were to some extent defined by their roles as mothers. I wanted to break away from this, so I have younger women as my main characters – Peg is only 22 and Loz is only a couple of years older. I think this is because that was the time in my life when I wasn’t a mother myself, so it was easier for me to explore that character.

I also drew on my recent experience of caring for a very elderly friend, and sorting her belongings after her death. The question of how much we are defined by the stuff we accumulate really troubled me as I worked out what to do with her things.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s twisty, and horrific, yet in places I hope it’s heartwarming. And I know for a fact that it will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Passing on…

I’m passing on to possibly the last writers in the world who haven’t done this yet.

Peggy Riley, whose stir-creating first novel, Amity & Sorrow is due out in March, published by the new Headline imprint, Tinder Press; Penny Hancock, whose novel Tideline was one of my top reads last year, and Susanna Quinn, whose novel Glass Geishas was another.



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