Meet Mark Edwards, Author Of The House Guest

We are delighted to welcome to You’re Booked Mark Edwards, author of the fantastic new book The House Guest.

Mark writes psychological thrillers in which scary things happen to ordinary people. He has sold 3 million books since his debut novel The Magpies was published in 2013, and has topped the best-seller lists several times. His other novels include Follow You Home, The Retreat, In Her Shadow, Because She Loves Me, The Devil’s Work, and Here To Stay. He has also co-authored six books with Louise Voss. He’s certainly been busy!

Mark sits down with us to talk about The House Guest, his brilliant new psychological thriller.

Scroll down to the bottom of the interview to buy your copy of this deliciously dark book: The House Guest, and don’t forget to tweet us at @HarrogateFest once you’ve finished it – we’d love to hear your reviews.

Author, Mark Edwards

Hi Mark! It’s great to welcome you to You’re Booked. 

For any readers who might not be familiar with your books, how would you describe your writing style to someone who has never read your work before?

My books are psychological thrillers but usually with a little of another genre mixed in. This is often horror; I like to use horror tropes to scare readers although there is always a rational explanation for the creepy stuff that goes on. I put my characters into everyday situations and then make terrible things happen to them. I think readers like the familiar settings and trying to imagine what they would do if the worst happened.

As in many of your books in The House Guest your main characters, Ruth and Adam, are ordinary people who encounter terrifying events. Where did your idea for this brilliant, intense, and suspense filled narrative originate?

I’m always looking for the familiar situations I mentioned above. With The House Guest, I had the idea of an AirBnB stay gone horribiy wrong (working title: Scare BnB) but that morphed into the housesitting idea. I had this image of a woman turning up on the doorstep of the house where my main couple were staying, and they let her in. I decided to set it in New York because I wanted a place that we all feel we know even if we’ve never been there, but where a pair of Brits could still be out of their comfort zone. Setting it in NYC also gave me the perfect excuse to go there on a research trip! After that initial set-up it took me a long time to figure out what happened next. To say more would entail spoilers.

What is your writing process? What does your typical writing day look like?

I’m trying to remember . . . I’m not sure how many weeks we are into the lockdown but my normal writing day is a distant memory thanks to my kids being at home all the time. I usually start work when they go to school and finish when they get home. I rarely write at weekends. The process itself is rather chaotic. I never know where the book is going when I start and I change my mind numerous times as I proceed, ditching huge amounts of material and doing lots of re-writing and editing. I’ve tried plotting before I start but I just can’t do it. I have to be there in the characters’ heads to find the story.

You’re in an enviable position to have sold millions of copies of your books, congratulations! What did you do before you became a writer, and did you ever expect that this would become a full-time job for you?

Thank you! It took nearly twenty years for me to become a full-time writer, from the point when I first started to submit to agents to the day when I was able to quit the day job. A very long apprenticeship . . . I started out working in customer services. My worst job was answering complaint calls for a rail company. Then I lived in Japan for a little while before returning to the UK and getting a job in digital marketing. All the while I was writing in my spare time, submitting to agents and publishers and having lots of near misses. Even the first couple of years after getting a book deal were financially rocky but I was finally able to go full-time in 2013. I had almost abandoned hope that it would ever happen so it feels great. All that hard work and tenacity paid off in the end.

Can you remember the catalyst for you beginning to write your first book, whether that was picking up a pen and paper or making a firm start on your laptop? If so, what was it?

I didn’t own a computer when I started. I wrote my first couple of books by hand and then typed them up on this 1990s contraption called a Sharp Fontwriter — a kind of electronic typewriter which took floppy disks and showed about three lines of text at a time. Printing a manuscript took several days. The catalyst was simply that I’d always loved reading and I wanted to emulate my heroes: writers like Stephen King and Donna Tartt.

Where do you draw inspiration from for your settings and characters?

I used to do a lot of people watching in cafes but these days I spend most of my time at home (even before the lockdown) so I have to rely on my imagination. Sometimes the baddies are based on real-life criminals or public figures. Sometimes they are loosely based on people I know…though I could never say who!

How do your characters develop? Do you find that your characters take on a life of their own when you are writing or are you always completely in control of what they say and do?

They definitely take on a life of their own. I don’t mean that they talk to me or that I start to believe they’re real. I can kill my characters and make them suffer without any regret. But their actions and the things they say often surprise me. If they didn’t I think I would find writing very boring. I like to be surprised and to find out what’s going to happen next.

If you had to be remembered for just one of your books which one would you choose and why?

Here To Stay, which is my book about in-laws from hell. It’s the book I’m most proud of because I think it’s the most well-crafted with the best villains. I really put my main character, nice guy Elliott, through the wringer. I set out to write a book that would make readers angry and want to reach into the book to throttle the baddies and save the hero from himself. I think I succeeded.

When you are not writing, what do you do to relax?

Don’t judge me but I’ve recently become a big fan of Lego! I buy these huge sets, like the Strangers Things set, and spend weeks putting them together, an hour at a time. It’s so relaxing. I didn’t really understand mindfulness until I discovered Lego. I also watch a lot of Netflix and listen to music all the time. I love singing. I’m not particularly good at it but I’m never happier than when I’m belting out one of my favourite songs, especially if it’s in a karaoke booth.

Apart from your own, what is the best book you’ve read recently?

I loved Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid, a very funny and eye-opening tale of a black childminder and her white employers. In terms of crime novels, my favourite current series is William Shaw’s DS Cupidi series. They’re set close to where I grew up in East Sussex and Kent. I once did work experience at the nuclear power station in Dungeness where Cupidi lives. The latest in the series is Grave’s End, which is probably the only crime novel in history to be partly told from the point of view of a badger.

What is one piece of advice you would give to any aspiring writers?

You need to be very clear about where you and your books fit and who your audience are. Which other authors are your readers enjoying? And you need to be able to describe your books in as few words as possible. Most of my books can be described in three words, two of which are ‘from hell’. Finally, read lots. If you don’t love reading, why would you want to be a writer?

What’s next for Mark Edwards?

The next one is about the family holiday from hell. Damn, that’s five words!

The House Guest

A paperback original from Thomas and Mercer. 

Get the book now:

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When British twenty-somethings Ruth and Adam are offered the chance to spend the summer housesitting in New York, they can’t say no. Young, in love and on the cusp of professional success, they feel as if luck is finally on their side.

So the moment that Eden turns up on the doorstep, drenched from a summer storm, it seems only right to share a bit of that good fortune. Beautiful and charismatic, Eden claims to be a friend of the homeowners, who told her she could stay whenever she was in New York.

They know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers–let alone invite them into your home–but after all, Eden’s only a stranger until they get to know her.

As suspicions creep in that Eden may not be who she claims to be, they begin to wonder if they’ve made a terrible mistake….

Settle down to read the The House Guest, by Mark Edwards – it’s deliciously dark and will keep you reading until the early hours. We can’t wait to hear your thoughts after you’ve read it, tweet us at @HarrogateFest to let us know.