Without giving any spoilers away it’s fair to say that in ‘What Lies Between Us’ the two main characters Maggie and Nina are co-dependent, co-habiting and co-existing, but the tension between them throbs like a pulse. From where did the idea for this intense and brilliant narrative originate?
After reading – and loving – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, I was fascinated by the relationship between mother and daughter. I wanted write a claustrophobic story about two women who shared a house but hated each other, and over the time, the reader would discover what prompted such levels of dislike between them. I hope that people will swing from one side to another as to who is right and who is wrong.
You worked as a journalist for 25-years interviewing a whole host of celebrities. Was writing a novel something you’d always known you would do? And when you did start writing did you ever expect that this would become a full-time job for you?
No, on both accounts. I’d always been a keen reader but actually taking the time to write a book was never something I had planned to do. Then I had an idea for a story and thought why not? I started writing When You Disappeared on and off from 2010 until 2012. When I completed it, I thought perhaps being a journalist might give me an advantage and I might find some interest in it from agents or publishers. Eighty rejection letters later and I realised it doesn’t matter who you are or what writing experience you have! Publishing can be a real leveller. Eventually I self-published, it did well, and a year or so later, the book was spotted by publisher Thomas & Mercer which took it on and it’s since sold more than 300,000 copies. I have kept all those rejection letters in a file in my office. They are a reminder to never give up.
Did moving to focus on your writing full time change the way you work or your writing process at all?
Not really, no. I’m not much of a plotter, I tend to come up with an idea for a story, have a basic grasp of where it is going and the characters I’d like to include, and then I just get on with it and start writing. Probably the only thing to change in recent years is that now, for my first draft, I try to write at least 2,000 words a day. It’s a manageable figure and even if it’s all waffle at that stage, it can be polished in the second draft. Getting those words out of my brain and onto a page is the most important thing.