Briefly tell us about your book.
Her Last Holiday is a mystery about a woman who disappears during a wellness retreat in Gozo, an island off the coast of Malta, and her older sister’s search to discover the truth.
What was the research process like for the book?
I spent a lot of time watching documentaries about different types of self-help gurus, the techniques they use to draw people in, build hysteria and trust and the dodgy, unregulated ‘therapies’ they practise. One of the gurus, James Arthur Ray, was jailed for the deaths of three people during a sweat lodge ceremony and this formed the inspiration behind the book. I knew I needed to set my wellness retreat abroad in order for Jenna, and the other guests to feel disorientated and vulnerable and I chose Gozo, an island off Malta. I travelled there with a friend to carry out a research trip and I found the perfect location for my sweat lodge in the desolated landscape behind my hotel. I also discovered the cliff that Jenna was believed to have jumped from, leaving only a pair of flip-flops behind.
What are you hoping the reader will take away from reading your book?
As well as a gripping mystery that will keep readers guessing I hope they’ll also discover a compelling emotional story about families and how the tags that our parents give us (‘the naughty one’ ‘the rebellious one’ ‘the good one’ etc) influence our relationships with our siblings and shape us into the adults we become.
Does the creative process get easier for you with each book?
I assumed that the more books I wrote, the easier it would get but, actually, it gets more difficult. I’ve written twelve books in total, including eight crime novels, and, with each book I write I push myself to write a better book. That means I have to step outside of my comfort zone and approach it in a different way to previous books. One of the things readers often tell me is they like the fact that all of my books are so different. It certainly keeps me on my toes!
What’s some great advice you’ve received that has helped you as a writer?
The best advice I’ve ever received was a quote I read by Elmore Leonard. When asked about the popularity of his crime novels, he is reported to have replied, “I leave out the parts that people skip.” I’ve taken that advice to heart and, when I read through my first draft of a new book, I note where I get bored of reading and want to put the book down, and either cut that section entirely, or rewrite it to make it more compelling. My aim is for a reader to read one of my books in one sitting because they just can’t put it down.