About the author:
Sara Foster was born and raised in England, and moved to Australia in 2004. She has published four other novels: Come Back to Me, Beneath the Shadows, Shallow Breath and All That is Lost Between Us. She lives near Perth with her husband and two young daughters, and is currently a doctoral candidate with Curtin University.
Your latest book, You Don’t Know Me is a stunning new thriller about the burden of shame. Can you tell us a bit more about the book?
You Don’t Know Me is part psychological suspense, part crime thriller and part love story. It begins with the disappearance of 17-year-old Lizzie Burdett, who vanished one night in 2006, while walking home from her boyfriend Tom Carruso’s house. Twelve years later, Tom is coming home to give evidence at the inquest into Lizzie’s disappearance, still under a cloud of suspicion, having not seen his family for over a decade.
Tom’s younger brother Noah was one of the last people to see Lizzie alive, when she argued with Tom on the doorstep of the Carruso family home. Noah has always known more than he’s telling, and fears being called to give evidence at the inquest. The strain of safeguarding his brother’s secrets, and supporting his troubled parents, begins to take its toll, and a few weeks before the inquest begins, Noah goes on holiday to Thailand. There he meets his perfect woman, the enigmatic Alice Pryce. They fall quickly and madly in love, but Alice has some dark secrets of her own. Their intense relationship is soon under pressure from the many burdens of the past, as the inquest draws closer to finding out what happened to Lizzie Burdett all those years ago.
What is your research process like for a psychological suspense novel?
I don’t immediately outline my books from start to finish. I begin with characters, a moral dilemma, a feel for the arc of the story, and I build it from there. Once I’m holding those early ideas in my mind I draw in lots of different themes and plot points, through general research across fiction, non-fiction and current affairs. As I find out more about the story, I gradually refine the research. This usually happens in tandem with writing, so with You Don’t Know Me I listened to a lot of true crime podcasts, and I went to an inquest to ensure the mood and details were as true to life as possible.
What’s your daily writing routine like and what are you working on at the moment?
My daily routine is regularly adjusted to work alongside the demands of bringing up and homeschooling two children. It can be anything from getting up at five a.m. to write, to hiring a babysitter, to going away for a few days. I don’t have a fixed routine, but I do have the drive to write on as many days as possible, so I take a regular look at my schedule and figure out how that’s most likely to happen. It’s not a perfect science, but it all works out with some forward-planning and flexibility. I’m writing a blog series at the moment called ‘The Author’s Mindset’, through which I hope to encourage other writers who have lots of obligations or demanding life circumstances to find ways to advance their writing. I’m sure we’re missing out on some wonderful stories because there are amazing writers out there who are struggling with time and personal/work commitments.
My next fiction project is a psychological suspense thriller with a dystopian twist, about a mother and a daughter trying to stick together while the world around them falls into chaos. It’s based on my studies for my PhD, about mother-daughter relationships in dystopian fiction, and I’m enjoying the challenge of world-building around the story and adding in all the layers of twists and turns.
What is something that has really influenced you as a writer?
My editing background has been hugely beneficial for my writing career, as it introduced me to lots of different writing styles, allowed me to work with authors from non-fiction to literary, and underlined the importance of being able to step back from your work and cast a critical eye over it. I talk to a lot of writers who seem quite scared about the editing process, and I want to encourage them to be open to it, and to reassure them that you don’t lose your voice. In fact, this vital input can make your work infinitely better!
What are some of your favourite books?
A few of my recent favourites are Maggie O’Farrell’s I Am, I Am, I Am, and Lisa Jewell’s Then She Was Gone. I also loved The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison, an utterly absorbing post-apocalyptic story, and a powerful feminist take on one woman’s quest to survive after a fever wipes out much of the population, particularly women, and makes childbirth deadly for mothers and infants. I’ve been recommending these three to everyone.