Dead To Her is a twisty psychological thriller about a savvy second wife who will do almost anything to come out on top – can you tell our readers a bit more about it?
I tend to describe this book as Big Little Lies meets Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Our main characters – or at least our main viewpoints – are two second wives, Marcie, an American who’s enjoyed being the youngest and most beautiful wife in the exclusive Savannah high society set for a few years now, and Keisha, a new second wife, new in from London and higher in the social strata and younger and more beautiful – a woman everyone is fascinated by. This of course puts Marcie’s nose out of joint, especially when she starts to think her husband has taken a shine to Keisha. Of course, there is so, so much more going on than just jealous women.
I wanted to set it up so it was part 1980s bonkbuster and then becomes something altogether darker and more mysterious and gothic. There’s hints of voodoo, there’s murder and there’s a LOT of secrets to come out before the final twist. No one in the book is who they appear to be.
What inspired this new novel?
Like a lot of people, I have a fascination with the Southern states of the USA, maybe starting with Gone with the Wind and then through various TV shows and books right up to Midnight in the Garden of good and evil. The heat, the polite society, the gorgeous houses and the history are all fascinating. I’ve been lucky enough to do some events at Sea Island in Georgia which is a very wealthy and beautiful resort (and I add, the members are all great fun and very welcoming) which feels like a world away from real life. Some people fly from Atlanta in private jets! So, this world of wealthy Southern society intrigued me, and then I went to Savannah to do a talk to some independent book sellers and fell in love with the place, so knew this was going to have to be the setting for my wealthy southern thriller. I wondered how it would feel to be a ‘scandal causing’ second wife in the midst of this world, especially if you came from another country entirely. Would you cause enough ripples to start unearthing old secrets? I wanted to write a claustrophobic, a little bit sexy, gothic novel and I hope I’ve achieved that.
What do you hope the reader will take away from this book?
To be honest, I just want to entertain the reader with this! My last book Cross Her Heart was quite serious in its subject matter, but this one is more in the vein of Behind Her Eyes, so I hope people feel engaged and entertained and thoroughly enjoy the ride through the twists and turns! People underestimate entertainment whereas I think there’s nothing better for my mental health than sinking into a book, putting it down a few hours later and thinking, ‘I thoroughly enjoyed that,’ and smiling when I tell others about it. Obviously not all readers will feel that way about the same book, but I’m hoping the majority will about Dead To Her.
What’s some great advice you’ve received that has helped you as a writer?
Gosh that’s hard to say… Neil Gaiman once told me to watch and learn from his mistakes but I’m not sure he’s actually made any 😉 Sometimes it feels to me that the internet is full of writers handing out advice constantly to new writers and I find the whole advice thing a bit irritating if I’m honest. Writing isn’t brain surgery or anything deadly serious. I take my work seriously, but I don’t take being a writer seriously if you catch my drift. No one dies if I write a bad book (although my ego takes a hammering;-)). I figure if someone’s going to write a book, they’re going to write a book and nothing will stop them, and they’ll figure out their own way of doing it.
What does your work day look like and what are you working on at the moment?
I like working in the morning best, but now that I have a dog (I’ve had him three years) I’ve had to change that slightly. I used to start work in bed with a cup of tea at around seven or seven-thirty and then do a couple of hours before getting up. It’s amazing how much you can get done while the world is still getting to work. But now I have Ted it’s an hour or so dog walk first. Although sometimes I set the alarm and do an hour of work in bed before we go out. He doesn’t wake up till it’s light so in the winter that’s not until about 8, so that’s good for a bit of work or at least answering some overnight emails! I do a couple of hours in the morning and then get on with all the real life stuff like doing the washing etc, then after the afternoon dog walk I do a bit more. I’m always slower in the afternoons, and much more likely to get distracted by something good on Netflix!
As for what I’m working on, it’s currently all about TV for me. I’m working on episode one of a new six-parter for Left Bank who made Behind Her Eyes for Netflix – and who also make The Crown – and this will also probably be the next book, but I’m writing episode one first and then depending on what happens with the series I’ll either write the rest of that or the book next. I’m also working on episode one of a YA supernatural drama show for Carnival, the company who make Downton Abbey. I like mixing up the novels with scripts because they’re different writing skillsets but scripts are great for refining your dialogue and making sure every scene counts and that’s good to carry over into novels. I don’t always manage it, but I try.