Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?
I have been an avid reader ever since I was small, always preferring books over dolls for presents, and that love of reading resulted in an inevitable love of writing. I started writing stories from about ten years old and I still have some I wrote as a teenager (they’re not good but they make me smile!). I eventually completed some Creative Writing modules as part of my degree and found they really helped me focus on writing every day.
The Girl Who Died was the first novel I wrote. It centres around fifteen-year-old Hannah, who thinks she’s killed her best friend, Katie, and then has to deal with the aftermath. From dealing with the police investigation to starting a friendship with Katie’s devastated older brother, Josh, Hannah is put in some awful situations that she isn’t mature enough to deal with. It’s not an easy read when we learn what Katie was going through before she died, but I believe it’s important to be honest when writing Young Adult fiction. When I was a teenager I would have liked to have read something like this, to show I wasn’t alone in what I was going through.
Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?
This novel started as a nightmare I had when I was fifteen years old. I must have been arguing with my best friend that day because I dreamt I killed her, cut her up into tiny chunks and then buried her in various places in our local field! I woke up drenched in sweat and feeling the worst guilt I’d ever experienced. Not because I thought I’d killed my best friend (we had a love-hate relationship!) but because I thought I’d get caught! It took me a while to realise it was a dream. But that dream stuck with me for years and I finally turned it into a short story in my early thirties. That story got published in the ‘Fish Anthology’ and I had such a good response to it that everyone wanted to know what happened next to Hannah, the main character. I decided to find out by continuing the story and that turned into the YA novel ‘The Girl Who Died’. Although I wrote it in my late thirties, I’ve received great feedback about how realistic the fifteen-year-old characters are, which is great.
Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?
Stephen King’s earlier books such as Pet Sematary and IT had a huge influence on me growing up and I still read everything he writes. I’m also a huge fan of George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones series, which was unexpected for me because I hadn’t read any fantasy before that. I am currently working my way through everything ever written by Joyce Carol Oates as something about her writing draws me in. I also love Daphne Du Maurier and Shirley Jackson.
Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?
I grew up on Stephen King. I would search the local car boot sales for any of his books I could find and ended up collecting them. I prefer his earlier work such as Pet Sematary and IT because I’m a horror fan at heart, but I still read everything he writes. I’ve learnt a lot from him. At college I had to read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and that became a favourite, which meant I went on to read his other work. It’s so important to read widely and not just stick to one genre.
Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?
When I got a story traditionally published for the first time I was so proud of myself. I had entered a short story competition but I wasn’t bothered about winning the cash prizes, I just wanted to make sure I was at least one of the runners up as they would be published in the anthology. Once I found out I was a runner up I couldn’t have been happier than if I’d have won the money. Receiving five complementary copies of the anthology and seeing my work in a ‘real’ book for the first time was a huge moment for me. It made me realise for the first time that I can start saying out loud than I’m a writer. I didn’t feel like I was pretending anymore.
Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?
I never had anyone to encourage me while I was growing up and I never told school/college/work friends that I was writing in my spare time, as I felt embarrassed about it. It was only when I met my husband at 25 that I revealed my writing hobby, and it took me a couple of years before I could show him any of my work. I had such low self-esteem due to my upbringing that I didn’t feel confident enough to submit to competitions or publishers until I was in my thirties. My husband has supported my writing ever since we met and now he’s a beta reader for my Dean Matheson crime series!