First off, I want to say I love the book! It was enthralling and kept me on the edge of my seat - and I was always questioning what I thought was going on.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? What made you want to write a psychological thriller?
I am from the North of England. I am a linguist/polyglot and have always written, always wanted to write. I live in Greater London and before that I spent 5 years in Rome - and before that I lived in Aberdeen with my husband (and yes he went offshore). I have three kids. Most of my early attempts at writing I deleted or threw in the bin but then I did a writing course at Richmond Adult Community College and discovered that writing is a process, an art form like any other, and that you get better with practice. That course taught me to give myself permission to be rubbish for a bit - and that's what I say now to my students and to anyone trying to write - give yourself time and permission to be a bit crap and don't worry about that - keep doing courses and practising as you would a musical instrument - every day, in order to get a little bit better.
I wrote a psychological thriller after writing three other novels which got great feedback but which my agent at the time could not place. I realised I needed to write something people were mad about reading! I read Gone Girl and loved Flynn's prose and her fearlessness with her female character. I read Sister, Before I Go to Sleep, The Girl on the Train and loved the pared down nature of those books and, of course, I read Rebecca, in which Daphne du Maurier puts the reader ahead of the heroine and plays with the whole "somethin' ain't right" thing - you can't quite put your finger on why. For me, psychological thrillers are more intense the less characters there are - in film, that is shown brilliantly in Hitchcock's Psycho, of course, and I loved Single White Female too, which was also an influence.
There's some sociopathic, if not psychopathic, behaviour prevalent in the story. What was it like getting into the mindset of people who think "outside of the box" and will do almost anything to make their lifestyle work? Did you have any sort of ritual to get into this mindset?
There is psychopathy/sociopathy in the book. I read up on these things. I won't say too much because I don't want to give any spoilers but to me there is no "getting in the zone" because all you're doing is writing a character, with as much richness as you can, but you are removing empathy and responsibility. So in that sense it is more useful to know and understand true love and true friendship - you have to understand the emotional stakes so better to subvert them, much as a comedy writer subverts expectation with surprise to create laughter.
Did you have the entire story planned out in your head when you started writing, or were there instances (related to twists) that came up that surprised even you?
I set out with something quite different for Valentina. A hippy whose BoHo exterior masked a deeply materialistic nature, a woman who sees another woman's life and wants everything about it whilst seeming not to care a jot for those mundane things. But as the plot developed, so did the characters. I had no idea how I would get over certain hurdles but the solution to the biggest hurdle came in a blinding flash, as indeed it did to the character herself (you possibly know which moment I mean). The characters come from the demands of the plot - who do they need to be to go along with events, to react the way I need them to etc. Shona had to come from an urban and, as some would see it, crowded environment in order to idealist the country idyll, she had to be feisty and instinctive too...
What was your favourite part about writing Valentina? What was the hardest?
My favourite part about writing Valentina was having the various plot epiphanies, which felt exciting. Also, I enjoyed camping it up as the 'baddie', working the whole fairytale wicked queen vibe. There are many obvious and obscure fairytale references in the book, including a Russian fairy tale called The Firebird and the Falcon. The hardest part was fighting feelings of nausea at the morally repugnant situation I was creating.
Do you have any writing quirks? For example, I once read a Dan Brown interview where he said he liked to wear gravity boots when he needed inspiration!
I don't have any gravity boots. I just walk the dog, shove a wash on and buckle down because I only have a couple of spare hours to play with. I do read all my work aloud - so towards the final drafts I can get quite hoarse.
Did you learn anything while writing this book? If your readers could learn one thing from the story, what would you want it to be?
I guess for me, this is a book about love and friendship. Love is the most important thing there is - it is the only thing that matters - and one should never play fast and loose with it. If you do, bad things happen!
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, and best of luck with Valentina!
You can read my review of Valentina here.
And now for a giveaway! If you're itching to read Valentina after hearing how well-written and intriguing it is, and after hearing insights from the author herself, then today's your lucky day because the lovely people over at Blackbird Digital Books have been kind enough to provide 3 (three) digital copies of the book for this giveaway!
Some rules and general info:
1. This giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
2. You must be following my blog - this giveaway is for my readers (if you're following by email, make sure to confirm your subscription)!
3. Keep in mind that the prizes are digital copies (you'll have an option between Mobi, ePub, or PDF), so you need some kind of platform to view this on.
4. I will be sending the 3 winners' emails to someone over at Blackbird Digital Books, and they will be sending you your prize. Please only enter if you're comfortable with this! The email you enter with will be the email your prize is sent to.
Best of luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway