Q: If you had to describe LET ME LIE in three adjectives, which would you choose?
A: Twisty, emotional, unpredictable.
Q: Could you tell us a bit about this book and the inspiration behind it?
A: It’s actually inspired by a real life story, but if I told you what it was it would spoil at least one of the twists! The story is narrated by Anna, whose parents took their own lives at Beachy Head the previous year. When an anonymous note suggests the deaths were not as straightforward as they seemed, Anna approaches Murray Mackenzie, a retired detective now working as a civilian at her local police station, to investigate their murders.
Q: Can you share with us the moment when you first had the idea that later became LET ME LIE?
A: Let Me Lie had rather miserable origins. I’d had a meeting with my editor and decided that the book I was writing wasn’t good enough – 60,000 words were going in the bin. Travelling home, the idea for the new book came to me in a flash and I knew that this book was the one I should be writing. I started work that night and had a first draft to my editor a few months later.
Q: You never seem to ‘write the same book twice’. Is this a conscious decision on your part, to clearly differentiate each of your books from the others?
A: A little bit of both! Because I write standalone books I don’t have to conform to a particular style or shape of story, as I might if I wrote a series. The characters and plot dictate how the book turns out: I SEE YOU, for example, picks up pace very early on, because there are numerous crimes being committed, and a clear drive for the central characters to find out who’s behind them. In LET ME LIE Anna is trying to convince her partner and the police that her parents were murdered, so the suspense builds more slowly. In each of my books the twists are in different places, and that’s partly down to the natural arc of the story, but also so they aren’t too predictable for my readers.
Q: LET ME LIE follows a new mother named Anna whose life takes a very strange and sinister turn. Is she inspired by anyone in particular?
A: I’m a big fan of ordinary people in fiction – and I say that both as a reader and as a writer. Personally I’m not interested in superheroes, or characters with expert survival or combat skills. The odds are stacked too high in their favour from the outset for me to ever believe they might lose. In contrast, ordinary people – and ordinary women, in particular – are fascinating. Most of us don’t believe we’re strong until we’re put to the test and we discover enormous reserves of courage. Those are the sorts of women I write about, including Anna in LET ME LIE. She isn’t based on any one person in my life, but on many, many women I speak to or read about.
Q: LET ME LIE includes a number of great reveals of its own: are they all planned in advance?
A: Generally I know what the big twists are before I start, although there are always a few more that take me by surprise! I think readers love twists in a book, as much as a well-paced plot. It can be tricky to build them in without making them too obvious, but I think a good twist has a lot to do with timing. The trail has to be laid effectively so that readers can look back and metaphorically smack their hands to their foreheads – of course they should have realised!
Q: Each of your books has had a different detective – do you plan to write more books with any of them, make a series?
A: I do like many of my characters and have enjoyed building them into personalities that fees authentic and with whom readers can identify. I’ve got no specific plans to write a series but I really like Murray Mackenzie from LET ME LIE – he might come and visit again one day.
Q: Murray feels like someone you know in real life. Is this the case?
A: One of the most fun aspects of writing the books I do, is inventing the people that inhabit the pages. I base lots of my characters on elements of my former police colleagues to create a person that lives, breathes and is wholly plausible. Murray Mackenzie is not a real person as such, but was inspired by the many retired and semi-retired officers I’ve met over the years, rich with experience and often ignored by younger colleagues.
Q: Murray’s wife Sarah has a large part in the novel – why is that?
A: I do realise it’s slightly unusual in a thriller to look in such detail into the nuances of a relationship. But I personally love books where the characters really come off the page, have lives and motivations – where they’re three-dimensional. Murray and Sarah are such a strong couple, and Murray is passionate and dedicated in part because of her. I really enjoyed exploring their relationship and I hope my readers do, too.
Q: Do you believe in life after death?
A: I don’t personally, but I am absolutely fascinated by people who do.
Q: Your central figures have all been mothers – Anna, here, has an infant daughter. Is this to do with you being a mother yourself, or is there some other reason?
A: I am a mother to three wonderful children – and am constantly amazed at what mothers achieve, on a daily basis, as a result of being mothers. I think becoming a mother changes the way women view the world, so, in my books, having the central characters as mothers allows me to push the boundaries of what they will do and how they will react when cornered, frightened or distressed.
Q: A theme throughout your novels has been the fragility of mental health. In LET ME LIE, it’s almost a sub-text. Could you tell us about the intent behind that?
A: One in four people in the UK suffer from mental health problems yet there’s a huge amount of stigma surrounding mental health. It touches so many people’s lives in very different ways. I worked with lots of people with mental health issues when I was in the Police and was interested in how everyday activities and relationships can be affected. The more it’s discussed, the better chance we have of reducing the stigma.
Q: Can you describe the writing process you used for LET ME LIE?
A: I travel a lot, so have to stay flexible. I write really well on trains and planes, and in hotel rooms, which is lucky, otherwise I’d never get to the end of a book! I tend to listen to the same music while I’m writing – a meditation album I hardly notice any more – and it helps me get instantly in the zone, and block out distractions.
Q: Did you struggle with any form of writer’s block when writing LET ME LIE? What do you do when this happens?
A: Writing is like any other job – some days are harder than others. I rarely struggle for ideas (although ask me again in twenty years and I might have a different answer!) but I often feel as though I’m lost in the plot and can’t find my way out. Mostly I push on through, writing scenes I know I will end up deleting, but which are necessary to take me to the next stage in the book. I start every day with a dog walk by the river, and use this time to plan the next scene I’ll be writing.