WHAT IS THE WORKING TITLE OF YOUR NEXT BOOK.
The Darkening Hour.
The phrase itself comes from Dickens ‘Our Mutual Friend’. The book is set on the Thames in the same stretch as the opening of Our Mutual Friend so when a clever editor came up with this title it immediately seemed to fit.
WHERE DID THE IDEA COME FROM FOR THE BOOK?
A news story about a woman who had been keeping another as a slave in her modern home in London whilst continuing to work in a high-powered job. It sparked my imagination, what would motivate a wealthy educated woman to treat another like this in the 21st century, and why didn’t the worker leave?
My research led me to discover that this scenario is far more common than you would imagine. Migrant domestic workers are a hidden work force open to exploitation but are hardly protected by the law in this country.
But more than anything I am interested in the psychology behind this type of exploitation- particularly when it occurs between two women.
WHAT GENRE DOES YOUR BOOK FALL UNDER?
It’s a psychological thriller. It opens with a traditional prologue, in which a body washes up in the Thames, its head wrapped in a blue cleaner’s overall. Then it’s a slow burn, the crimes unfolding as the relationships build, hence the ‘darkening’ of the title.
WHAT ACTORS WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO PLAY THE PART OF YOUR CHARACTERS IN A MOVIE RENDITION?
My main character Theodora is striking looking with red hair, so Tilda Swinton comes to mind! I don’t know any Moroccan actresses but obviously would prefer to choose someone of this nationality to play Mona, the domestic worker. Otherwise I’d choose Penelope Cruz or Audrey Tatou, though they would have to make themselves look plain to begin with, gradually revealing their beauty.
WHAT IS THE ONE SENTENCE SYNOPSIS OF YOUR BOOK?
Theodora Gentleman employs a domestic worker from Morocco, but what starts out as a desperate attempt to maintain her status as a feted radio presenter leads her down a dark path of obsession that will turn into and paranoia and tragedy for one of the women.
WILL YOUR BOOK BE SELF-PUBLISHED OR REPRESENTED BY AN AGENCY?
It was written under contract with Simon and Schuster. I am represented by Jane Gregory at Gregory and Company.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE THE FIRST DRAFT OF THE MANUSCRIPT?
I wrote the first draft in about six months and have been redrafting and editing for a further nine.
WHAT OTHER BOOKS WOULD YOU COMPARE THIS STORY TO WITHIN YOUR GENRE?
It’s a psychological thriller with a backdrop of dysfunctional family relationships, so it might fall into a similar category (though I’d be thrilled if it was half as good) as some of Barbara Vine’s novels, or Half Broken Things by Morag Joss.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK?
We think of women as supporting one another but when they are forced to share a domestic space and their status comes under threat, their rivalry can be insidious. You can quickly loose all sense of status working for another woman in a domestic situation, especially when you don’t speak, read, or write the language very well. A relationship of this sort can shift from mutual respect to one of suspicion and control. I experienced something like this when working as an au pair in France.
It’s easy to see how, in such a vulnerable role, if you were desperate for an income as well, and had no opportunities in your home country, you might tolerate a level of exploitation, but you also might be goaded to cross boundaries or to lash out in self defence. I also wanted to use my experience living and teaching English in Morocco, which is why I chose to have my worker a Moroccan migrant.
WHAT ELSE ABOUT YOUR BOOK MIGHT PIQUE THE READER’S INTEREST?
One of the themes is about status and loss of it and how we value ourselves and other people in today’s world.
There is also love interest. Theodora is having a passionate but doomed affair with a married man while Mona is searching for her husband who she believes has migrated to Britain. I wanted to earn the readers’ sympathy for both of the main characters from the beginning so that they understand how and why things begin to disintegrate, rather than painting one as the villain and the other as the heroine.
PASSING ON I’m passing on to
Sophie McKenzie whose Close My Eye’s is an emotionally engaging psycholgocial thriller www.sophiemckenziebooks.com
Sabine Durrant whose Under Your Skin I found unputdownable firstname.lastname@example.org&
Kaddy Benyon, Award winning Poet whose first collecting Milk Fever is startlingly beautiful www.kaddybenyon.com
Kate Rhodes Whose series about a young female psychologist working with the police is an absolute treat to read- the first Crossbone’s Yard had me reading late into the night