It’s a blustery old Saturday afternoon in London. I’ve swam (swum?) 70 lengths, done the shopping and mopped the floors. Now for some proper work! I’d like to welcome author Barbara Copperthwaite to my blog this month. We’ve been chatting on line for some 90 minutes. Life is sweet. Here are the highlights:
Nicky: Tell me what you’ve been up to this Saturday morning.
Barbara: Saturday morning is always spend catching up with social media. Being on Facebook and Twitter is such a great way to get to know readers. I also always do a little round up post on my blog and my Facebook page, so that people know what I’ve been up to in the past week, and at what stage my latest work in progress is at. When all that is done, it’s time to walk my dog, Scamp!
Nicky: Awww, how old is Scamp and is she in any of your books?
Barbara: Scamp will be three in August. Some of her characteristics have definitely inspired Wiggins, who is a dog appearing in my next novel, Dying Light. She’s such a good girl, but definitely has a mischevous side that lives up to her name! And she’s obsessed with tennis balls – as soon as we step into a park, onto a beach, wherever we go, she will suddenly appear with a tennis ball in her mouth, as if by magic.
Nicky: Dogs certainly make you get out into the fresh air! So, congratulations on your 100 reviews. Brilliant! Are their any reviews that really touched you, or made you feel, yes! they’ve got it!
Barbara: Thank you! To be honest, every review has touched me. I’m still at that stage where every sale amazes me, and every person who says they’ve enjoyed my book makes me do a happy dance. I hope that feeling never stops. I’ve been blown away by how readers have taken to Adam, the serial killer in Flowers For The Dead. He’s a very complex character, and obviously what he does in abhorrent, but I love the fact that he also gets readers thinking. In so many of the reviews, they say that they have never read anything like it before, and that the last thing they ever expected to feel was sympathy for a serial killer. Many want to save him.
[My favourite review of The Prodigal is by Linda Hill – I still read it months and months later].
Nicky: I really get that. It’s easy to write a villain as a villain, but I enjoy books where the ‘bad guys’ evoke some sort of sympathy much more, which you’ve certainly done with Adam. You’ve interestingly created a female abuser in Flowers for the Dead, and whilst many psychological abusers in books are women, to give it such a strong sexual element is a big step. It is hard to imagine a woman taking sexual pleasure from a child. What was behind that decision if anything?
Barbara: It’s definitely more shocking that it’s a woman, but that wasn’t really what was behind the decision. I’m not really sure what was, apart from it simply felt right. Possibly, the only thing that could cause such emotional damage to a young boy is an extreme act such as that. Sadly, it certainly isn’t unheard of in real life, even though society would rather not hear about it. For example, Eunice Spry may not have sexually abused children, but she was sadistic in her torture of them, right down to using sandpaper on them – something which I borrowed for Flowers For The Dead.
Nicky: A monster in Karen Millen, Sara sent shivers down my spine. I have to say, the last few chapters (no spoilers) had me on the edge of my seat. Quite literally. How to do pace your novels? In the edit or as you go along?
Barbara: I think a lot of people find Sara more chilling than Adam! I tend to just write the story out first, then go over it fine-tuning in the edits again…and again…and again. I don’t even put chapters in initially, as I like to just think of the story, then get down to the fine detail later, putting in cliffhangers for chapter endings etc as I go. I know some people like to plan everything, and even do chapter plans, but it’s not for me. I’m more of a pantser!
The ending was always the way it’s written now, but much rougher and took some working out. For all I’m initially a pantser, the journalist in me is a stickler for making sure timelines make sense and that what happens in the book really is possible. I must have checked the timings and details of things about a hundred times before I finally wrote ‘The End’.
Nicky: So, Mike (the detective) is a great character. He struggles to give up the tabs. Have you ever smoked and gone through the pain of giving up?
Barbara: Ah, thanks; I loved writing Mike. He will be returning in another book, as so many people have contacted me saying they want to read more about him. Luckily, I’ve never smoked, but my dad did and really struggled to quit (he never did manage it before his death, sadly).
Nicky: My dad still smokes at 83. Tells me the doctor says it would cause him too much stress to give up. Likely story…
You also make lots of references to music, everything from Britney Spears to Frankie Goes to Hollywood to Vivaldi’s Gloria (one of my faves). What’s your favourite piece of classical music and why?
Barbara: Well, if he’s made it to 83, he doesn’t have too much to worry about! I absolutely love music, and I thought it was a great way to illustrate the differences between all the characters. Adam definitely suits classical music more than modern – there’s something very old-fashioned about him. For my own part, my favourite piece of classical music is The Lark Ascending, by Vaughan Williams. It’s heartbreakingly beautiful, and really is so evocative of the great outdoors as a lark climbs higher and higher into the sky, singing all the way. On a glorious summer’s day, while on a long walk, I often have it going round my head. And on a cold winter’s day, stuck indoors, it brings back that feeling of freedom.
Nicky: Almost done. Thank you for taking part in this chat, and thanks for giving us some super characters (I particularly like Mike because of his love of Lincolnshire sausage sandwiches oozing with ketchup, which is making my mouth water right now).
Tell us about your next book and when can we buy it?
Barbara: Oooh, those sausage sandwiches are a favourite of mine, too A bit of life imitating art, there, especially as I’m from Lincolnshire originally.
My third book is called Dying Light. A teenager is found, lifeless, on a wide-blasted marsh. Hell bent on unmasking the attacker, her mother turns detective, and realises that the village she has spent her life in is steeped in secrets and lies. There is no one she can trust. Nothing is as it seems. Soon she finds herself in a race against time – and against a killer.
Dying Light will be out in September.
Nicky: One last thing before I go. Adam takes solace in watching movies. Did you cry when Russell Crowe’s character died in Gladiator?
Barbara: Too right, I did!
Nicky: Me too 😉
You made it to the end! Sign up to my mailing list to get notifications of future blogs.
You can purchase Barbara Copperthwaite’s Flowers for the Dead here.