Today, it's my turn on the final day of The Untouchable Blog Tour and I'm delighted that I was asked to participate with some great Book Bloggers. I'd like to say thank you so much to Ava for taking the time to answer the questions that I put to her. You can read my review of Untouchable at the end of these Q+A's.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I suppose I always wanted to be a writer, but it took me years to screw up the courage to properly try. I was terrified of failing at the thing I most wanted to do, so it was easier to channel my creative energy into things like journalism, where the stakes weren’t as high.
Eventually, however, the nagging sense that I was letting time slip away brought me to the point where I made a proper commitment to fiction. Once I got my head around the fact that writing was something you could learn, and that initial rejection was normal, I never looked back. I regret those wasted years though. I wish I’d had more confidence in myself.
What books have most influenced your life?
I’ll pick three. ‘The Master and Margarita’ by Mixhail Bulgakov is my favourite novel, essentially because it works on so many levels: satire, political commentary, social history, a love story, even a ‘historical’ insight into the encounter between Jesus and Pontius Pilate. It opened my eyes to how much you could do with a novel – though of course it helps to be a Russian genius.
‘The White Hotel’ by D M Thomas has had the most impact on me of any book ever written. I cannot describe the emotional punch of this now somewhat neglected novel. I was devastated by it. I’m scared to ever go back and reread– I am not sure I could cope with going through that particular journey again.
‘American Psycho’ by Brett Easton Ellis. Love him or hate him, Easton Ellis is a prodigy. I adored this book, the way it played with reality, with satire, with character and notions of identity. I love books that toy with the reader. And it’s hugely funny, despite all the gory bits.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Hmmm… I think I’d have to say all those writers who are generous enough to share their journey, their struggles to learn the craft, to overcome rejection. They helped me get over the idea that writers are born rather than made, and that if you’re any good, you’ll be a literary genius from the first moment you set pen to paper. It’s not like that. You become good by increments, a never-ending process of improvement.
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
I think the greatest challenge with Untouchable was structural. I like character-driven books which start slowly and build up, but so often in crime writing there’s a pressure to have a death right up in the early chapters. I wanted a balance where the reader gets to know Grace a little before the murder kicks off, whilst keeping the novel within the remit of a crime thriller.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Rewriting. Like most authors, I dread the editing process. There’s nothing worse than having to excise a chapter, a character, or prose you’ve spent hours crafting. It’s almost physically painful, but necessary; a good editor helps you see what needs to change or delete, for the greater good of the story as a whole.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Fab question! I am neck-deep in changing my latest book, Exposure, currently in the thick of structural edits – I’m at the stage where I feel lost in the woods with only my edit notes to guide me to safety.
In terms of Untouchable, I don’t think so. I had to get rid of a character I was extremely fond of – Lennox, Grace’s gay friend and personal trainer – but he’s been partially reincarnated as Nelson in Exposure, so I am grieving a little less now.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I loved SJI Holliday’s debut, Black Wood and Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood. I’m about to read In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward, which I’ve been hearing so many good things about, and Tenacity by J S Law. I also enjoyed I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh, which is fast becoming a runaway bestseller.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Exposure is set in the world of porn, and is essentially the story of Leanne Jenkins - aka Kitty Sweet - now incarcerated in prison on a life sentence for double murder. It’s a very different story to Untouchable, and like many second novels, proving a pig to get right. Pray for me. I need all the help I can get.