I am rather excited to have been given the opportunity to chat to the wonderful Beth Miller. Beth’s new novel, The Good Neighbour, was released on the 10th September and boy oh BOY is it good! I will reveal just how good in my review which will be posted later today, but for now it’s over to Beth as she shares her top ten authors, we chat nightmare neighbours, and we are introduced to ‘Novel Three’…
Thanks so much for inviting me, Holly! My, it’s comfy here. Love what you’ve done with the decor. I’m Beth Miller, and I’m an author (also a book coach, writing teacher, and journalist).
Can you tell us a bit about your new novel, The Good Neighbour (released 10th September 2015 by Ebury Press)?
Minette, a young mum, is delighted when Cath moves in next door – she’s a slightly older woman, who is caring and wise, though she has a few hidden secrets.
The cover makes it look scary, but it’s not. I’m too much of a wimp to write something scary. It’s quite psychological (I was formerly a psychologist), and it considers questions like, who do you trust? How can you tell if someone is being honest with you? It looks at friendship, marriage and parenting. There are a couple of sizzling sex scenes thrown in at no extra charge. I think it’s a fun read. Early readers have said that it is a page-turner (in fact their words were ‘hooked’, ‘gripping,’ ‘rollercoaster’, ‘shocks’, and ‘tension’!)
The Good Neighbour sounds absolutely amazing! I can’t wait to start reading and I’m intrigued to find out some of the secrets that Cath is hiding. What inspired you to come up with this storyline?
I’m a bit embarrassed to answer this question as I it doesn’t cast me in a very flattering light, but here goes: I was reading the local paper about a woman whose child was very ill. The mum was doing various sponsored events to raise money for the relevant charity. And I suddenly thought, what if she was lying? What if her kid wasn’t really ill and she was just pretending? Then I thought, why would she be pretending? And a story fell into my head. And then I thought, OH GOD I AM A BAD PERSON for having such mean thoughts.
Are your characters completely fictional or are they based on anyone in real life?
In my first book (When We Were Sisters) there were some composite characters from real life, including myself. In The Good Neighbour they are completely fictional, apart from Davey, the eight year old boy, who was loosely informed by my son, who is now nine. My son wasn’t much help with my research, though. I’d say things like, ‘What are your five favourite flags?’ and he would get suspicious and say, ‘Why are you asking me that?! You’re creeping me out, Mum.’ I did include his typical eight-year-old brilliance with technology – Davey has the same trait.
How long did The Good Neighbour take you to write?
The first draft took about eight months. When I showed it to my agent, it contained a male character called Sy. I was awfully fond of Sy. He was interesting, and very sexy. However, my agent said that he was upsetting the balance of the story and needed to come out. She was right, dammit, but pulling him out of that story took about another four months and was one of the hardest bits of writing I have ever done. Poor old Sy. I just put him in my third novel, which I’m currently writing, and I’ve realised that he doesn’t fit there, either. He is homeless.
I have to ask…Have you ever had any nightmare neighbours yourself?
Yes! I have just remembered that there are other characters based on real people in the book. The Miltons, the neighbours whom Cath replaces, are based on a couple who lived near us when our children were little. They were always complaining about the noise the kids made in the garden. We tried to be friendly but they weren’t having it. They said, ‘We moved here because it was quiet.’ To which the only possible response was, ‘Not any more!’ It was such a happy day when they moved out. All the rest of our neighbours are LOVELY.
Your first novel, When We Were Sisters, has been brilliantly received by readers. How does it feel to hear that a reader has enjoyed your book so much?
It turns out to be the only thing that really matters to me. I thought I’d care about sales, and reviews, and all that. But nice as those things are, absolutely nothing makes me glow as much as a reader saying they loved the book. Someone telling me what they liked about it can boost me up for days.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes. It just took me a long time to get round to the actual writing.
Who are your favourite authors and which genres of books do you like reading?
I have millions of favourite authors but my top ten, in alphabetical order, are: Douglas Adams, Judy Blume, Monica Dickens, Nora Ephron, Margaret Forster, William Goldman, Howard Jacobson, Anne Tyler, Molly Weir and PG Wodehouse.
Genres: I generally prefer contemporary fiction (I mean from the 1950s onwards!) I also read a lot of non-fiction. Till recently I would have said I wasn’t mad about historical fiction. But I’m a member of The Prime Writers, a group of authors who’ve all published a debut novel past the age of 40, and I’ve been reading a lot of their books. Two historical ones that I would never have picked up have made me change my mind about that genre: Martine Bailey’s An Appetite For Violets and Rebecca Mascull’s Song Of The Sea Maid. Thumping good reads.
And finally – can you tell us a bit about what you’re up to at the moment?
I’m writing Novel Three, provisionally titled The Privacy Room, about a woman who leads a double-life. And I’ve got a non-fiction book coming out soon, called For The Love of The Archers (as in the radio soap). I’m doing some writing teaching in Brighton, running a couple of workshops at Eastbourne Book Fest (including one on writing sex scenes, aaargh, the embarrassment), and doing book coaching and whatnot. Also, drinking a lot of tea.
A huge thank you to Beth for answering my questions & inviting me to be a part of the official blog tour for The Good Neighbour. ♥ Make sure you check out the other blogs taking part…
Click here to get hold of your copy of The Good Neighbour, published 10th September 2015 by Ebury Publishing.
Beth Miller told a teacher that she wanted to be a writer when she grew up. A mere 35 years later, this came to pass with the publication of her first novel, When We Were Sisters. This book was described by readers as ‘funny and touching,’ ‘uplifting,’ ‘enjoyable,’ and ‘delightfully filthy.’
Her second novel, The Good Neighbour, will be published this September. It too contains an element of filth. To cement her reputation in this regard, she is running a workshop at Eastbourne BookFest called ‘Writing Sizzling Sex Scenes.’ She is expecting to giggle bashfully throughout this session.
In October Beth’s first non-fiction book – For The Love of the Archers – will be published. The rest of the time she runs writing courses, and coaches fellow writers in the literary art of making many good plans to help put off the moment that you actually have to start writing.