I am thrilled to welcome the wonderful Lucie Whitehouse to my blog today. I have been a massive fan of Lucie’s books for quite some time now and I was rather excited when I was given the opportunity to quiz her on her new novel, Keep You Close, which was released yesterday (and is AMAZING!) Read on to discover Lucie’s favourite thing about writing psychological thrillers, find out where she gets her writing inspiration from and what life is like in Brooklyn…
Hi Lucie, welcome to Bookaholic Confessions! I’m so excited to have you on my blog today… Would you like to start by introducing yourself…?
Thank you so much for having me! To introduce myself: I’m the author of four novels so far, most recently my new book, Keep You Close, and Before We Met. I’m British but my husband is American and I live in New York with him and our small rogue of a daughter.
Can you tell us a bit about your new novel, Keep You Close? (Released 10th March with Bloomsbury)
Like my other books, Keep You Close is a psychological thriller. It starts when Rowan Winter gets a phone call to tell her that Marianne Glass, a high-profile young artist once her best friend, has died in a fall from the roof of her house in Oxford. Jacqueline, Marianne’s mother, tells Rowan that the police have ruled it an accident but Rowan is immediately suspicious – she knows that Marianne had the kind of vertigo that would stop her going anywhere near a roof-edge. She also knows that, years ago, Marianne did a terrible thing.
Rowan hasn’t spoken to her for ten years but back then, Marianne and her family had a huge impact on her life, inspiring her and making her feel as if she had a place in the world. She still loves the Glasses and so to repay some of their kindness to her, she sets out to discover what really happened to Marianne…
What was your inspiration behind the story?
Quite often for me – three times out of four so far – the brewing process for a new novel starts with a location. I’ve always wanted to write about Oxford. I know the city really well and I miss it a lot now that I live in the US. There’s a café I love, Georgina’s, up in the eaves of the Covered Market and years ago, sitting and reading the paper, I looked up at the empty table across from me and had a sudden mental image of a pair of teenage girls sitting there, best friends. That image stayed with me and though I didn’t know at the time what it was, I knew I’d use it one day. When it came to writing the novel, the scene where Rowan and Marianne meet properly for the first time had to be set at Georgina’s.
How long did Keep You Close take to write?
This was the fastest I’ve ever written a novel. I started the real planning – sitting with a blank sheet of paper and deciding which avenues the story was going to take – in the summer of 2014, and I finished it – after missing several deadlines – in November last year. But the main characters and the world of the novel were in my mind before I wrote the final draft of Before We Met and I couldn’t wait to get started on it.
This book was the first I’ve written in its entirety since having a baby and there’s no doubt the scarcity of time really compels you to work efficiently. What’s interesting is that this is by far and away my favourite of my books so far.
Are any of the characters in your novels based on anyone in real life or are they entirely fictional?
They’re entirely fictional – I would feel very uncomfortable about putting anyone I knew or had met into a novel. That said, when writing fiction, you work with what you have observed, what strikes you as interesting. I certainly feel my writing is getting richer as I get older and know more about how people work!
What would you say is the best thing about writing psychological thrillers?
Some of the joy of writing a psychological thriller comes from the same place as reading a good one: immersing yourself in suspense, an atmosphere, feeling your heart accelerate. I’ve always loved suspense, that breathless I-have-to know-what-happens-next feeling and it’s a real pleasure to create it myself.
I’ve always been inspired by the eerie and unnerving, and I love being able to use that, too. Twilight, silence, bare branches against a cold sky – that’s heaven to me.
I am a massive fan of your previous novel, Before We Met, as were many other readers. How does it feel to hear that readers have enjoyed your books so much?
Amazing, in both senses. When I’m writing, the books always feel so personal, so much a labour of love at my desk or the kitchen table, that it still comes as a surprise when people talk to me about my characters and I understand that they’re out doing their own thing, independent. Reading is one of the big loves of my life and the idea that I can pass on even a fraction of that is so great.
I love that you grew up in Warwickshire, which is where I live. You now divide your time between the UK and Brooklyn. Is life over in Brooklyn completely different to what you were used to in the UK?
Lovely Warwickshire! I miss it though my mother still lives in the house where I grew up, just outside Stratford-on-Avon, so I come back regularly. I love Stratford in particular – in the week between Christmas and New Year, I am often to be found walking along the river or hanging about in the graveyard at Holy Trinity, which I find really inspiring.
I think if I hadn’t lived in Oxford and London for fifteen years before moving to Brooklyn, it would have come as a real culture shock. But I lived in Manhattan for six months, too, right in the heart of Greenwich Village, so by contrast Brooklyn feels really relaxed and low-rise. Life here is a lot like living in London, really, though there are many more apartments than houses. A friend of mine, a Londoner, once said that New Yorkers are much better at using public space, and the longer I’ve lived in Brooklyn, the more I agree. Almost no one has a garden here so the park is a key part of everyone’s life. And people here are obsessed with food, which I love, and they eat out a lot more, which I also love.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers out there?
Keep going. That’s the difference between writing and not, the regular application of ass – as they say round here – to chair. When starting a novel, I think it’s a good idea not to allow yourself to go back and wonder whether what you’ve written is any good until you’ve done enough that it would be a major loss to throw it in the bin. It’s easier to throw away five pages and abandon hope than it is to jettison a hundred. Plus, in writing those hundred, you will have learned a lot. Writing my first book was a bit like painting the Forth Bridge – every time I got to the end of a draft, I knew how to do a much better job of the beginning.
Who are your favourite authors and which books do you enjoy reading?
I have many! I read a lot of different things – crime and psychological suspense, of course, but also literary fiction and classics. I also find myself reading more and more non-fiction as time goes on. My favourite crime writers include Denise Mina (so dark and brilliant) and Jo Nesbo. I liked Harriet Lane’s two novels – which are literary suspense – a great deal, and Susie Steiner’s debut crime novel, Missing, Presumed, which came out last month, is a treat. My favourite contemporary authors include Barbara Trapido, Maggie Shipstead, and, of course, my own and everyone else’s new obsession, Elena Ferrante. Among the classics, I like Dickens, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Conrad and Graham Greene, masters of suspense all.
And finally – what are you up to at the moment?
Good question. I’m currently playing with the idea of a crime story with a disgraced female detective at its centre. I don’t know if it’s a novel, though, or something else. I guess time will tell…
A huge thank you to Lucie for taking the time to answer my questions and to Ellen at Bloomsbury.
Click here to get hold of your copy of Keep You Close.