As you may have already seen, I recently read and reviewed the psychological thriller The Girl Before (review here). I thought the book was a brilliant example of the genre, keeping me in suspense throughout with a unique setting and interesting characters. When I was given the chance to take part in the blog tour for the book I was thrilled. Today it’s my stop on the tour and I am more than excited to be bringing you a Q and A with the author! Hopefully this will give you a greater sense of what the novel is about and inspire you to pick it up for yourself. You won’t regret it!
1. The Girl Before is your latest novel to be released and your first psychological thriller under the name of J. P. Delaney. What was it that initially drew you to this growing genre?
I think it was the complexity of character that’s now possible in this genre. Gillian Flynn did all of us writers a huge favour when she wrote Gone Girl – she proved that readers don’t only want female characters who are ‘likeable and fiesty’ (ugh!), as publishers had been saying for years, but ones who are dark, nuanced and sometimes scary.
2. Having recently read and loved the book, I can’t help but wonder how the idea first presented itself to you? Were you inspired by something in particular or was there an idea which refused to leave?
The original idea was very much the house – specifically, the minimalist house. Most new buildings are a collaboration between an architect and a client, but minimalism is unusual in that you have to buy into what’s in the architect’s head. And you can’t be a good minimalist without being obsessive. So that felt like a great seedcorn for a story.
3. One of the things I enjoyed most about this novel was the dual narrative technique used for Jane and Emma. It produced a brilliantly eerie tension between the characters, acting almost as a mirror image between the past and present. Did you always intend to structure the novel this way and did you finding writing like this a challenge?
Finding a structure for this story was the hard part. Over the course of about fifteen years I tried it about a dozen different ways (I was writing other books in between, but I kept coming back to this one). When I hit on the dual narrative, it suddenly felt right – I thought of it as almost like being the opposite of the film Sliding Doors: where that was one woman in two stories, this was two women trapped inside one story that was repeating itself. It felt like it played into the idea of minimalism – the notion that, however empty and sterile we try to make our surroundings, we all have these internal patterns, this clutter inside our heads that we can’t get rid of.
4. A major aspect of this novel is the location of One Folgate Street. The building itself seems architecturally incredible and the list of rules to live there so precise and detailed. What inspired you to write such a unique building, and could you ever imagine yourself living in such similar accommodation?
I would hate to live in a minimalist house! I think that was part of what drew me to write about one – I can understand the attraction, but I’m also deeply repelled by people who can put beauty and perfection above human relationships. If you’ve got walls your kids can’t scribble on, maybe you’ve got the wrong walls.
5. There is a great range of characters within this novel who are very real in their flaws and personalities. Who did you find the most challenging to develop as a character and why?
I have great affection for both the female characters, Emma and Jane. Their flaws seem to me to much smaller than their good points. And I don’t buy the argument that male novelists find it hard to write female characters – we should all be capable of doing that. Funnily enough, Edward was the hardest character to write. But that was mainly a plot thing: he had to be instantly attractive to these women, but also somewhat enigmatic, so you could both believe they’d fall in love with him, but also that he might have darkness in his past.
6. This is a psychological thriller, and as such twists and turns are to be expected. What I really enjoyed about this novel was the fact that as well as the main plot twist, there were much smaller but equally as effective surprises along the way. Were these intentionally planned or did they also shock you?
The plotting was very intricate, and one reason the book took so long to write – I wanted the reader to feel they were in a story with a complex but very controlled architecture, like my characters in this over-designed house. And having two simultaneous stories – which is actually one story – meant a few plotting headaches along the way. But it excited me to have that challenge
7. Even without the twists, I found the setting and the combination of characters created a very suspense filled novel. There were points where I really was not sure which direction you were going to take the novel in. What do you think are the most crucial aspects of writing a thriller like this?
For me, it’s crucial to be in control of your material. Even if the reader can’t tell where you’re going, you as writer have to have a very clear idea of what your story is really about. For me, that was actually the hardest part – figuring out what really drew me to this story, and thus what its overall theme was. I eventually realised that it was all connected to a tragedy that had occurred in my own life – my wife and I lost a child a to cot death, and our next child was born with a rare genetic condition. It took me a long time to realise that I was actually writing about grief, and my attitude towards people who strive to live a perfect, beautiful life – but when I did, the missing pieces of the plot all magically fell into place.
8. The novel has already achieved international success, becoming a bestseller around the world with a film version in the line-up. As such your novel has been compared and hailed as the next big success following the likes of Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train. Do you find such comparisons flattering or do they hinder any further writing progress?
Both! You can’t not be flattered, and you can’t help feeling pressured. But ultimately it forces you to raise your game, and realise that you have to be ambitious and take risks in your writing. I’m perhaps fortunate I’ve been writing for a long time (under other names) so I’m used to the process.
9. Are there particular authors who inspired you when writing this book? What are your favourite novels?
Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel is a particular favourite. The way she gets inside the head of an obsessed, lovesick young man is just brilliant.
10. Although this is your first novel under the name J. P. Delaney, you are no stranger to the process of writing. What would be your top tips for aspiring writers
I’ll pass on a tip I was given by a well-seasoned writer when I was first starting out. ‘The only difference between us writers and the rest of the population,’ he told me, ‘is that we finished our books.’ So that’s my advice: finish a book, any book, and see what it teaches you about the process.
I loved taking part in this Blog Tour! I can’t thank J. P Delaney, as well as Alainna over at Quercus, for the fantastic opportunity. If you want to hear more about the book then please make sure you go ahead and check out the other bloggers who are taking part in this event (see the above photo). You won’t regret it!