Nightfall by Stephen Leather – Book Review

Stephen Leather’s Nightfall introduces Jack Nightingale, a former British police officer who is dismissed from the force after implication in the mysterious falling death of a suicide victim’s father. Jack struggles in his new career as private investigator, often taking cases investigating cheating spouses, until he finds out that the people thought were his parents aren’t, and that he has inherited a mansion from his biological father. As he investigates this new turn of events he learns that his soul has been sold to the devil and will be collected on his 33rd birthday, which is just three weeks away.

Nightfall is most definitely not my usual fare. Soul sold to the devil? Uh, uh. The trouble with having eclectic tastes as a reader, is that curiosity often pulls me in. While there are elements of the occult woven into the story (Satanist fathers, pentangles, spell books and a high body count), for the most part it reads as a mystery/crime novel. Having no idea that he was adopted Jack, understandably, wants to solve the mystery of his origins and why his parents never mentioned that he was not their biological son. His soul being sold is hardly creditable, but as friends and relatives die around him at an alarming rate, the claim begins to warrant some consideration or an alternate explanation.

Leather has brisk pacing, and each chapter is only as long as it needs to be. Jack Nightingale is not atypical of many other troubled and devil-may-care PIs in the genre, but he is not without charm, and an easy character to follow in his crime-solving ventures. Nightfall is the first in a series of books featuring Jack Nightingale, so though some key questions are answered, others remain to unfold in other books in the series. Nightfall is a quick and enjoyable read for those who like their mystery with a side of the supernatural.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 August BOOK CLUB Giveaway – Dare Me by Megan Abbott

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August BOOK CLUB Giveaway – Dare Me by Megan Abbott

Dare Me by Megan Abbott Boo Cover

Here we go!  We are gearing up for next month’s discussion of The Absolutist by John Boyne (Tuesday, July 10th – here), but already we’re giving away the next  BOOK CLUB selection. In August we will be reading Dare Me by Megan Abbott (Reagan Arthur Books) and discussing it at Devourer of Books on Tuesday, August 7th.

From the publisher: Since both girls were small, Addy Hanlon has always been Beth Cassidy’s best friend and right-hand lieutenant. Beth calls the shots Dare Me by Megan Abbott Book Coverand Addy carries them out, a long-established order of things that has brought them to the pinnacle of their high-school careers. Now they’re seniors who rule the intensely competitive cheer squad, feared and followed by the other girls – until the young new coach arrives.

Cool and commanding, an emissary from the adult world just beyond their reach, Coach Colette French draws Addy and the other cheerleaders into her life. Only Beth, unsettled by the new regime, remains outside Coach’s golden circle, waging a subtle but vicious campaign to regain her position as “top girl” – both with the team and with Addy herself.

And then a suspicious suicide hits close to home, and the police investigation focuses on Coach and her squad. As Addy begins to suspect what really happened, the line between right and wrong grows blurrier, and she must decide where her loyalties truly lie-and how far is too far to go for someone you love.

If you would like to be considered as a participant for August, please fill out this form below by noon, Eastern on Tuesday, June 26th. Your mailing address will be discarded if you aren’t selected to participate and used to mail you the book if you are. I do not share or retain any personal information. Only those selected will be contacted by email. Good luck!

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown   Book Review

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Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and Camille Garcia (Illustrator) – Book Review

In Lewis Carroll’s classic and beloved nonsensical tale, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, gets bored and wanders off from a picnic that she and her sister are having in the park. On her walk she pots a White Rabbit dressed smartly in a waistcoat and musing over his timepiece that he is late. While following the curiosity of a dressed and talking rabbit, Alice falls down a rabbit hole and meets a host of baffling talking creatures and animated inanimate objects, all the while eating and drinking things that are perhaps better left alone.  While underground,  she begins to formulate a different perspective on the confusing nature of interpersonal interactions.

I have a feeling that for me the mystery of Alice is best experienced as a child. I’d not read about Alice’s forays into the rabbit hole before, and don’t really have much to add to the discourse of this classic other than to say I am in the camp of people who think her dream/experience in Wonderland is about coming to terms with her imminent introduction into adulthood with all its uncertain situations, moral quandaries and inconsistent rules and behavior. I suppose if we knew what we were in for we’d all take a trip down the nearest rabbit hole too. Of note about the edition I read is that it has been reissued with detailed graphic plates and illustrations by Camille Rose Garcia. I originally thought it was a graphic novel, but the pictures accompany the full text of the first half of the book. No Jabberwocky for me. Alice fans will enjoy perusing the pictures to see which details of the story the artist has chosen to include. Garcia has a fun and quirky style that gets to the heart and absurdity of this strange tale. Recommended.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 The Postmortal by Drew Magary – Book Review

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Out Of Twenty: Elizabeth Percer, Author of An Uncommon Education, Answers Five Questions

In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing victim author and they choose their own interview by choosing which questions, and how many questions, they want to answer! Elizabeth Percer’s An Uncommon Education is a beautiful coming-of-age story about a young woman struggling to stave off loss.  Here is what Elizabeth had to say about reading, writing, and the constancy of writing and motherhood.

Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?

I am Elizabeth Percer, author of An Uncommon Education. I grew up in Massachusetts and had never been any further west than Pennsylvania until I bought a one-way ticket to San Francisco a week after my college graduation. I’ve lived out here every since, but I think I will always be a Bostonian at heart. I’m the third of four children, have three children of my own, and have uneasy parenting relationships to a cat, a bearded dragon, and a Betta Spelendens (aka a Siamese Fighting Fish) and his reclusive companion, The Yellow Snail.

I wish my answer to how I got started writing was more interesting than it is, but the truth is that I’ve been writing ever since I could write. My writing has taken on several important evolutions, though, such as the evolution from writing for praise to writing for the sake of writing well. This particular evolution took place around fifteen years ago, and I think it represents the point at which I transitioned from being an emotional scribbler to a purposeful writer. There was no major external shift to bring in this transition; rather, I think I just took a turn in a relationship toward writing, one that foregrounded constancy instead of a more romantic, impractical ideal.   

And, to answer the third of three questions masquerading as a single one, I like to write the kind of book I would want to read.

I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?

I think escape and comfort are definitely good tools to have at one’s disposal when engaging in any creative activity. It’s frightening to go into the unknown terrains of one’s mind. To paraphrase Anne Lamott, “my mind is the bad neighborhood I try never to go into alone.” I think, though, that the more I write, the less frightening that bad neighborhood feels, and there’s a certain amount of comfort that I gain from knowing I’ve gone into it again and again and know how to emerge from it (relatively) unscathed.

That said, I love to work around the ritual of tea. There’s something to the process of making tea that soothes and relaxes me. Actually, I think I find anything that requires a steady rhythm to be a great companion to the practice of writing. I’m fond of comparing a sustainable writing practice to a seasoned athlete’s practice: it’s hard to show up every day and face one’s weaknesses in the name of getting stronger, but the more you do, the easier it becomes.

I also love to run and walk and listen to the Bach cello suites before and/or after writing, but never while writing (though I do have a challenging tendency to come up with solutions to problems in my work while running).

Are you able to read when you’re writing and if so what books inspire you when you’re working your own book(s)?

I think I’m very porous as a reader — meaning that I tend to lose myself in what I read and bring the flavor of whatever I’m lost in back to my work. To combat this tendency I do two things when I’m working seriously on a novel: I try not to read quite as much or with quite as much abandon, and I am much stricter with myself over my reading choices. For example, if I’m struggling with a bit of dialogue, I’ll try to choose reading selections that seem to feature the sort of dialogue I’d like to have but can’t yet achieve. Similarly, if I’m hatching a romantic relationship, I’ll try to avoid watching Rom Coms or similarly rehashed romantic plots that suck me like the simpering romantic I truly am.

When I’m not actively working on a project, I will read anything and everything. I love trash just as much as the next person, and mistrust any authors who don’t admit to enjoying a least a little bit of juicy literary junk. But I love the tough classics, too, the ones that require chapters and chapters of patience before giving the reader any kind of real reward. I try to be as omnivoracious as possible when it comes to literature, not just because it helps my imagination grow and stretch its boundaries, but because I think the more we can relate to what others have to say, the more able we will be to write something relatable. 

What was the most interesting thing that you found out while researching this book that you ultimately decided not to include?

 I began writing the character of Naomi’s mother based on the little I gleaned from my own mother about my maternal grandmother, who died before I was born. In early drafts of the novel, I named Naomi’s mother Hannah, after this grandmother. Somewhere along the way, though, I tried to fictionalize her better by naming her Theresa instead. After making this choice, I began diving into my mother’s family tree to try to learn more about her ancestors, and came across my grandmother’s birth certificate: her full name was Hannah Theresa Hayes. I love those weird coincidences, and use them as a sign when I’m writing a book that I’m on the right path. There’s no space in the novel to delineate them, but they inform it all the same. 

In the past I have visited a blog called Daily Routines and it’s all about the schedules of writers and creative people.  What does a typical day look like for you and how do you manage a busy schedule?

 Honestly? By the seat of my pants. I definitely get into rhythms, and it’s glorious when I do, but the truth of creative work, I think, is that it always surprises you. So I’ll create a structured routine for a while, but it usually demands restructuring after a month or two. This used to make me crazy and distrustful of my own ability to forge a regular practice, but I’ve learned to recognize it as the peculiar nature of my regular practice. This works well as the mother of three children, who are growing and shifting with head-snapping speed. I think the peace I’ve made with writing — and perhaps mothering — is that it does demand your constancy, but you must be ready to stay with it even when it switches paths on you entirely. This is what draws me to it, too, the sense that my work will never stale if I only allow it free rein with its growing pains and spurts. Again, the idea of a solid relationship to one’s writing comes to mind: all good, long-term relationships require compromise and have periods of fallowness as well as fertility. I think that learning to accept these fluctuations is critical to how I navigate my own short-lived routines.

By the same token, I work quite hard to maintain a constant connection to my creative self, so if the writing is not flowing or if the flow of life is interfering with the writing, I will be sure to at least check in regularly with the more nebulous, fanciful parts of my mind. I might do this with reading, drawing, running, walking, observing, listening to music, cooking, etc. I find my creative self is not that particular, so long as I feed her regularly.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Out of Twenty: Elizabeth Haynes, Author of Into The Darkest Corner, Answers Nine Questions

About: Elizabeth Percer is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and has twice been honored by the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Foundation. She received a BA in English from Wellesley and a PhD in arts education from Stanford University, and has also completed a postdoctoral fellowship for the National Writing Project at UC Berkley. She lives in California with her husband and three children. An Uncommon Education is her first novel.

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With My Body by Nikki Gemmell – Book Review

With My Body is Nikki Gemmell’s tale of a wife and mother living an ideal if not happy life. She’s had a successful career as a lawyer, and is now raising her three children with her husband, a good man who will always love and provide for her. Though she’s always accepted that there was a never a “spark” with him, his endearing traits are now obscured by her overall annoyance with his shortcomings. She is bored with the drudgery of household chores, repetitive tasks, and feels the same way about the few and limited friendships that she has – she’s just caught in a rut all around. A provocative encounter with an acquaintance leads to the examination of a past affair and sexual awakening – how what began with passion and promise led to a lackluster existence.

Gemmell dares to write With My Body in the second person, and it made for one of the most problematic aspects of the novel. Instead of putting the reader firmly in the shoes of this woman, it created a pretty weird distance. Something about the specificity of the narrative didn’t square with the telling of the story, and the initial chapters of the housewife’s current circumstances and childhood dragged. I was sorely tempted to set this one aside, but the flow of the story improved as she approaches the relationship that had such a big impact on her life. This part of the novel is more engaging if only because most readers will have very definite opinions on the age difference of the participants. You/the narrator are sixteen; the male/lover is a middle-aged man. The sex is continuous, graphic and explicit – I grew a little weary of it, and the thinking (of both) that they could fuck their way to her personal and sexual liberation. One of the great debates of the book will probably be in whether that was accomplished and at how high a price.

I often think books like Gemmell’s serve as litmus tests of a kind. While there were things that didn’t work for me in the narrative, the story eventually became an engaging one, and one that offered surprises that alter the narrator’s perspective and the reader’s perceptions. With My Body readily lends itself to both discussion and self-discovery – if you’re willing to probe into your beliefs, why you believe what you do, and how you have formed notions of what is appropriate. Gemmell excels in conveying the voice of this character, particularly as an adolescent, and the story concludes on a note that is both satisfying and thought-provoking.

Read More Reviews At: Devourer of BooksBetween The Pages

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam, Tavia Gilbert (Narrator) – Audiobook Review

Review Copy.

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The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson – Book Review

In Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern, Eve is a young woman just striking out in her career when she meets Dom (a wealthy gentleman, considerably older) while vacationing in Switzerland. Even though she knows little about him, besides his once being married and that the relationship was difficult, they quickly establish a firm bond and retire to live at Les Genévriers, a gorgeous old estate in Provence. Due to Dom’s successes in business the couple wants for nothing,  and so settle into comfortable domesticity both shop for and participate in restoring the estate – and Eve retreats into literature, while Dom immerses himself in music. However, trouble is brewing in their idyllic lives. Dom becomes increasingly moody and unpredictable and Eve is haunted by strange sights, sounds and smells about the estate.  Dangerous accidents occur. When a neighbor raise suspicion about what happened to Dom’s former wife, Eve wonders if she has made a terrible mistake in retreating into a life with a man she barely knows.

Though slow to start, once The Lantern gets going it is a fabulous gothic read that lands firmly in the territory of Jane Eyre and Rebecca, but with its own rich mystery drawing on the history and life in the French countryside. Lawrenson’s luscious prose skillfully builds tension throughout the novel and her heroine, Eve, is the perfect mix of naiveté and young woman struggling to navigate a world that is just a bit too sophisticated for her to grasp. Dom is the perfect mix of broody and irresistible, and you don’t really know what to feel about him, or what exactly he is hiding throughout most of the novel. Rebecca fans will notice that the nosy neighbor makes a perfect Mrs. Danvers like stand-in. Lawrenson deftly creates old school gothic creepiness and charm, and melds it with modern twists in this timeless thriller. Delicious escapist fare. Highly Recommended.

Read More Reviews At: Literature and A Lens – Take Me AwayPicky Girl – Books and Movies – Fizzy Thoughts

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam, Tavia Gilbert (Narrator) – Audiobook Review

Review Copy.

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Giveaway: The Unfinished Life of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier

My IRL Book Club is going to be reading the The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier in July. 

It’s about the  friendship between two women, told after one of them has died in accident. Kate the surviving friend is vacationing on Great Rock Island, and has inherited a trunk of Elizabeth’s journals. What she reads causes her to reconsider her views of her friend, their relationship and even her own role as wife and mother. Sounds like good stuff!

One reader with a US or Canadian mailing address (no PO boxes, please), has the opportunity to win a copy to read too. For entry, fill out this form by end of day, 11:59 p.m, June 30th, and you’ll be entered for your chance to win. Thanks to Crown Publisher for offering a copy to give away!

Good Luck!

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam, Tavia Gilbert (Narrator) – Audiobook Review

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Giveaway: Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones & Algonquin Book Club Event with Judy Blume (Details!)

One of my favorite reads last year was Tayari Jones’s Silver Sparrow. It tell the story of Dana and Chaurisse, two teenaged girls whose mothers are married to the same man. Dana and her mother have always been aware of the situation , but Chaurisse and her mom are in the dark about it all. The tensions builds in this wonderful novel as the girls form a tentative friendship which angers their father and threatens to disrupt the fragile balance of both families. I reviewed the hardcover, and it is the perfect book to read with family, friends or your book club.

Two readers with a US or Canadian mailing address (no PO boxes, please), have the opportunity to win a signed copy of the paperback edition of Silver Sparrow. For entry, fill out this form by end of day, 11:59 p.m, June 30th, and you’ll be entered for your chance to win. Thanks to Algonquin Books for offering a give away! Good Luck!

In addition to the giveaway, I have a bit of news about Tayari Jones and Judy Blume and their participation in the Book Club that Algonquin launched last year. See below for what Algonquin has to say about the event.

 Algonquin launched the Algonquin Book Club, where we host four literary events each year held at bookstores around the country and simultaneously webcast them on our site, www.algonquinbooksblog.com We’ve had some amazing events so far, including Stephen King interviewing Lauren Grodstein (A Friend of the Family), Garth Stein and Robert Goolrick (A Reliable Wife), Edwidge Danticat in conversation with Julia Alvarez (In the Time of the Butterflies), and most recently, Anne Lamont and Caroline Leavitt (Pictures of You). And in the weeks leading up to each event, we feature exclusive author interviews, excerpts, and tons of giveaways!  

On June 19th acclaimed author Judy Blume is interviewing Tayari Jones about Silver Sparrow, which just came out in paperback. The event is hosted by B & N in NYC, and is being webcast live on our website. We’ve come up with a cute (albeit, a little unoriginal) tag line for the event: Are You There Judy? It’s me, Tayari.

One June 19th at 7pm, you’ll be able to go to this page to listen in on the webcast and to chat with other participants!

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam, Tavia Gilbert (Narrator) – Audiobook Review

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Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam, Tavia Gilbert (Narrator) – Audiobook Review

Bonnie Nadzam’s Lamb follows the life of David Lamb in the aftermath of the death of his distant father and the dissolution of his marriage after he has an affair with a much younger co-worker. Feeling at loose ends, Lamb is in the parking lot of a drugstore when he meets Tommie, a forlorn eleven-year-old who approaches him to bum a cigarette on the dare of her older and meaner friends. Lamb fakes kidnapping her, ostensibly to teach Tommie and her friends a lesson – but instead he lectures her about her poor choices and gives her a ride home. What each wants from the other is mystery that unfolds over the course of the novel when both Tommie and David (whom she only knows as Gary) seek each other out at the parking lot and later embark on a whimsical cross-country journey that has dire implications for both.

The oft-repeated refrain in reviews of Lamb is its disturbing nature, and I can’t offer a differing opinion there. Nadzam creates a compelling portrait of both Lamb and how he rationalizes each of his decisions, all the while enticing readers to believe along with him in the choices and opportunities that he provides Tommie. He often cites how poor Tommie is, that she doesn’t have the basic necessities a child is entitled to possess. Her mother neglects her and exposes her to questionable men.  He asks Tommie’s permission to take her out-of-state, and gently leads her to seeing his point of view. He considers the validity of love and how it should be handled when one of the lovers is well into middle age and the other is a very innocent eleven.

Lamb is a suspenseful and psychologically harrowing read, because you wonder just how far Lamb will go in all his careful considerations and delusions. I definitely had my own very strong opinions as to how everything unfolds, but Nadzam is a skillful storyteller. Her prose is by turns beautiful, evocative and deceptively straightforward. You have to pay attention so that you can draw your own conclusions about what goes on between Lamb and Tommie. Their relationship is inappropriate in the extreme, and certainly criminal, but for just what reasons is up to each reader to decide. Recommended.

Audiobook Thoughts: I listened to the first half of Lamb,and alternated between reading and listening in the second half – mostly because I wanted to read quickly and see what happened. Tavia Gilbert does a fine job distinguishing between Lamb and Tommie. Through her voice, Tommie sounds like a kid who has experienced some knocks in her short life and Lamb is equal parts, commanding, manipulative and a dreamer. Gilbert ably portrays the complexities in both characters and the story.

Read More Reviews At: Indie Reader Houston (Audiobook Review) – Book Chatter – The Feminist Texican (Reads) – The Outlet

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 The Postmortal by Drew Magary – Book Review

Review Copy.

Jen from Devourer of Book hosts Sound Bytes on Fridays. Go check out her audiobook review for this week and see links to reviews of what others have been listening to as well.

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Out of Twenty: Elizabeth Haynes, Author of Into The Darkest Corner, Answers Nine Questions

In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing victim author and they choose their own interview by choosing which questions, and how many questions, they want to answer! Elizabeth Hayne’s Into The Darkest Corner is one of the few thrillers at the top of my summer reading list. In its pages, heroine Catherine Bailey attempts to put here life together after a dangerous love affair leave her with a crippling case of PTSD. Here is what Elizabeth had to say about reading, writing, and how National Novel Writing Month played a pivotal role in her writing career.

Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?

My name is Elizabeth Haynes and I live and work in Kent, in the South East corner of England. Until recently I was working as a police intelligence analyst which partly explains why I write mystery and suspense novels; it’s so much easier to write about a world that’s familiar. I’ve always written since childhood but it was National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo.org) that finally got me writing full length novels. I’ve taken part in Nanowrimo since 2005 and my 2008 novel has now been published as Into the Darkest Corner.

I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?

I think it’s vital to have a writing routine. Until 2011, my writing world revolved around November; my friends and family knew I would be pretty much out of action for the whole month. I spent the year nursing a nugget of an idea which I could set free on November 1st and the whole process was (and still is) tremendous fun. I completely immerse myself in the story and the characters and, just for those 30 days, I can prioritise writing above almost anything else. I developed rituals around it – there’s a particular brand of chocolate I’ll save for November, for example – which just added to the sense of occasion. Writing for Nanowrimo is also about being sociable as there are writers all over the world doing the same thing; so it’s a chance to meet other people and talk about writing. I can talk about my characters as if they’re real people and nobody thinks I’m going mad (or if they do, they are too polite to point it out to me).

Now I’m on a two year career break and although I will continue to do my first draft of each new book for Nanowrimo, I am finding it very hard to develop a writing routine for the rest of the year! I can’t eat chocolate all the time after all…

Write the question you would most like to answer in an interview, and then answer it.

What’s the worst thing anyone’s ever said to you about your writing?

I was chatting to an unpublished writer at an event once and he started to tell me all about his work – something that happens often and is normally great, because I think it often helps solve plot problems if you just talk about it (it definitely helps me, which is why if you meet me and you’re prepared to stand still long enough, I will probably tell you the whole of my current plot). On this occasion, however, the man stopped suddenly and said “I shouldn’t tell you all this because you’ll probably go away and write my story and publish it.”

It was a good excuse for me to go and talk to someone nicer, but actually what I wanted to say to him (and didn’t, because I’m no good at confrontations) was “you know what? My head is full of characters and stories that I’m desperate to find the time to write about. Why would I want to use yours? And besides, I write mysteries and you’ve just told me about a spy story set in outer space. Which sounds a bit rubbish.”

What was it about this the story that made it the one you had to tell at this time?  What impact did telling this story have on your life?  Did you find that it had changed you?

The story was partly inspired by my job. At the time I was producing a quarterly report on violent crime and as part of this I read a lot of accounts of domestic abuse. I was guilty of having very fixed ideas about violence in the home and the sort of people who were victims of it, and this stereotype was challenged in every way by the reports I was reading. I’d always thought of domestic abuse as something that happened to ‘other people’, but it affects many couples and families from every part of society and is often very well hidden. In the book, Catherine’s friends don’t realise what is going on right in front of them, partly because they have no experience of violence – it’s something that happens to ‘other people’. Catherine actually isolates herself further because she doesn’t ever manage to be honest (with herself, or with her friends) about what’s going on – either because she wants to protect them, or  through shame or just simply denial.

Into The Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes Book CoverIt can be all to easy to pass judgement on victims who stay in violent relationships but for a lot of victims of violence in the home, there is no easy escape from it. Aside from the emotion, there are so many practical factors that keep people together: having children, the perceived shame of a failed relationship, even something as basic as not being able to afford to move out of the house. And so a difficult situation can be made much worse, and the cycle of violence continues and escalates.

I didn’t set out with this whole plot in mind – in the beginning, what I really wanted to explore was how it felt not to be believed by your closest friends – but as the story developed I found it compelling. I don’t enjoy reading violence, and I never thought I would write about it, but as I worked through the story of Cathy’s trauma I realised I was going to have to write about what happened to her in detail. To have turned away from it at that point would have been an injustice to those people who have survived assaults like this one in real life. 

What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books and authors?  Has writing your own book changed the way that you read?

I think I am both more critical and more forgiving than I used to be. Before publication I read books purely for entertainment without really engaging with them beyond thinking whether I enjoyed them or not. Now I find myself considering things like structure and character development, and I notice errors much more than I used to. I also recognise however what an immense process it is to prepare a novel for publication and I do really admire authors that manage to do it well (most of them certainly much better than I do).

What was the most interesting thing that you found out while researching this book that you ultimately decided not to include?

It’s not really research, but in an earlier draft of Into the Darkest Corner Cathy and Stuart got together as a couple much earlier, and I had to decide on what Christmas presents they would get for each other.  What do you get for someone you really like? You need it to be something really personal that shows how much you think of them, without it being over the top…so Cathy’s present to Stuart was a printed photo book made from the best photos of the year he spent travelling. He gave her a memory card of his photos – and she learned a lot about him by looking at all his pictures!  Stuart’s present to Cathy was a necklace made by a local jeweller. It was a pendant with a diamond that he had to choose, and it was a gold twist in a kind of abstract female form, called ‘the Goddess’. He had to think long and hard about that one.

As it turned out, the book is much improved by delaying their relationship a bit, but I do still miss their lovely first Christmas.

What were your experiences with reading when you were growing up? Was there a pivotal moment in discovering literature when you knew that you wanted to be a writer?

The one writer who influenced me more than any other was Ray Bradbury. I read The Illustrated Man when I was about ten or eleven years old and I think I started writing short stories around then. I always wanted to be a writer in the same way other kids wanted to be an astronaut or prime minister. It had that similar feeling of being fantasy, that this sort of thing doesn’t happen to ‘real’ people.

His death just recently has affected me deeply. I feel I owe him a tremendous debt.

How many works in progress do you have going at any one time? How do you know when one has potential and when one just needs to be scrapped?

‘Scrapped’ is a very extreme thing to do and I don’t think I’ve ever really scrapped anything. I do have an awful lot of writing that sits (backed up) on my computer and will probably never be read by anyone other than me, but everything I’ve ever written has been helpful in some way or other, either by loosening up my writing ‘muscles’, or by developing a character for something else, or even just for reminding me that writing is fun. My first ever Nanowrimo novel, in 2005, was a very bad serial killer thriller which starred my then boss, and was full of people I knew – using real names. There’s no way I could ever show anyone that story, but it was valuable to me because it showed me I could write a full length novel, and that I could write in this genre.

Once I’m involved with writing a book (and usually editing others) I don’t have much time for writing other things. What does happen is that I will write extra scenes or side-plots for the same story, just to explore how things might happen. For example, the courtroom transcript at the start of Into the Darkest Corner was originally written just to see whether Lee could talk his way out of a more serious charge. I showed it to my editor and she insisted that it should be included in the book – mostly though these extra scenes are just kept ‘on file’.

What’s next?

I’m busy with the final touches to my second book for HarperCollins, which is called Revenge of the Tide. It should be out later this year. I’m also working on the edits for my third book, called Human Remains.

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About: Elizabeth Haynes is a police intelligence analyst. She started writing fiction in 2006 with the annual challenge of National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) and the encouragement of the creative writing courses at West Dean College. She lives in a village near Maidstone, Kent, with her husband and son. Into the Darkest Corner is her first novel.

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