Wendy James is an author I admire. Her plot lines are instantly intriguing, and she is a master at exploring the nitty-gritty of families in crisis. Her book THE MISTAKE was on my ‘want to read’ list as soon as I read the blurb, and it kept me up late at night until I’d finished it.
I am thrilled to have Wendy on the blog, telling us all about her latest release THE LOST GIRLS, and giving you lucky readers the chance to win not one but TWO of her books – THE MISTAKE and THE LOST GIRLS – just by leaving a comment below! Make sure you don’t leave without commenting once you’ve read the interview.
The spark of the idea for The Lost Girls came from an old newspaper interview from the nineteen-eighties that offered up an interesting new perspective on the unsolved murder of a teenage girl in Newtown in the 1940s. I originally thought I’d like to write a novel set in that era, and in Newtown, but for various reasons – partly because of our own move back to the coast, which triggered a flood of reminiscences about my own adolescence – the work evolved into something rather different. The Lost Girls ended up being set in the Sydney beach suburb of Curl Curl, and time-wise it moves between 2010 and the late nineteen-seventies – so the period and place of my own early teenage years.
And now that THE LOST GIRLS has hit the shelves, are you working on a new novel?
Of course! It’s another suspense novel about families and crimes – but this time children are the perpetrators and the victims. I’m having fun playing with all our ideas about good parenting… Actually, from the perspective of a mother, it’s pretty scary stuff.
I recently had the pleasure of reading THE MISTAKE, and I was fascinated by the way you held the tension right until the last few lines. When you write, do you know the plot before you begin, or does it reveal itself as you go along?
I usually have a big idea in my head – some major plot element that I’m moving toward. But other than that, I’m pretty much hacking out the path as I go. And sometimes it really takes some forceful, sustained, exhausting hacking to get anywhere …
Looking back over my work, the short stories and the suspense novels as well as the historical fiction, I think the one thing that they share is a fascination with families undergoing some sort of crisis. What happens when something major goes wrong (a death, a crime, a disappearance, a betrayal), and the whole structure begins to warp or even crumble? It’s what we all dread… I like to think that the other thing common to my work – it’s what I’m aiming for, anyway – is an element of suspense, a sense of mystery and revelation, that keeps the reader guessing, and reading.
Tell us one of the things you love about being a writer?
I really love being able to work at home. I’m quite disciplined about using all available time for writing, and some days the hours are ridiculous, but it’s good to be able to run your own race – especially when you’re juggling family responsibilities as well. The downside of this is the occasional feeling of loneliness… sometimes I’m desperate for those water-cooler conversations. I know the internet can provide aspects of that, but that can be very addictive, so I tend to avoid it…
When you hit a roadblock in your writing, how do you get going again?
When I’m about 50,000 words into a novel, the work generally starts to feel really really bad, the writing journey impossible, and I want to throw the whole thing into a drawer – or a dustbin. At this point a fascinating new premise will magically appear – the premise of my next novel – and I decide that I’m going to stop writing the book I’m on and begin a new one, which is infinitely more interesting, and will be an absolute breeze to write. I inevitably get about 5000 words written before reality hits (it’s hard! It’s boring! I’ve got another 80,000 words to go!), and I slink back, chastened, to the old manuscript – which is relatively advanced, and really not all that bad… Now that I’m aware of the pattern, I’m ready for it. This time I’ll just wait for the desire to pass, and not send my publisher and agent into a panic.
What else are you feeling passionate about at the moment?
I don’t know that I’m passionate about it – in fact it’s probably more terror than passion – but I’ve just started playing hockey. After years of wistfully watching my children play sport, wishing that I’d played a team sport in my childhood, I’ve signed up. I’m pretty hopeless, but it’s providing a few laughs. And I really like having an excuse to wear a short skirt and long socks at my advanced age… (the mouthguard not so much).
I love book recommendations. Tell me about one book you’ve loved in the last year?
I’ve just finished Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely beside Ourselves, which was thought-provoking, hilarious – and heartbreaking.
And what are you looking forward to reading this year?
I’m really excited about the upcoming release of Cooper Bartholomew is Dead, by YA author Rebecca James. (Allen & Unwin, September). I’ve read bits and pieces of this in draft form (Bec’s my sister) but I can’t wait to get my hands on the finished work. What I’ve read so far is scary and sad and gritty and real – and I have to know what happened!
Finally, where can people go to find out more about you and your books?
Thank you for visiting the blog, Wendy, it’s been a pleasure!
FOR A CHANCE TO WIN COPIES OF THE MISTAKE AND WENDY’S NEW RELEASE THE LOST GIRLS, SIMPLY SIGN UP TO MY NEWSLETTER, AND THEN LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW TELLING US WHICH BOOK YOU’VE ENJOYED THE MOST SO FAR THIS YEAR! Competition closes 31 May 2014 and the winner will be announced and notified the following day.*
*THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED, THANK YOU TO ALL WHO ENTERED*col-md-2