Gone Without a Trace – Mary Torjussen Q&A


Published by Headline

ebook: 3 November 2016   |  Paperback: 23 March 2017

approx 352 pages

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the paperback publication of Gone Without a Trace.  I purchased the Kindle edition a couple of months ago and it’s gradually bumping its way to the top of my TBR mountain.

For my turn on the blog tour, Mary kindly agreed to answer a few questions.

It’s a pleasure to welcome you to the blog Mary, would you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background?

I’m from a big family (fourth of nine children) and grew up in Stoke-on-Trent. I moved up to Merseyside to study as a mature student at Liverpool University after working in London for several years. It took a while for me to feel settled here, but now it’s home to me. I love the area and the people up here.

I understand that you were a teacher for several years. Was it always an ambition to become a published writer?

Yes, this is something I’ve wanted all of my life. I was always a voracious reader and used to start to write novels all the time, but would give up after a few chapters. I realise now that this was because I didn’t plan the novel out beforehand and could only wing it for so long. Also, I was trying to write romance; once I started to write psychological suspense I realised that this was the genre that really suited me. I took an MA in Writing at Liverpool John Moores University and then wrote a couple of novels that didn’t get anywhere. When I had the chance to take voluntary redundancy from teaching, I decided to take a year off and try to write a book that would be published. Luckily, that happened!

Without giving away any spoilers, can you please tell us a little about Gone Without a Trace? Where did the inspiration for the story come from and what attracts you to the psychological thriller genre as opposed to any other? 

The idea for Gone Without a Trace came from a thread on an online forum. A woman described coming home to find her boyfriend had left home, taking absolutely everything he owned with him. When she said he’d even taken a half-eaten jar of pickle with him, I thought it sounded as though he was trying to destroy all evidence of himself from her house and I started to wonder why someone would leave like that.

I love psychological thrillers as they concern dramas that I think could happen to me; I get totally engrossed in the problem someone is facing. I particularly like the sort of problems that you couldn’t take to the police because they sound so minor.

How did you plan/research your book? Do you plot in detail or just see where the story takes you?

I do plot out my novels, having learned from my earlier mistakes. I usually have one page per chapter and I make notes on the scenes, where they take place, anything we learn about the characters or their situations, anything I want to reveal or hide and any cliff-hangers. It makes it so much easier when I’m writing the novel if I have this plan to hand, though of course it often goes off course.

What is the best writing advice that you have received? And what advice would you give to anyone trying to get their novel published? Is there anything that you wished you had done differently?

This was advice given to another writer, Jane Hill, who passed it on to me a few years ago when I heard her talk at a literary event. Her agent had told her “Just finish the book” and “When in doubt, go darker.” They were such useful pieces of advice. Often writers face a problem and stall, when really they should just carry on writing and go back to the problem afterwards. Sometimes the problem doesn’t even exist by then. It’s hard to do but sometimes you just need to keep going and have faith it’ll be alright in the end. “Go darker” is a great piece of advice when you need to increase the tension rather than relieve it.

Is there any part of the writing process which you enjoy (or dislike) the most – i.e. researching, writing, editing?

There is nothing worse than the blank page! I find that really scary. That’s why I like to plan out a novel fully before writing it, so that I always know what is going to happen next. Of course the novel does change as it’s being written, but those notes really do help me from freezing up at the start.

I really love editing. As I’m writing the first draft I feel it’s really painful at first, until you get to know the characters well, but later it becomes easier. Going back to edit it, I know the characters well and the writing has started to flow, so it becomes really interesting to go back and knock it into shape!

How do you feel about social media, do you find it helpful or a distraction?

I’m not a huge fan of Facebook really, though I’m trying to get involved in it more now. I’m very private and can’t understand people revealing their lives to anyone and everyone. I enjoy using Twitter, though, and love to see what my fellow writers are up to. I’ve never experienced the bad side of Twitter because I’m really careful about who I follow. There are so many funny and kind people out there and there’s always something on there to motivate me if I’m stuck.

Do you have any favourite books or authors which may have inspired you? What type of book do you enjoy reading for pleasure, and what are you reading now?

Obviously I love reading psychological suspense but now I tend to try to figure out what the writer’s doing right from the start – it’s a really bad habit! My favourite writer is probably Daphne du Maurier; she has fantastic plots but writes beautifully, too. I have a huge TBR list at the moment. As I’m finishing my second book, I’m trying to avoid other novels in that genre, but am looking forward to reading Gillian McAllister’s Everything But the Truth and Amanda Reynolds’ Close to Me. Oh and I have Cuckoo by Julia Crouch lined up, too!

When you’re not working or writing, what do you do to relax?

I like to go swimming – every day works best. I’m looking forward to getting back to that once I reach my second book’s deadline. I live by the river and love going for long walks down there, too – the skyline is amazing. I’ve friends and family all over the UK so love going to visit them and going out for meals and drinks. I love to watch dramas on television and particularly loved the Scandi dramas such as The Killing and The Bridge – I thought they were the best dramas I’d seen on television.

What’s next for your writing career? Are you working on a book at the moment? 

I’m working on another psychological suspense called The Girl I Used to Be. It’s hard to describe a novel in this genre without giving the game away, so I can’t say much about it, sorry!

Thank you Mary.


About the book:

No one ever disappears completely...

You leave for work one morning.

Another day in your normal life.

Until you come home to discover that your boyfriend has gone.
 His belongings have disappeared.
 He hasn't been at work for weeks.
 It's as if he never existed.

But that's not possible, is it?

And there is worse still to come.

Because just as you are searching for him someone is also watching you.


About the author:

Mary Torjussen grew up in Stoke-on-Trent. There was no television in her family home so books have always been her escape – she spent hours reading and writing stories as a child. Mary has an MA in Creative Writing from Liverpool John Moores University, and worked as a teacher in Liverpool before becoming a full-time writer. She has two adult children and lives on the Wirral, where her debut novel, Gone Without a Trace, is set.


Author Links:

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