Once you let her in, she’ll never leave…
Some secrets aren’t meant to be kept…
When Grace returns to Abi’s life, years after they fell out at university, Abi can’t help but feel uneasy. Years ago, Grace’s friendship was all-consuming and exhausting.
Now happily married, Abi’s built a new life for herself and put those days behind her. And yet as Grace slips back into her life with all the lethal charm she had before, Abi finds herself falling back under her spell…
Abi’s husband, Rohan, can’t help but be concerned as his wife’s behaviour changes. As their happy home threatens to fall apart, he realises that there’s something deeply unnerving about Grace. Just what influence does this woman have over his wife, and why has she come back now?
A chilling story of guilt and obsession from Anna Kent.
Format: Ebook, Audio and Paperback (5 August 2021)
My thanks to Becky of Midas PR for the tour invitation and for arranging for the Q&A and thank you to Anna for taking the time to answer my questions. The House of Whispers was published on Thursday by HQ, and is available in the usual formats.
Q&A with Anna Kent
It’s a pleasure to welcome you to the blog Anna, would you please tell us a little about your background?
Hi, thanks for hosting me! I started my career working as a secretary in a publishing firm in London, worked my way up to non-fiction book editor, then trained as a journalist. I moved to Dubai in 1998 and worked as a magazine editor and a writer for The Telegraph for quite a few years before quitting to concentrate on fiction, which is what I’d always really felt drawn to. In 2013 I won a writing competition at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai and that led me to gaining an agent in London and, subsequently, two three-book deals.
You have published previous books under the name of Annabel Kantaria. Why is The House of Whispers being published under the name of Anna Kent?
My first four books are written under my real name, which is Annabel Kantaria. The fifth book, which has taken a good couple of years to produce, is a bit of a step-change in style for me, and my editor felt it would be fresher to launch it under a new name. I also can’t deny that Anna Kent is a symmetrical name and sits nicely on a book cover!
Without giving away too much, can you please tell us a little about The House of Whispers? Where did the inspiration for the story come from?
The idea came from a news story I read but I can’t say more about that without spoilers. Let’s just say it was a very sad and poignant story that I couldn’t get out of my mind. Ultimately, it’s a story about guilt, but I also wanted to look at the complexities of female friendship: the push-and-pull of power struggles that so often take place beneath the surface.
Abi is a reclusive artist who’s moved on from a friendship she had at university. She hasn’t seen the enigmatic Grace for four years and she thinks the past is buried until Grace swans back into her life with all the lethal charm she had back in the day. There’s a feeling that Abi owes Grace something and we get a growing sense of unease as we see how the relationship plays out between them. It’s a creepy and chilling read set in a Victorian house which seems to have secrets of its own.
Which comes first, plot or characters? Do you plan in detail or just see where the story takes you?
Usually for me, plot comes before characters. There’s always a seed of an idea: the inciting incident, the premise, a twist or a dramatic ending, then I brainstorm how the plot could play out. The main character pops into my head once I have the bones of the story, but sometimes, after I start writing, she morphs into someone else. It’s not uncommon for me still to be changing her name, age or job when I’m three-quarters of the way through writing the story. The lesson I’ve learned from that is that it really is worth planning properly before I start writing but usually I’m just desperate to start writing!
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?
The best writing advice really is just to sit down and write. It’s easy to wait for the right moment, or wait until you can clear your diary, or till your kids go back to school, or, or, or – but there really is no right moment. If writing a book is something you want to do, you just have to prioritise writing in your life. Look at how you spend your time each day and carve out a time in which you can dedicate half an hour or an hour a day to write. You don’t need great swathes of time; you just need to be consistent. You’ll be surprised how quickly 500 hundred words turns into 1,000 words, and how quickly that becomes 5,000 and 10,000.
I also believe in breaking down the book-planning into sections. It’s very intimidating to try to plan 90,000 words in one go, so I plan the first third of the story and write that, then I plan the next third. That works for me as it allows things to change that I wouldn’t have been able to predict at the start.
Also: enter competitions. Winning the Montegrappa Prize is the one thing that really launched my career. It got me a foot in the door with my agent, Luigi Bonomi, so I haven’t had to go through that nerve-wracking process of approaching agents and waiting for responses. I would definitely advise up-coming writers to enter competitions that can win them visibility and contacts if not an actual contract.
Is there any part of the writing process which you enjoy (or find the most difficult) – i.e. researching, writing, editing?
I love writing when the words are flowing and the story’s coming out easily. Those are the best days. The most difficult part for me is choosing which story to write out of the ideas I have. Every author wants to write a best-seller and picking which one of them to write can feel a little like gambling.
Are there any authors whose books have made an impact on you? What type of book do you enjoy reading for pleasure, and what are you reading now?
I think all authors have an impact on me in some way. I learn something from everything I read. I learned a lot about foreshadowing from Louise Doughty’s brilliant Apple Tree Yard and I like studying how authors like Louise Candlish, Ruth Ware and Lisa Jewell create suspense.
I love contemporary fiction. I love a good story and good writing in most mainstream genres. I usually have a fiction and a non-fiction book on the go at the same time. At the moment, the non-fiction is Atomic Habits by James Clear, and the fiction is a Louise Candlish novel from 2010: Other People’s Secrets. I chose it because it’s set in Italy and I love travelling through fiction.
Do you read your own reviews?
Sometimes… I might go through a phase of reading them when a book’s first coming out because I want to know if people think it’s any good. Then I might not read them for ages. But I do find it helpful – even the bad ones. If several people are criticising the same thing in one of my plots, I try to learn from that mistake and not do it again! Every review is helpful to an author: it shows that someone’s read the book and cared enough to write something about it.
When you’re not working or writing, what do you do to relax?
I like hanging out with my family, horse-riding and reading, and I love planning holidays (who doesn’t?). If I get time, I like to lie in the sun, but there’s been a lot less of that since I had children!
Finally (and sorry, I know this will be hard!) If you could only keep 3 books on your bookshelf, which ones would it be and why?
That really is a difficult one. You’re sounding like Marie Kondo! To be honest, they’d probably be mind-expanding non-fiction titles but if you want fiction, I’d go for Us by David Nicholls, because it’s a cracker of a story and I love experiencing travel through fiction, especially these days when it’s not so easy to move about the world; The Midnight Library by Matt Haig because I’m intrigued by the idea of parallel universes and the ‘what if?’ question generated by each tiny decision we make; and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion because I simply adore it.
Thank you so much Anna…and I’m sorry for putting you on the spot with the last question! 😉😊
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anna Kent has worked as a journalist, magazine editor and book editor as well as enjoying a stint as a radio producer. She’s written for numerous publications at home and abroad, including the Daily Telegraph, where she was a contributor for six years. Brought up in the South East, she loves to travel while maintaining a base in Gloucestershire. She’s married with two children.