Everyone watches their neighbours
Elise King moves into the sleepy seaside town of Ebbing. Illness has thrown her career as a successful detective into doubt, but no matter how hard she tries to relax and recuperate, she knows that something isn’t right.
Everyone lies about their friends
Tensions are running high beneath the surface of this idyllic community: the weekenders in their fancy clothes, renovating old bungalows into luxury homes, and the locals resentful of the changes. A town divided, with the threat of violence only a heartbeat away.
Everyone knows a secret
This peaceful world is shattered when two teenagers end up in hospital and a local man vanishes without trace. Elise starts digging for answers, but the community closes ranks, and the truth begins to slip through her fingers. Because in a small town like this, the locals are good at keeping secrets…
Everyone’s a suspect when a local goes missing.
I’m delighted to be one of the blogs starting off the tour today for Local Gone Missing. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the tour invite, to Tom from Transworld for arranging the Q&A and of course to Fiona Barton.
Q&A with Fiona Barton
It’s a pleasure to welcome you to the blog Fiona, would you please tell us a little about your background and why you decided to write crime/thriller novels?
I was a journalist on national newspapers for thirty plus years writing every day for a living before I embarked on a late career in thrillers. My husband and I had gone as volunteers with VSO to Sri Lanka and I finally had space in my life – and in my head – to think about writing fiction. I had an idea – a voice, really – and I finally put pen to paper in 2010 and wrote the first nine chapters – and the ending – of The Widow. I didn’t set out to write a psychological thriller – I had a story I wanted to write about a marriage with secrets and it developed from there.
I live in West Sussex with husband, Garry and cockapoo, Teddy and close to my two children and five grandchildren. Never a dull moment…
Local Gone Missing is a departure from your previous 3 books featuring journalist Kate Waters. What are the different challenges when writing a series to a standalone?
Local Gone Missing was definitely a step into the unknown. I felt like a newbie again when I sat down to write; I had a cast of totally new characters and a fresh location to wrangle. I’d decided that Kate Waters had earned a lie down after three books (The Widow, The Child and The Suspect) so I had no reporter centre stage to poke her nose in and drive the story. I wanted to try something different and fell in love with the idea of a woman police officer at a turning point in her life. For DI Elise King, a successful and ambitious Major Crime Team detective, her job is at the centre of everything. At 43, she has it all under control: her career path and a partner she believes wants the same things. But, the sudden break-up of their relationship, a move to a small seaside town and a diagnosis of breast cancer turn her life and sense of self upside down.
I enjoyed writing Elise so much I am 50,000 words into the next Ebbing book.
Which comes first, plot or characters? Do you plan in detail or just see where the story takes you?
Characters – I watch and listen wherever I am (trains and cafes are particularly brilliant for eavesdropping), picking up a comment here, a relationship there and stashing them for later.
And I’m an unashamed plunger, not a plotter! I do ‘dirty writing’ – chucking everything down on the page and then clean it up afterwards. My poor editors are probably tearing their hair out, reading this (sorry!) but spreadsheets and plotting each chapter in detail would kill me. Some writers swear by it but I don’t want to write a book twice. It feels a bit chaotic at times but it’s how I am.
Based on your own experience, what’s the one piece of advice you would give to someone trying to get their novel published? Looking back to getting your first novel published, The Widow, is there anything you wished you had done differently?
Do your research before approaching agents. Look to see who they represent already – are there authors writing the same genre as you? Craft your letter with passion and care – it is the first thing they’ll read. Spell people’s names right. And Never Give Up.
There is nothing I would change about getting The Widow published. I googled agents and psychological thrillers and the brilliant Madeleine Milburn popped up first. She was a perfect fit and sold the book to more than thirty countries. Completely surreal but wonderful.
Is there any part of the writing process which you enjoy the most (or find the most difficult) – i.e. researching, writing, editing?
There are days when I love everything about writing. And days when I don’t… Sometimes I feel I am dragging every sentence out with my fingernails – other times I suddenly come to and realise I have written 2,000 words without pausing. It’s an intense, complex activity!
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?
So many! Reading has been my passion since I mastered the Janet and John books and I cannot imagine a day when I don’t read. But the biggest influences on me have been authors who take risks to tell stories in new ways. Kate Atkinson and Hilary Mantel are particularly inspirational. Mantel (Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies) for the brilliance and vividness of her story-telling. She broke so many rules – and was criticized by some – but I was in her world from page one; Atkinson (When Will There Be Good News? And Life After Life) for her characters and showing me the power of a story told by many; and John Irving (Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany) for his sheer, bonkers, otherness. And Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier awakened an enduring hunger for psychological thrillers. I was in the head of the second Mrs de Winter from those iconic first lines, chilled and intrigued by the menacing undertow (and the scariest housekeeper ever created). I have included it in every literary Top Ten I’ve put together.
I am currently reading Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus – I’m totally in love with Elizabeth Zott – and Unlawful Killings by Wendy Joseph QC – a gripping insight into cases that came before an Old Bailey judge.
What was the best money you ever spent for your writing career?
Er, a ticket to Bangkok to smell the air and hunt down a disgusting hostel for my characters in The Suspect.
Are there any of your characters that you have really disliked?
My biggest challenge was Glen, the man accused of taking Bella in The Widow. At first, I was seeing him through his dazzled wife, Jean’s eyes but as I wrote on, I began to glimpse some of the demons that drove Glen’s ambition; chief among them, a desperate need to prove himself to a bullying father and a sense of entitlement. All was fine while his aspirations were being met but I recognized in him that pattern of anger and black disappointment I had seen in others when faced with setbacks. I wasn’t sure where this would take him but it began to lead us down a much darker path.
What is your ultimate ambition?
Thank you so much Fiona.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Fiona Barton’s debut, The Widow, was a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller and has been published in 36 countries and optioned for television. Her second novel, The Child, was a Sunday Times bestseller. Born in Cambridge, Fiona currently lives in Sussex and south-west France.
Previously, she was a senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at the Daily Telegraph, and chief reporter at the Mail on Sunday, where she won Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards.
While working as a journalist, Fiona reported on many high-profile criminal cases and she developed a fascination with watching those involved, their body language and verbal tics. Fiona interviewed people at the heart of these crimes, from the guilty to their families, as well as those on the periphery, and found it was those just outside the spotlight who interested her most.
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