Interview by Carl Marsh - June 2015
I hear a lot of great news about your debut novel Disclaimer (I will read it shortly when on holiday), and it being compared to as good a thriller as Gone Girl, I bet your feet have not touched the ground since the book was released?
Thank you so much - I hope you enjoy it! It is incredibly exciting for me, and to have Disclaimer compared to Gone Girl, it can be nothing but good. It has been a time of many 'firsts' for me - interviews, being a guest rather than a visitor to literary festivals, book signings. I feel very lucky.
For those of us, and me included, who have not read it, what is the story arc of the book, and most importantly, why should we the reader, read it?
Ok so...what would it be like if you came across yourself in a book? Not only that, but the book reveals a secret you have told no one and you thought that all those who knew about it, were dead. That's what happens to the protagonist (Catherine Ravenscroft) in Disclaimer. The story is told from her point of view and from the point of view of the author of the book - a retired, widowed teacher (Stephen Brigstocke). Disclaimer gradually reveals the connection between these two very different characters and the secret that Catherine has been trying so hard to hide from her husband and son. If you enjoy psychological thrillers, then I hope that gives you reason to give it a try.
This is your debut novel, can we expect a long line of books from your hand in the coming years?
That's certainly my intention - to go on for as long as my brain will let me.
At what point did you make the decision to 'bite the bullet' and write this book?
I have been writing for about ten years, but screenplays rather than novels. I wrote one other novel a couple of years ago which didn't get published but it gave me the idea for Disclaimer.
And did you enrol on any writing courses, even though I note that you worked in TV before, so did you feel the need to freshen up on your writing skills, or not?
Years ago I did a short City Lit creative writing course. It was the first time since being at school that I'd read my work aloud, and it was scary but gave me the urge to carry on. I wrote Disclaimer while doing the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course, and this gave me a structure within which to write, and a great group of other writers to share work with.
No doubt you would have read plenty of books, so do any stand out for you, and why?
There are so many that stand out. I'll give you a couple of recent reads if that's OK. The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante, which was a visceral experience: brutally honest, fearless and unforgettable. Another recent stand-out for me was Tessa Hadley's 'Clever Girl': beautiful writing and seemingly effortless - a really inspiring book.
As is usual (and expected) with any very well received and reviewed books, the film rights tend to sell quite quickly, and I know they have done already for Disclaimer, and you may be tired of any questions around this subject but, how are excited were you once you heard the news? And which raised the biggest smile, the initial book deal, or the movie one?
Oh no comparison - the book deal. I grinned from ear to ear, and still am. That's not to say I wasn't thrilled when I heard the film rights had been sold, and to a studio with a fantastic track record.
One of my aims of the website is to get more people reading books, so to you Renee, why should people read more books?
If anyone wants to have a better understanding of the world we live in and the people we share it with, then reading fiction will illuminate it in a way that no other medium can.
What advice can you offer to anyone in need of motivating writing a book, what words can you offer?
Be kind to yourself - yes you will feel a little mad but that's normal. Take your time and protect your work, and by that I mean do not feel you are in a race, and do not show your work to anyone until you are absolutely sure you have made it as good as you can. That's not to say you won't need to work on it more once someone's seen it, but don't be in too much of a rush to get it out there.
What makes you angry?
What makes you sad?
Do you think that by writing a book now, and not sooner, experience of life has helped write your novel, and made that transition into becoming a full time writer, much less stressful than say if you had been working full time still?
Yes definitely - you're right about that. I couldn't have written a book while I was working in television, and I think this is a better book than it would have been had I written it twenty years ago.
My interviews always end with this question, "if you were an animal, what would it be, and why?"
A cat - I'd like the independence and the freedom to come and go as I pleased....
Thanks Renee for your responses.
Thank you Carl - enjoy your holiday.