Interview by Carl Marsh - March 2015
before I talk about your new book 'Second Life', and also the film of your first book 'Before I Go To Sleep', for those reading this, and from a writers point of view, why should people read more books?
Books entertain and inform, they can be an escape, but most importantly, I think a book allows us to glimpse other worlds, other lives. They make us better people.
So the film is here, and does it live up to your expectations, seeing as you wrote the book? Were you involved much in the production / movie?
I very deliberately had no expectations. I’d heard so many stories of films not quite happening, or being disappointing, that I thought it best to just let Rowan (Joffe, writer and director) and Liza (Marshall, producer) get on with it. In the end I think they did an amazing job and I really love the film.
The actors are top drawer, what was the first thing you said and did when you found out who the cast was going to be?
I probably did a little dance and then called my partner to tell him. I’m not one for air-punches, generally, but there may even have been one of those.
Your new book, can you tell me what the story is about?
It’s about a woman, Julia, whose sister is murdered. Frustrated by the police she starts digging around and discovers her sister had another secret life, and when Julia starts investigating that she finds herself exploring her own desires.
Did you find it quite difficult writing this new book, seeing as book one was such a bestseller, and no doubt had big footsteps to follow in?
When I wrote the first it was really only to please myself, my friends, and maybe, hopefully, an agent. With Second Life there are obviously many more people interested, it was hard not to try to second guess what the readers would want. Ultimately I had to decide to once again just write the book I wanted to write and would want to read, and hope that other people would connect with it once again.
Talking books, which book that you have read during your lifetime, has always been the one that is your favourite, and why is that?
There isn’t a single book. Gun to my head, I’d say Margaret Atwood is my favourite author, but even then I couldn't choose just one book.
You used to work in the NHS, which is what I do now, do you miss it, or has writing always been what you have wanted to do since a child?
I miss my colleagues, and some of my patients. But I don't miss the work, no. I loved it, but it increasingly became a distraction from what I really wanted to do, which was to write.
How did you come about finding an agent for your first book, so that anyone un-signed writers can pick up some tips from you?
I met my agent on the last night of the course I was doing. She came to speak to us all, and I said hello. Several cocktails later she asked me what my book was about and I told her using the 25 word pitch I’d worked out the previous week, and she asked me to send it to her when it was done. My advice would be to research who is the right agent for you, approach them respectfully and explain why you think you might want to work with them on your book, but most importantly, make sure the book you’re asking them to represent is as good as it can possibly be.
What advice can you give to anyone considering writing a book?
Don’t do it. Whatever you do, don't do it. But, if you read that and think, ‘Well, sod you, I’m going to anyway!’ then you probably have what it takes. And if that’s the case, my advice would be simply to read and write as much as you possibly can. You only get better by practicing.
Now that the film is out, and your new book also, what have you got planned for the next 12 months?
Writing. I’m working on book three.
I have got to ask this, did you do an Alfred Hitchcock and get to appear in the film?
No. I kind of wanted to, but was too shy to ask.
Last question, and one that has produced some of the most intriguing and original answers! If you were to write this in your next book, if you could be an animal, what would it be and why?
She looked up. A seagull soared above them both. That’s what I’d be, she thought. If I could. Right now I’d be a seagull. I’ve always wanted that unfettered freedom, to be able to fly. Plus, I could crap straight in his eye.
S J Watson