Today I’m delighted to be joined by brilliant crime writer and all round fabulous person, Jenny Blackhurst. Jenny’s debut novel – HOW I LOST YOU – was a runaway bestseller, and with her second novel – BEFORE I LET YOU IN – just out as an eBook and coming out in paperback on 3rd November she’s kindly agreed to come into CTG HQ to let me grill her.
Your fabulous second novel BEFORE I LET YOU IN was published in eBook on the 28th August, can you tell us a little bit about it?
It’s the story of Dr Karen Browning, a psychiatrist who finds that her new patient knows a little more about her and her close knit group of friends than she should. Who is Jessica Hamilton? And what does she want from Karen and her friends? It explores the friendships women have and how they can sometimes be, let’s say less than healthy…
The relationship between Karen and Jessica is a rather complicated one (!) what inspired you to write about these great characters?
A walk to Tesco! I can’t drive so I do a lot of walking with my son who is two now and while he naps in the pushchair I create characters in my head. I loved the idea of a relationship where the normal roles you would expect to see are reversed – Karen is usually very in control – as you see from her relationships with her friends – and so I enjoyed having Jessica take her out of her comfort zone. I guess I saw Jessica as a psychopath and Karen as a control freak and I wanted to put them up against each other to see who came out on top.
Your debut novel, HOW I LOST YOU, was a Number 1 Kindle bestseller, can you tell us how you found the experience of being a debut author?
I’d had nothing to do with the writing world before I got the contract for How I Lost You, I wrote it in kind of a bubble, didn’t know any other authors and didn’t expect anyone to ever read it so going from that kind of isolation to suddenly everyone having an opinion on something you created out of your head is a big thing to take on board. There was a point where I thought ‘I never want to do this again’. Then I got more involved with other authors and my experience completely changed. Crime writers are amazing – it’s like having a huge support network and helped me to enjoy what I was doing and remember what I loved about writing.
And, coming back to BEFORE I LET YOU IN, how did you find the writing process the second time around and can you tell us a bit about how you like to write?
The actual writing process was so much harder – it’s a different ball game when you’re writing for a contract rather than for yourself. With How I Lost You I never had any worries or insecurities – I thought it would stay as a Word document on an old laptop so it didn’t occur to me to worry about what others might think. A second book comes with so much more pressure – more so when people enjoy your debut and say they can’t wait for the next! Saying that I feel like I’ve learnt so much since How I Lost You was published that I really enjoyed putting those things into practice for my second.
I use Scrivener to write now – it’s an amazing tool and now that it integrates with Scapple and Aeon it has everything I need. I plotted Before I Let You In out before I wrote it but it wasn’t until the end that I realised it wasn’t the story I’d set out to write – without giving too much away the real story behind the words shone through in the last few chapters. That was a real epiphany in Tesco café so despite my gruelling plotting I had to rewrite about 50% of the book!
What’s your approach to research – do you research things up front or wait until the story is written and check facts then?
Up front usually – procrastination is my worst habit when I’m writing so if I think something needs checking I’m straight to Amazon to buy the books or Google to look for answers. With my third I’m trying to curb the habit – I’m making use of the notes tool in Scrivener so I can avoid pulling myself out of the writing, and I find myself typing @look this up@ in the manuscript fairly often now.
As a reader (and a writer) what do you love most about the crime fiction genre?
I love the whydunnit. You can give me any character as your villain but I want to know what drove them to their actions. I think that’s why I lean towards psychological thrillers; procedurals are quite often about the who. Having said that I love a good procedural when the mood takes me.
And what books, aside from your own, would you recommend as must-reads?
There are SO many. This year has been brilliant for books – I’ve particularly loved Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant, The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood, Willow Walk by Susi Holliday and He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly. Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton was amazing, I See You by Clare Mackintosh, You Sent Me A Letter by Lucy Dawson and What Goes Around by Julie Corbin. Also I’ve just finished Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas and that was great. Can I keep going? I could talk about books all day…
Finally, what does the rest of 2016 have in store for you?
I have a book to write! The mysteriously titled Book Three is underway… And more reading of course.
Big thanks to Jenny Blackhurst for coming round to CTG HQ and letting me grill her!
BEFORE I LET YOU IN is out in eBook now – buy it here from Amazon
And be sure to follow Jenny on Twitter @JennyBlackhurst to stay up to date with all her news!