Today I’m delighted to be joined by the fabulous Claire Seeber who has agreed to let me grill her about her latest thriller – THE STEPMOTHER.
Your latest book THE STEPMOTHER is out now, could you tell us a bit about it?
It’s a kind of spin on Snow White and a look at whether the age-old adage ‘the evil stepmother’ is justified, or a skewed take on a complicated relationship – and why the stepmother is always the outsider (and the father never gets blamed!). It’s also about mental health, I suppose, as in what drives us to the edge; and about familial relationships generally – it centres around two sisters, Jeanie & Marlena, who’ve had a raw deal growing up. That may or may not have pushed them to extreme behavior as adults…and it’s about jealousy, generally.
I found THE STEPMOTHER a real page turner. The relationship between the two sisters, and their unique voices, really hooked me in. What was your inspiration for creating them?
Thank you! I originally wanted to make Marlena the central character (the younger sister, who is a newshound, very career driven, has blotted her copy book in the phone hacking scandal) and I was more interested in her trying to find out what had happened to the girl who’d run off to join ISIS. But my editor was a bit worried Marlena was too ‘controversial’, I think – she’s quite spiky! So I came up with Plan B…tell the first part of the story from Jeanie’s point of view, because she’s (possibly) more sympathetic…and I made it more about families generally. But I managed to sneak the ISIS bit in too J
Within the narrative, you use a twist on a well loved fairy tale to great effect. Did you enjoy fairy tales as a child? And, if so, what are your top three?
Yes, I loved fairy tales, though I wasn’t a particularly girly girl, but I loved books generally. My dad worked in publishing when I was little (he had nothing to do with my writing career though, I ought to add!) and he brought us an amazing big hard-backed fairy-tale book, which I loved. Also all the old Ladybird books, I can still remember Cinderella’s dresses from those, and I also remember Rose Red and Snow White! My favourite…hmm. The ones I remember most are Little Red Riding Hood, The Little Mermaid and probably Cinderella – but having said that, I chose Snow White because I was so interested in the relationship between the child and the stepmother, & the obvious jealousy it causes in that tale.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing process – do you plot everything out first, or just dive in and we where the story takes you?
A bit of both. It depends on my deadline really. I had to be super discliplined on THE STEPMOTHER because I had very little time to write it in. I had to make myself a plot outline and stick to it, and having that as a reference point was handy. I’ve written books with no plot outline, and I think it makes me feel more panicked!
What’s your favourite part of the writing process and why?
Probably just making it up as I go along on the first draft, and feeling like ‘ooh I’m onto something here’ and being really lost in the process. That’s when I really love it and it feels a bit like flying.
“Grip Lit” is a label that’s started being put on a lot of thrillers these days. As a well established writer of psychological thrillers do you see Grip Lit as something new within the genre, or just an new label?
Just a new label and a slightly irritating one at that!! It’s something I’ve pondered a lot as my first novel was written in 2004, before this whole ‘domestic noir/ grip lit’ became such a ‘thing’. Now the media heralds it as new, ‘specially since Girl on A Train, and I think – what’s new about reading the voice of women like us, telling us how it really is?! Worrying about relationships and drinking too much and fancying the wrong people, with some crime / plot twists thrown in?! It’s a bit galling, to be honest, when I’ve been doing it for about twelve years now!
And, finally, what does the rest of 2016 hold for you?
Well, having written 6 psychological thrillers, much as I love them – and I do – I’d like to do something hopefully new…still in the thriller area, but quite different. It’s written, and it’s with my agent – but you’ll have to watch this space because I’m so superstitious, I don’t want to jinx it, not because I’m being precious J !! And I probably will write another pysch thriller but I’m not sure what yet!
Sounds very intriguing! I can’t wait to read it.
A massive thank you to Claire Seeber for popping over to the CTG blog and letting me grill her (I owe you a drink, Claire).
To find out more about Claire and her books visit her website here and be sure to follow her on Twitter @claireseeber
To buy THE STEPMOTHER from Amazon, click here