I’m so lucky to have met and chatted with lovely Barbara Copperthwaite at a blogger and author event organised by the wonderful Kim Nash and so I’m thrilled that Barbara has agreed to be interviewed for Linda’s Book Bag.
THERE’S ONE VICTIM OF CRIME NO ONE NOTICES…
Something is wrong. With her marriage, with her husband, with her. But as she pours her heart out to her diary, it’s clear she doesn’t know what.
Until one explosive night she finds a possible answer.
Suddenly hated and vilified by everyone, she clings to her relationship – even while wondering if she really knows her husband at all…
Invisible is a stunningly powerful, gripping and original psychological thriller of subtle insight that takes you on a twisted journey through one woman’s marriage.
ADAM WILL DO ANYTHING TO MAKE YOU HAPPY. EVEN IF IT KILLS YOU.
Adam Bourne is a serial killer who thinks he is a saviour. When he murders young women and cuts off their lips, he believes he has done it to make them happy.
How did he become warped from the sensitive four-year-old who adored his gran and the fairy tales she read to him? What turned him into a monster who stalks his victims? And what is he trying to say with the bouquets he sends?
When he meets Laura Weir, Adam weaves a fairy tale romance around them. A tale she has no idea she is part of. As he hatches his twisted plan for their fairy tale ending, can anyone stop him before he creates the ultimate sacrifice to love?
An Interview with Barbara Copperthwaite
Hello Barbara. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing.
Firstly, please could you tell readers a little about yourself?
Hello! I’m a journalist turned author of psychological thrillers. Using the knowledge I’ve gained over more than twenty years of interviewing perpetrators and victims of crime, I love to really get under the skin of my characters to create gritty, realistic stories. I don’t write whodunits, I write ‘whydunits’, as it’s the emotion of a situation that really grabs me.
When I’m not busy plotting murder (figuratively speaking, of course) I can generally be found walking my dog, Scamp, and taking photographs of wildlife in my local area around Birmingham.
On your new website you describe yourself as a crime writer. What drew you to this genre as opposed to another for your novels?
It’s just the way my brain works! I used to quite scare my partner, when we’d be walking down the street and I’d suddenly blurt out a great way of bumping someone off, or a place to hide a body. He’s used to it now though. Only the other day we went for a lovely walk on some marshes and were discussing how it was the ideal place to dump a body!
My mum has always loved crime, so I grew up watching Taggart, Morse, and the like. Going back even earlier, I was obsessed with reading Enid Blyton’s ‘Mystery’ series. I can remember the first time I solved one of the crimes before the big reveal, and feeling so proud of myself.
I’ve always been fascinated by why people do things, too. Again, for me a good crime book is as much about why as who. That’s the real mystery to solve. It’s what attracted me to journalism, as it gave me the chance to talk to people who have been in all kinds of incredible situations.
When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?
There wasn’t really a lightbulb moment for me, instead the feeling stole over me gradually. I became a journalist when I was 19, so writing was second nature to me, but I used to feel quite annoyed when people asked me, “When are you going to write a book?” As far as I was concerned, books were for me to read, not create. “I’m a journalist, I deal in facts,” I’d tell people. Honestly, I didn’t think that would ever change as, although I’ve always been a voracious reader, I never had any ideas for novels and had no drive to write one either.
But there was a tiny kernel of an idea from a brief period in my early twenties when I’d spent some time working in a men’s high security prison. I’d been fascinated by how normal all the inmates were – they were so easy to chat to. And over the years, through interviewing various victims of crimes as well as the occasional perpetrator, that was what kept coming up all the time: bad people seem nice and normal when you meet them, that’s how they get away with what they do for so long.
I started to wonder what it would be like to live with someone accused of something terrible. How much would it take for you to believe he’d done something wrong? Surely a hell of a lot, because no one can believe they would love someone who was capable of evil.
That’s how the idea grew for my first novel, Invisible. As a journalist, I desperately wanted to interview someone like the main character, but as time passed it became increasingly obvious it was probably never going to happen. So in that case, I’d have to make it up…and one day I sat down and started doing just that. Once I’d begun, I soon became obsessed. I’d write on the train to work, during my lunch break, and on the way home.
How did that moment feel when you decided to give up your previous employment and become a writer full time?
Terrifying! I was a successful journalist who had risen through the ranks, been in charge of a number of different national women’s weekly magazines, and was used to managing a large team of people. I was also used to a good, steady wage. And there I was, throwing it all away pretty much on a whim. I’d only written half of Invisible, but it was enough to know that it was what I wanted to concentrate on.
All of this happened immediately before my 40th birthday, and I think some friends did secretly wonder if I was having a midlife crisis – I know I did!
At first I cheated, and did a lot of journalism on a freelance basis, in order to bring in some extra cash while I wrote my first two books. But now I’ve given that up completely so that I can concentrate on being an author.
What advice would you give to those also thinking of writing full time now that you’ve experienced it?
Only do it if you’re truly passionate about not just writing a novel, but all the hard work that goes with it. Writing is only half the job. Whether you’re traditionally published or an indie author, you will have to spend a monumental amount of time promoting your books and making contacts in the industry. It’s a full time job, and if you’re not willing to put in incredibly long hours you will fail. It’s as simple as that. You’ve got to be driven, dedicated, and exceptionally hard working.
It can also be a lonely job sometimes, as so much time is spent working on your manuscript in isolation. There’s no office banter.
Is it worth all that worry, sweat, tears? Hell, yes!
To what extent have your previous experiences impacted on your fiction writing?
I’ve interviewed so many people who have been victims of crime, and all those stories have influenced me massively. I think it’s really important to have characters that are believable. It’s incredible what people can go through and survive, and I think that’s one of the reason why, I believe, my books are ultimately hopeful. They are full of grit, but also full of honesty and heart.
How far does your experience of being an editor help or hinder your writing process?
It’s definitely been both a help and a hindrance. At first it was frustrating for me because I was used to being able to produce a feature that was pretty much word perfect at the end of the first draft. I’d give it a read through then send it off to be printed, job done. Writing a book is nothing like that. I’ve had to get used to the fact that while writing the first draft I frequently feel out of control, and that the finished first draft is very rough, and has to go through a lot of rewrites and editing before it’s ready to be published. So rather a different experience to when I wrote articles…!
There are plenty of positives, though. Thanks to all those years of journalism, I know what makes a good story, how to hook readers, construct a tale, pace, characterisation, etc. Being a former editor helps me to step back and look at the book as a whole, to see the big picture. It’s been particularly useful when coming up with concepts for the cover. My partner is a very talented artist, who works with me to create something I think will sum up the story as a whole, without giving anything away.
You often review books too. How important is it for writers also to be readers do you think?
You can’t write if you don’t read. Simple as that. And don’t just read your own genre, read everything. I love reading, and that has inevitably influenced my love of writing.
You have a brilliant relationship with bloggers. What impact have they made on your life as a writer?
I only made contact with book bloggers back in August for the first time. Now, I don’t know why it took me so long! What a wonderful community! I’ve made some lovely friends along the way, and they’ve transformed so many aspects of my life as a writer. Yes, there’s the obvious stuff, such as they’ve read my books and reviewed them. But it’s so much more than that. You know earlier when I mentioned what a lonely job being an author can be? Well, thanks to the online community I have been lucky enough to become part of, I have found a network that is friendly, supportive, open with advice… It’s just so wonderful, I can’t actually gush about it enough.
In Flowers for the Dead, why did you decide to have a male protagonist?
I don’t think there was a decision, Adam came to me fully formed. Thinking about it now, I could have told the story much more from Laura’s point of view, but it has been done before. I could have told it more from the perspective of the detective, Mike Bishop, but that’s been done so many times, too. Telling it from the serial killer’s point of view…that’s almost unheard of.
I was fascinated with Adam, too. Was he born bad or made bad? What had happened to him? Could he have been different, if his life had taken just the slightest of turns? I suppose it’s the journalist in me, still trying to get the stories that have never been heard.
You don’t name the woman in Invisible? Why was that?
I was partly influenced by one of my favourite books, the classic Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier, as the second Mrs De Winter’s first name is never used. The device seemed so fitting for my novel. This is a woman who is invisible in every way. To friends. In her marriage. At work. Even when she is the most hated woman in Britain, she is still never seen for the person she really is – she is the one victim of crime no one notices.
Had I given her a name, it wouldn’t have made any difference to the story. But by not naming her, I feel it adds to the whole theme.
I know you like to photograph wildlife. Is this a lifelong hobby or does it act more as an antidote for the grittiness of your writing?
I started nature watching as a child. My sister used to laugh at me because I could look at an animal dropping and know what had done it! Sadly, as I hit my mid-teens, exams, boys, going out, all the usual stuff, took over and although I was still interested in wildlife, it wasn’t something I actively did any more.
Six years ago Paul and I got together and we loved to go for long walks in the countryside. It really helped me unwind after a stressful day in the office. Paul bought me a camera, and that really reignited my passion for nature. When I take a picture there is nothing but that moment, holding my breath, hoping I won’t scare the subject away. There is no past, no future, only the present. Back at home, I love to read up about what I’ve captured, so I learn as I go. It’s utterly absorbing in a totally different way from crime.
What can we expect next from you?
I’m in the process of writing my thirds stand alone psychological thriller, and it’s my most ambitious novel yet. A woman is forced to turn detective when the village she lives in conspires to keep secret what happened to her daughter. Nothing and no one is what they seem, everyone is hiding something, and once she has revealed it all, she will never be the same again…
That sounds brilliant – we’ll all be waiting for it to arrive with anticipation!
Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions Barbara. I found your answers utterly fascinating.