I’m so pleased to be part of the launch celebrations for One Little Mistake by Emma Curtis. One Little Mistake will be published in e-book on 23rd February 2017 and paperback on 15th June 2017 and is available for purchase here.
I so love a psychological thriller and am delighted to have the opportunity to interview Emma Curtis about One Little Mistake today.
One Little Mistake
Vicky Seagrave is blessed: three beautiful children, a successful, doting husband, great friends and a job she loves. She should be perfectly happy.
When she risks everything she holds dear on a whim, there’s only person she trusts enough to turn to.
But Vicky is about to learn that one mistake is all it takes; that if you’re careless with those you love, you don’t deserve to keep them . . .
An Interview with Emma Curtis
Hi Emma and welcome to Linda’s Book Bag. Firstly, can you tell us a bit about yourself please?
Hi Linda. Thank you so much for putting this together. It’s my first interview for One Little Mistake and so is a great opportunity to work out what my responses and feelings about the book are. I am in my early fifties, married and live in London and have two grown up children. I’ve wanted to write for a long time but started after I had my second baby and needed something to fill my mind. I had no luck but learnt a great deal. I worked as a secretary for many years and then started writing again when my oldest went to University. Four years and several manuscripts later I found a wonderful agent, Victoria Hobbs at AM Heath (the hardest thing, harder than writing or finding a publisher, is getting representation.) I was lucky enough to be picked up by Transworld.
(I think talent might have something to do with it too!)
And tell us a little about One Little Mistake without spoiling the plot please!
One Little Mistake came from unresolved feelings of guilt about early motherhood. When I had my first child we were living in a one bed flat in Stockwell, my husband was travelling a lot for work and I became very isolated. I was young and my friendship group hadn’t reached that stage yet, so I was on my own. I can’t look back at that time without wincing in horror. It never occurred to me to ask for help from family or doctors. It could have gone badly wrong, but fortunately my son and daughter survived my sketchy mothering and have grown into grounded and gorgeous young adults. One Little Mistake is about a young mother whose moment of madness puts her in a position where she can no longer trust the people closest to her.
When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?
I think the moment I thought, I can do this, was when I won first prize in a Short Story competition. It was like I had been given permission to say, I am a writer. That was a wonderful moment for me for which I’ll be forever grateful. It spurred me on.
What drew you to a psychological thriller as opposed to any other genre in your writing?
Because I love them! I am an eclectic reader and read all types of fiction, but a good domestic noir, psychological thriller is my guilty pleasure.
From a technical point of view I do need boundaries, a kind of scaffold to the novel, because that scaffold frees me to write how I like and what I like within it. Does that make sense? When I first started, I tried Mills and Boon and although I had no success, I loved what you could do within their rules – those came on a cassette back then. A climbing rose flourishes on a good solid trellis after all.
There seems to be a proliferation of women writing psychological thrillers. Why do you think that is and how far do you think different genres are gender driven?
You are right, there are. I don’t know why that is. I know that I love watching that sort of drama on TV but my husband and son won’t touch it. They cope well with violence, blood-curdling torture and endless decapitations in the likes of Game of Thrones and Vikings, but the thought of a child going missing from an ordinary family just like theirs – well they just can’t hack it. Perhaps we need a psychiatrist for that one.
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
Writing fresh material is the easiest aspect. Self-editing is the toughest. Somewhere in the middle is doing the work that my editor wants – particularly because it often involves restructuring. Staying focussed can be hard, particularly when I’m publicising a current book. I spend too much time on Twitter when I should be writing.
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
I like to start early and finish at lunch time. I work in different places depending on the time of year. In the spring, summer and Autumn I use my shed. In the winter I set up in the spare bedroom. Now that my children have sort of moved home (they keep coming back!) I have plenty of choice. I use Voice Recognition software these days so I have to be out of earshot or I get self-conscious. After lunch, I walk for an hour or so, thinking through the next scene or working out solutions to problems (or ways out of corners I’ve written myself into!) I’m lucky to live in such a beautiful part of London. I don’t work in the evenings because it keeps me awake at night.
How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?
I go to the places and walk and I read round my subject and central theme. Without giving anything away, to get into Katya’s head, I read memoirs by ordinary women who had been through truly horrible experiences as children.
At the initial research stage of the novel I’m writing currently, I’ve listened to Youtube videos made by people who have left the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s fascinating, shocking and has been a real eyeopener. I’m hoping to meet a survivor to discuss how it really feels, and have been putting feelers out.
One Little Mistake arises out of quite a prosaic domestic situation. To what extent do you think that everyday life can inspire dramatic fiction?
I know exactly what you mean. I’ve written scenes using events that have actually happened to me, only to be told that readers will find it hard to believe.
Domesticity is so much more interesting to me than a glamourous backdrop. I have no interest in writing thrillers set in huge corporations, politics, or drug cartels. There are authors who do that brilliantly. I like the minutiae of family life. I know from experience that it doesn’t take much to wind a relative up the wrong way. Crime and murder is so much more interesting when it happens between people who know each other well, don’t you think?
(I do indeed – and I also know exactly what you mean about everyday life being beyond belief at times…)
Trust is a central theme to One Little Mistake. Which came first – the concept of trust and then the narrative, or the narrative and then the exploration of trust – or did one arise naturally out of the other?
I’d say they arose naturally. I had my premise and an idea or where I wanted the novel to end up.
When you were writing One Little Mistake what techniques did you consciously employ to create such tension?
Write the scene. Go back and slow it down. Go back and slow it down some more. Add detail. And if I can bear it go back…Something else you can do is reach a crucial point then frustrate your reader by inserting another scene. It can’t be gratuitous padding, it has to move the plot forward, but the reader will be desperate to get back to the cliffhanger.
How important do you think social media is to authors?
I know that some authors don’t use it and do perfectly well without, but I think it’s increasingly important. It’s vital to me. Sad to say, I’m not great at isolation and Twitter and The Prime Writers keep me feeling connected. As for whether Twitter influences sales, it entirely depends who you ask, or who is giving the Media talk. Book bloggers are a growing phenomenon and the great thing is that they are connecting more and more with each other and authors both on social media and in the real world. I was delighted to meet Bloggers in the flesh at Louise Beech’s launch of A Mountain in My Shoe. Anyone who wants to sell a product needs a decent footprint on the internet and it’s there, it’s free and it’s common sense to use it. I have no time for people who are snotty about it. (Get quite hot under the collar actually!)
If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?
The thought makes me feel panicky! I have no idea. I think I’d get very bored. I’ve always liked doing up wrecks so maybe some more of that.
Do you have other interests that give you ideas for writing?
I’m curious about other people’s lives but I don’t know if that came before the writing or developed from it.
(Oh – I think all writers are inherently nosy!)
If you could choose to be a character from One Little Mistake, who would you be and why?
I’d be Jenny. She is unflappable, down to earth and without pretentions.
If One Little Mistake became a film, who would you like to play Vicky and why would you choose them?
Nicola Walker without hesitation. Her face is wonderful, all her emotions are written there. I think she’s an amazing actress.
If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that One Little Mistake should be their next read, what would you say?
Wow! That is hard. If you don’t count the title this makes 15! Or is that too cheeky?
You’ll love One Little Mistake. It’s a complex, spinetingling suspense that will keep you up all night.
And what can we expect next from Emma Curtis?
My next novel is a psychological suspense about Joanna, whose Jehovah’s Witness family have shunned her since she left the faith, and Andrew, whose family were murdered twenty-five years ago. They haven’t seen each other since and when they meet again, it feels right. Who else could possibly understand what it’s like to be without a family?
The discovery of a corpse means the case is reopened and a fresh look taken at what Andrew did that night. How badly does Joanna want to believe in his innocence? And how much is she prepared to overlook and excuse?
Crikey – that sounds amazing – I look forward to reading it! Thanks so much for your time in answering my questions Emma.
About Emma Curtis
Emma Curtis was born in Brighton and brought up in London. Her fascination with the darker side of domestic life inspired her to write One Little Mistake, her first psychological suspense. She has two children and lives in Richmond with her husband.
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