It was very cold last night but there was a warm welcome for Emma Curtis and Amanda Robson at West Barnes Library. Our ‘Lady Thrillers’ came to talk about their latest books – The Night You Left (Emma) and Envy (Amanda). Both are psychological thrillers and we started off looking at the genre.
Both authors felt that psychological thrillers are more domestic and about relationships. The culprit is more likely to be someone the protagonist knows. I asked about unreliable narrators. Emma thought that everyone is unreliable. We all have our own version of events. Amanda likes creating an unreliable narrator. She loves putting in the little lies (or big ones).
Emma and Amanda told us more about their own books. Emma had her blurb for The Night You Left printed out. Can I remember it? No but hopefully I can give you the gist! In the present day storyline, Grace and Nick have been together for a few years when he proposes. Grace accepts. The next day Nick disappears. In the past, Nick is a teenage boy who goes away with his family and two other families. The holiday is difficult and fraught and ends in tragedy. Amanda’s book, Envy, is about Faye, a small-time model who is loved by three people – her husband and two stalkers! Faye knows that her husband’s friend, Jonah, likes her but she’s about to find out how infutated he is with her. But she knows nothing about Erica, the woman who watches her from behind the curtain of her flat.
I asked Emma and Amanda about when they started writing. They both had the same situation – husbands very busy at work and children almost grown-up and leaving home. There was almost a panicky thought of ‘What do I do next?’ Both came to the conclusion it was time to do something for themselves and writing was the answer. As a result, they were published but it took a long time before they found agents and publishers. [I didn’t say this at the time but I found their experience so encouraging – it’s spurring me to keep going.]
Although the names on the covers of the books say Emma Curtis and Amanda Robson, these are actually pen names. Emma originally had one book published under her real name but it didn’t do as well as expected. She was contracted to write two books so her editor suggested a change of name and Emma Curtis was born. Amanda’s publisher was concerned that her surname – Gillis – could be difficult to spell so Amanda went with Robson instead. She also changed her first name and became Amanda Robson. Having a different name has been useful. There are some raunchy scenes in her books and a name change has spared her sons some blushes!
Psychological thrillers are very twisty. I asked Emma and Amanda if they do a lot of planning. Emma has an outline that she sticks to. She doesn’t have a detailed chapter plan but does know where she’s going. With multiple viewpoints and two timelines, The Night You Left, was particularly tricky. Keeping track of dates was particularly important. Amanda also does a lot of planning and has cards for each chapter. She also has multiple viewpoints.
I asked about setting as Envy is clearly set in Twickenham but the location for The Night You Left is more vague. Amanda likes to have a clear setting. Her first book Obsession was based on Twickenham but she gave it a different name. As the book was about marriages and affairs and had a lot of sex in it, she thought it better to keep the place fictional. Her second, Guilt, is set in Bristol. The inside of Faye’s house in Envy is loosely based on Amanda’s own and one friend recognised it when reading. Emma prefers to keep her location vague. I worked out it was SW London and near a common but there are quite a few in that area. Keeping it unclear means she avoids someone recognising a particular place or house or person!
One of the questions from the audience was about research. Emma does a lot for her novels and for her latest she’s signed up to do a counselling course – it could be a whole new career as well. Amanda’s current manuscript has a lot of Forensics in it. Although she has a Science background, she’s had to get a lot of help from experts in the field.
The evening came to an end all too soon. I’d like to thank Emma Curtis and Amanda Robson for coming and to the Friends of West Barnes Library for hosting the event.
We’re having a break now over Christmas and New Year and will be back on Monday 27th January for a special 3 for 2 offer – Barbara Nadel, Derek Farell and Valentina Giambanco will be coming to tell us about their latest novels.