A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
1) Now You See Me is a dark, tense thriller with a euphoric ending that made me feel certain the book would make a brilliant film. The sort of film that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats but delivers a satisfying, upbeat resolution. Did you always know the novel would end this way, or did you ever consider a bleaker ending? I should add that I am a fan of uplifting endings.
Thank you! Actually you’ve asked a very interesting question because an earlier version of the book had a far more ambiguous – and indeed bleaker – ending, where you didn’t know what had happened to the missing boy. But as I changed Hannah’s story arc in a significant way, as the result of some very perceptive feedback, I rethought the conclusion as well. Like you, I do like an uplifting end to a story, though of course I know real life rarely obliges.
2) Talking of real life, can you tell us a little about your inspiration for the novel? Is it true that it’s loosely based on a real event? And if so, how did it feel to put a fictional twist on a real person’s story? Did you ever feel conflicted about this?
Now You See Me began life as an article I read in one of the Sunday supplements, some years ago, about a boy who went missing in America. It was almost too extraordinary to believe – and yet it was true. I found myself thinking there and then that it would make a great basis for a YA novel.
However, it took a long time to find a way in, to take the essence of what happened and recreate it in fictional form. In many ways it’s harder than simply making things up, because you have to try and ignore what actually happened. It was quite a while before I realised I didn’t have to stick to the facts – difficult for a journalist! – but could just take the essence of the story, the situation, the emotions, and play them through with different characters. Indeed, some of the facts were so odd that no one would believe them if I’d put them in the novel.
3) Ooh, intriguing! What kind of facts?
Little details about the real life event that honestly beggar belief. But I’m not going to say more or I’ll give the game away.
4) Is Now You See Me your first published book? If so, has your experience of the publishing industry been largely as you expected it to be, or different?
I think it’s been much as I expected, but then I have a number of friends who are writers and a previous taster of published life, with my earlier picture book. Even so, I’ve been really impressed by the energy and commitment of my editors, and everyone else responsible for bringing the novel from manuscript to something that actually appears on bookshelves.
5) Since you’ve mentioned bookshelves, I’ve recently found myself automatically scanning Twitter photographs of bookcases to see if my book is there – do you ever do that?
Ha ha, you’ve set up some kind of spyware on my laptop, right? I totally do that. And even spotted it once or twice.
6) How does it feel to receive reviews?
Terrifying. Honestly, it wasn’t until I got my first rating that it hit me that my book was out there, in the public domain, and people could say what they liked about it. The sense of exposure came as a terrible shock. Like one of those dreams where you find you’re naked at a party. Only real.
7) What are you working on at the moment?
I’m neck deep in edits for my next book, Better Left Buried. And hoping the title won’t prove prophetic.
8) If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?
Stop all the bloody agonising and get on with it.
9) It is a Vulpes Libris tradition to ask our interview subjects for book recommendations, so please tell us which five books we should rush out and buy/borrow/steal (but not steal, because depriving authors of royalties or Public Lending Right would be very uncool).
Ooh, I love this question like this. I’m gonna say your own Blue, Lisa, cos I read it recently and loved it, and it made me want to get out into sea and take up surfing, even though I’m far from fit and an utter wimp to boot. Also, on the YA front, We Were Liars by E Lockhart. For adult books I’ll pick The White Hotel by D M Thomas, The Master and Margarita by Mixhail Bulgakov and Le Grand Meulnes by Alain Fournier – three books to amaze your senses then smash your heart into little pieces.
On Monday, Simon will talk about the long-delayed joy of Beverley Nichols.
On Wednesday, we’ll have a Vulpes Random – tbd (EXCITING, no?)
On Friday, Hilary feeds her dreams of actually living in an actual bookshop with Jeremy Mercer’s memoir 'Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs. The Left Bank World of Shakespeare & Co.'