Today I’m very pleased to welcome Gilly Macmillan to the blog. Gilly’s debut novel, Burnt Paper Sky, was published by Piatkus on 27 August 2015. Today Gilly kindly answers a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about Burnt Paper Sky.
Burnt Paper Sky is a psychological thriller that tells the story of a single mother, Rachel, whose son Ben goes missing while they are out walking the dog together. The story is narrated by Rachel and also by DI Jim Clemo, the detective in charge of the investigation to find Ben and it takes place over the nine days following Ben’s disappearance.
2. Where did the inspiration come from for the book?
I wanted to try to write a psychological thriller because I love reading them, and especially those in the domestic noir genre, because I think a thriller is even more compelling when you can imagine that the events in it might happen to you. As a starting point I decided to try to think of what my worst nightmare would be and, as a mother, it was to have my child go missing, and not to know what had happened to them. After that I began to get interested in how going through such a dreadful thing might feel to the child’s mother, particularly once the media get involved and the story breaks out into the public domain and every little thing that the family do is judged by everybody.
3. Given the subject area of Burnt Paper Sky do you think that the world is now too quick to lay the blame for a child’s disappearance, that is has trial by media sapped away public sympathies and made them the exception rather than the norm?
That’s a really interesting question. As I was writing ‘Burnt Paper Sky’ I did a lot of research into this, and watched the reaction on social and traditional media to several real life cases of child disappearance. One of the main things I thought was that the speed at which we can share and react to information released about these cases, as well as the way that we can read the reactions of other people, does encourage us to make judgements and cast blame very early on. We all become armchair detectives and commentators, and since these cases are so terrible, we also experience very strong reactions to them, through fear as much as anything, and this can lead to people getting caught up in a sort of online hysteria and forgetting that reporting only ever gives us a fraction of the real story, and that’s never enough to base a judgement on. Having said that, I’m sure that both online and away from the computer screen many people do remain sympathetic to the families involved, but they’re not necessarily those who are loudest on social media.
4. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel?
I’m a real ‘wing it’ writer! I started ‘Burnt Paper Sky’ with only the first scene in the woods in my head, and a general idea of what I wanted the outcome for the family to be, but nothing more! I get my best ideas when I’m actually writing so I tend to just get started and see where the story takes me. The first draft of ‘Burnt Paper Sky’ was written in about a year, but it took eighteen months after that to get it ready for publication, as I had to do rewrites for both my agent and my publisher. In contrast, my second book, which I’ve just finished, took just 9 months!
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I read a lot, it’s an obsession, and I read really widely. I also love cooking, walking my dogs and spending time with my kids. Simple pleasures!
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Oh my goodness! That is probably the most difficult question I’ve been asked for ages! I think it might be ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, just because it is so perfect, but I have so many favourites I’d probably give you a different answer if you asked me tomorrow!
7. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. What question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
I would love to be asked about my second book, because I’ve just finished it, and it’s pretty much all I’ve been thinking about for the past nine months. It’s another psychological thriller in the domestic noir genre, and it’s intense and claustrophobic and takes place over a very short time frame. The characters thrilled and unnerved me as I was writing it. I’m really looking forward to seeing the cover, which I’m told might be ready shortly. Called Butterfly in the Dark it’s going to be out, so far as I know, in 2016.
Thanks very much for answering my questions and for appearing on my blog.
Thank you very much for inviting me. It’s been a pleasure J
About the book:
“A gripping psychological thriller about a missing child and how the public can turn on a mother following a single, momentary mistake
Rachel Jenner turned her back for a moment. Now her eight-year-old son Ben is missing.
But what really happened that fateful afternoon?
Caught between her personal tragedy and a public who have turned against her, there is nobody left who Rachel can trust. But can the nation trust Rachel?
The clock is ticking to find Ben alive.
WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?”
My review should be here but I’ve not managed to read the book yet! However I can’t wait to get to it and it’s one of my next reads so keep your eyes peeled for a review in the very near future.