Today I’m pleased to welcome author Barbara Copperthwaite to the blog. Barbara is the author of Invisible and her latest novel, Flowers for the Dead, was published on 2 September 2015. Barbara kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about Flowers for the Dead.
Flowers For The Dead is a psychological crime thriller where the killer is as much a victim as the women he murders. Adam, is a man who will do anything to make the woman he loves happy – even kill her.
The plot follows him in the present, as he stalks his latest victim, making her wonder if she is losing her mind; and in flashbacks explains how an innocent child was so tragically warped that he became the serial killer he is today.
His latest victim, Laura Weir, is already struggling with her own demons after witnessing her entire family being wiped out. She’s spent most of the last four years wishing she had died with them. Her vulnerability makes her exactly the kind of woman Adam can’t resist.
But only now that Laura is about to die does she realize how much she wants to live.
2. What inspired the story?
A pint of milk! I was living alone at the time, and thought I needed to buy some milk, but when I checked in my fridge there was a full carton beside the almost empty one. I didn’t remember buying it, but just shrugged to myself: ‘Oh, well, it must have been me because there’s no one else it could be!’ Then I laughed to myself thinking: ‘Unless it’s a crazed stalker breaking in and buying me milk.’
I couldn’t shake the idea of how creepy it would be to have someone breaking into my home doing ‘nice’ things for me. How long would it be before I stopped writing things off as my bad memory, or stress (I was working incredibly long hours at the time, and was very absent-minded!)?
Slowly but surely, Adam was born.
3. Flowers for the Dead was picked as a critic’s choice in the Sunday Mirror recently. What did that mean to you as a writer? Does it create more pressure for the next book for instance?
I was absolutely over the moon when the Sunday Mirror chose me over Lee Child! I mean, come on, he’s sold literally millions of books all over the world, then there is little old me, an indie author…it’s simply impossible for me to comprehend that they made me their recommended read. I still feel stunned when I think about it.
It’s been a huge boost in confidence for me, and given me the faith to keep going. There is pressure on the next book to be even better than Flowers For The Dead, but it’s pressure I put on myself.
I particularly felt it after publishing my debut, Invisible. When I had started writing it, I hadn’t even been sure I was capable of finishing a novel, let alone that it would be any good – but as it was my first go I almost expected to flop, and every success was a wonderful surprise. When it hit Number 6 on Amazon’s best seller list, I was elated. But then came the fear that I was a ‘one hit wonder’, and that I wasn’t capable of creating a second decent story.
Now, I know that I can. And now I’m wondering: can I do it a third time, and be even better?
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 strange hybrid of the two, really. I have a skeleton plan in my head, but I don’t know how I’ll get from point A to point B. And sometimes, as story and characters develop, I change my mind and head off in a completely new direction that hadn’t occurred to me before.
At the very beginning of the process, I’ll also sometimes write random scenes that have come to me from nowhere. Some stay, some don’t make the final cut, but those sections are always my leaping off point.
Invisible took me almost two years to write, because I only had time to work on it during my daily commute to the magazine I edited. Now, I’m a freelance journalist, working from home, so it was much easier to concentrate on Flowers For The Dead. I started working on it in January, and the first draft took me six weeks. The final edit with my editor was done and dusted by August, and I got the cover done at the same time (my partner, Paul, does the artwork for me, so I’m very lucky).
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
The best way for me to relax is to spend some time with my dog, Scamp. We go to the park together, where I photograph wildlife, and make notes for the nature blog I keep as a hobby (yes, more writing). It’s a totally different way of being creative, and one I find incredibly relaxing. And, of course, I read – a lot!
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Argh! The thought of only reading one book for the rest of my life is quite horrifying! I do have favourites that I go back to again and again, though.
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens; Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen; Far From The Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy; Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert; The Talented Mr Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith.
Writing them down, I’ve just realised the main characters in all of them are incredibly flawed. It’s obviously something I’m drawn to as both a reader and an author.
I’m also a huge fan of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. In homage to Rebecca, I chose never to name my character in Invisible, which was a fantastic device for showing just how invisible she had become in her own life.
Although I do have these favourites, I also love discovering new authors such as: Clare Mackintosh (I Let You Go), Paula Hawkins (The Girl on the Train), Ben McPherson (A Line of Blood), and Claire Kendal (The Book of You).
So, um, that’s a very long-winded way of saying I can’t answer that question!
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?
It would probably be ‘why did you decide to make a serial killer a sympathetic character?’
The ‘bad guy’ in my previous novel, Invisible, was a psychopath, so this time I wanted to create someone who was made bad by circumstance. Initially, I only wanted to show Adam’s back story as an explanation of how he had become this monster, but somewhere along the way I found myself pitying him.
It was a massive risk to create such a complex character; my editor warned me that it might put a lot of people off, but we both agreed that he was too fascinating to change. Besides, I think people like having perceptions challenged.
Thanks for answering my questions and appearing on the blog.
About the book:
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?
The ebook edition of Flowers for the Dead is currently only 99p on Amazon. (correct at time of posting 1/1/2015)