This week the Beautiful Liars Blog Tour continued as I talked to The Quiet Knitter about some of the locations in the book, and shared a couple of exclusive short previews:
‘As a novelist, I’m constantly discovering new things about myself and the way I write. With experience I find that I must be fixed on a location before I can write a word, and being a coastal girl at heart, it’s no surprise that most of my books share a coastal theme. Beautiful Liars is my first departure from the sea – taking us to the diverse locations of rural Derbyshire, modern London and importantly, the Regent’s Canal. Arguably, you could say that I still find myself gravitating towards water …’ To read the full feature, visit The Quiet Knitter here.
Today the Beautiful Liars Blog Tour stops off at The Tattooed Book Geek, for an exclusive interview with book lover and blogger Drew. Here’s a taster – you can read the rest of the interview by following the link at the end:
1. Would you please tell us about Beautiful Liars?
In Beautiful Liars we meet Casey, a strange and solitary woman who moves into a new home and vicariously inhabits the life of the previous owner – by answering a letter in her name. The letter in question comes from TV personality Martha Benn as she attempts to launch an 18-year-old cold case investigation into the disappearance of her childhood friend Juliet. Before long, Casey’s deception takes over her every waking thought, and her desperation to maintain the connection with celebrity Martha starts to border on instability. Is she dangerous? And will her obsession jeopardise Martha’s case? Only time will tell. To read the full interview, visit The Tattooed Book Geek.
This week the Beautiful Liars Blog Tour kicked off in the run-up to eBook release on 19th April! On Wednesday I chatted to Karen at My Reading Corner about the theme of adolescence in my writing, and shared some of my own reading recommendations.
‘I remember that sense of being the outsider, the invisible person beyond the glass, looking in – and I think in life, that’s possibly one of the most unsettling emotions there is.’ To read the full feature, visit My Reading Corner.
My February Newsletter is now live, with details of giveaways, eBook price drops and an exclusive 3-chapter sample of Beautiful Liars!
In other news, Little Sister has now released in Poland, with other countries to follow over the coming weeks and months. It’s fascinating to see the various covers and titles it will trade under – see what you think of Manipulantka by clicking on the READ ME image and visiting my newsletter online.
Thanks for reading x
Collected is a weekly series of articles from Royal Literary Fund writers, and this week’s feature is from me. A few weeks ago, I sent out the question: Writers! What was your best and worst casual job as a teenager? The responses were fascinating (and often amusing), inspiring me to write this piece:
As I reflect on my own development as a writer, I am certain my teen experiences of weekend and holiday work were instrumental in my creative growth, arguably more so than my years spent limping through O levels at the local high school. Growing up in a small seaside community, I yearned for independence and dreamed of escape to ‘other places’. I developed the unnerving suspicion that nothing went unnoticed, that somehow everyone had an eye on each other’s business. My Saturday job in the local chemist confirmed this … read more
I’m over the moon to share the news that I’ll be working on two new thrillers with the team at Trapeze and Orion Publishing – the first being LAKE CHILD, described by editorial director Sam Eades as ‘Flowers in the Attic meets BBC’s The Missing‘. Sam went on to say:
“Working with Isabel Ashdown has been a dream come true and I’m thrilled our partnership will continue. Not only is she a brilliant writer, but she is a huge supporter of other authors and has been with Trapeze since launch. Lake Child is a gripping and claustrophobic family drama, set in a stunning remote location and filled with Isabel’s trademark jawdropping twists and turns.”
I couldn’t be happier to be continuing my writing career with the Orion family, as I told The Bookseller: “Characters – and relationships – are at the heart of my writing inspirations, and together with my agent Kate Shaw, Sam has championed my desire to keep pushing the boundaries of this fascination.” Read the full article here.
Warmest thanks to my wonderful agent Kate and my awesome editor Sam, and to everyone who has supported me along the way – publishers old and new, readers, colleagues, family and friends – your encouragement has made all the difference.
Lake Child will be released in 2019 (Trapeze).
This month I am delighted and honoured to take up my new post as Royal Literary Fund (RLF) Fellow at the University of Chichester, where I will be resident two days a week to offer writing support to all students.
The RLF has been helping writers since its 1790 founder, the Rev David Williams, was moved by the plight of an elderly translator of Plato, Floyer Sydenham, who had died in a debtors’ prison. Today, the RLF continues to help writers, and the Fellowship is just one example of their good work in action.
It’s a particular pleasure for me to be posted in Chichester, where I have strong connections, having studied there as a mature student at the very start of my own writing career. During that period, I gained from time spent with the resident Fellows of those years – Mavis Cheek and Stephen Mollett were both insightful and encouraging to this new writer at a time when I was both uncertain and deeply private about my creative endeavours.
I’m very much looking forward to my time at Chichester, where I’m confident I’ll learn as much from my visiting students as they will from me.
Trapeze Editorial Director Sam Eades asks Isabel six questions about Little Sister:
1) Why did you choose to explore the relationship between sisters? What makes this relationship unique?
I have a little sister (who I love very much) – and, I have a big brother (ditto) – and I’m sandwiched between them, middle child of three. Neither of our parents had a sister, so in a way mine and Bec’s relationship was our own to create, uninformed by strong sister role models. There’s no doubt it’s unique, special, and peculiarly different to relationships with other female friends and relations. There’s an unspoken quality to it – perhaps you feel each other’s joy and pain more intuitively – and so it seemed to me, in a story of secrets and betrayal, you might feel each other’s darkness more clearly too.
2) The novel opens with a missing child. How does this event affect each family member?
How can we ever begin to imagine the horror of losing a child? In Little Sister, baby Daisy goes missing whilst in the care of her aunt, Jess. Unsurprisingly, guilt and blame are strong emotions at work – and with Jess and her sister Emily only recently reunited after years apart, it’s only a matter of time before those emotions break through and old resentments show themselves in new ways.
3) How does the setting – The Isle of Wight – shape the story?
The Isle of Wight is a place I have great affection for. Over the years I’ve spent much time there, either holidaying with the family, or retreating there to walk, write and research. Little Sister is the second book I have firmly located there (the other being Summer of ’76), and in both cases I felt that the island location lent something powerful to the unfolding of drama. I grew up in a small seaside town, and I guess small islands are similar in their way – when big things happen, perhaps they seem even bigger, magnified within the boundaries of the ocean, adding to the sense of claustrophobia and panic that courses through the characters at the heart of the story.
4) Tell us about your fascination with the idea of distorted memory.
Like many of us, I’ve spent much of my life being different things to different people – sister, daughter, mother, partner, friend – and I’m endlessly fascinated by the complexities of family relationships, and the weight of their power. We like to think we are most ourselves with family, but who’s to say which version of us is the best version, the truest version, the most reliable version even? As a writer I’m often drawn to the shadows of family histories – my own included – and find myself wanting to explore the ways in which the memories and consequences of shared events can differ so wildly from person to person. That, in part, is what inspired Little Sister, the idea of inconsistent memory – of distorted memory – ultimately the idea of unreliable truths.
5) You move from present day into flashback in each chapter. What made you choose this style? Was it easy to keep track?
From the first word, I knew the shared histories of Emily and Jess would be fundamental to the telling of this story – it would have been impossible to relate their present day events without filling in some of the gaps of their childhood together. They were born less than twelve months apart, schooled in the same year group, competing over the same friends and attentions. I wanted to know who they were before these altered adults they had become – and so the flashbacks were a vital part of the process. It was surprisingly easy to keep track; the more I wrote about them, the more they grew in strength and clarity, a kind of organic blooming of character and feeling.
6) The book is filled with twists and turns. Did you know how the story was going to end? Or did it surprise you?
When working on a new novel I usually have a good sense of how it starts, what the big (if initially blurry) picture appears to be, and more often than not, a strong idea of where it will end. The hard bit tends to be the eighty to ninety thousand words in between! There are unsettling periods, when you’re not sure where your writing will take you – and then there are those gloriously unexpected moments in the sun when a new twist or revelation shows itself to you, and your heart leaps – and you know it is a better book for it.
Sam Eades, senior commissioning editor at Orion said of the acquisition: ‘The complex relationship between sisters continues to fascinate readers, from Rosamund Lupton’s Sister to SK Tremayne’s The Ice Twins. A sister can be our closest friend, and also our deadliest enemy. What is so clever about Little Sister is that Isabel Ashdown offers something fresh and distinctive. She pairs an unforgettable premise with two intriguing narrative voices that will have readers hooked from the very first page. I’m delighted to have signed Isabel Ashdown to new imprint Trapeze, and she has lots of in-house fans who can’t wait to see what she will write next!’
To read the full article, including comments from Isabel and her agent Kate Shaw, click here.
For all enquiries regarding foreign rights, interviews and review copies please email Sam Eades: Sam.Eades@orionbooks.co.uk
If you’re holidaying on the Isle of Wight this year (which I’d highly recommend), you might like a few book recommendations to get you fully immersed in Wight spirit. Here are ten novels, set on the Isle of Wight, starting with my latest psychological thriller Little Sister:
Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown
After sixteen years apart sisters Jessica and Emily are reunited.
With the past now behind them, the warmth they once shared quickly returns and before long Jess has moved into Emily’s comfortable island home. Life couldn’t be better. But when baby Daisy disappears while in Jess’s care, the perfect life Emily has so carefully built starts to fall apart. Was Emily right to trust her sister after everything that happened before?
Wish You Were Here by Graham Swift
Former dairy farmer Jack Luxton has created a whole new kind of life with his wife Ellie, as comfortable owners of a seaside caravan park on the Isle of Wight, a far cry from his childhood home in Devon. On an autumn day in 2006, he receives the news that his estranged younger brother Tom has been killed in Iraq.
Now, Jack must make a crucial journey to receive his brother’s remains and return to his homeland, a place of unfinished business and painful memories.
Tennyson’s Gift by Lynne Truss
It’s July 1864, in Freshwater on the West side of the Isle of Wight. What happens when the poet Tennyson, the mathematician Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) and the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron are thrown into the company of an American phrenologist Lorenzo Fowler and the painter G. F Watts? The place buzzes with creativity and ego, in a wonderfully comic tale of farce and literary delight. A must-read if you’re planning a visit to the Julia Margaret Cameron exhibitions at Dimbola Lodge in Freshwater Bay.
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
When Bill Masen wakes up blindfolded in hospital there is a bitter irony in his situation. Carefully removing his bandages, he realizes that he is the only person who can see: everyone else, doctors and patients alike, have been blinded by a meteor shower. Now, with civilization in chaos, the triffids – huge, venomous, large-rooted plants able to ‘walk’, feeding on human flesh – can have their day. Locations include Sussex, Wiltshire, London and the Isle of Wight, where a successful colony has been established.
Summer of ’76 by Isabel Ashdown
It’s the start of one of the hottest summers on record with soaring temperatures and weeks without rain; the summer of Abba, T-Rex, Bowie and Roussos; of Martinis, cheesecake and chicken chasseur; of the Montreal Olympics and the Notting Hill riots – the summer Big Ben stopped dead. For 18-year-old Luke Wolff life is looking good, until temperatures rise, and with windows and doors constantly open, long-buried secrets bubble over. Soon the community is gripped by scandal, and everything Luke thought he knew about family and trust is turned on its head.
The Bed I Made by Lucy Whitehouse
When Kate meets a dark, enigmatic man in a Soho bar, she doesn’t hesitate long before going home with him. There is something undeniably attractive about Richard – and irresistibly dangerous, too. Now, after eighteen exhilarating but fraught months, Kate knows she has to finish their relationship and hopes that will be the end of it. Fleeing London for the wintry Isle of Wight, she is determined to ignore the flood of calls and emails from an increasingly insistent Richard. But what began as a nuisance becomes an ever more threatening game of cat and mouse.
England, England by Julian Barnes
As every schoolboy knows, you can fit the whole of England on the Isle of Wight. Grotesque, visionary tycoon Sir Jack Pitman takes the saying literally and does exactly that. He constructs on the island ‘The Project’, a vast heritage centre containing everything ‘English’, from Big Ben to Stonehenge, from Manchester United to the white cliffs of Dover. The project is monstrous, risky, and vastly successful. Barnes’ novel calls into question the idea of replicas, truth vs fiction, reality vs art, nationhood, myth-making, and self-exploration.
No Escape by N. J. Cooper
‘Spike Falconer is in prison on the Isle of Wight – convicted of murder. What made him choose four innocent strangers, a family picnicking, as his victims? Why did he need to kill? Forensic psychologist Karen Taylor comes to probe the mind of this psychopath. Trying to recover from the death of her husband and the dark memories surrounding it, Karen is drawn into life on the Island.’
– source: Waterstones
The Trespasser by D. H. Lawrence
‘D. H. Lawrence’s second novel The Trespasser is based on the tragic love affair of his friend Helen Corke and her violin teacher. After reading Miss Corke’s diary, Lawrence first urged her to write her story and then received her permission to do it himself. Between his rapid composition of the first draft in the spring and summer of 1910 and his final revisions in early 1912, Lawrence’s view of Helen Corke, and consequently of her story, changed. The manuscript survived’
– source: Amazon
Glasshopper by Isabel Ashdown
Portsmouth, 1984. Thirteen-year-old Jake’s world is unravelling as his father and older brother leave home, and his mother, Mary, plunges into alcoholic freefall. When his parents reconcile, life finally seems to be looking up. Their first family holiday, announced over scampi and chips in the Royal Oak, promises to be the icing on the cake – until long-unspoken family secrets begin to surface. Locations include 1950s Brighton, 1980s Portsmouth, the Dordogne, and the Isle of Wight where Jake holidays with his cousins in the West of the island.
*2020 Update to add:
The Evidence Against You by Gillian McAllister
‘It’s the day Izzy’s father will be released from jail. She has every reason to feel conflicted – he’s the man who gave her a childhood filled with happy memories. But he has also just served seventeen years for the murder of her mother. Now, Izzy’s father sends her a letter. He wants to talk, to defend himself against each piece of evidence from his trial. But should she give him the benefit of the doubt? Or is her father guilty as charged, and luring her into a trap?’
– source: Waterstones