Interview by Angela
First of all, congratulations on the launch of your debut novel. It became an overnight sensation here in the UK being much talked about across social media, and received a vast number of four and five-star reviews in the first few hours after publication. I read Behind Closed Doors two months before it was released before any hype reached my ears, and I instantly knew it would be a biggie for 2016.
Thank you, I hoped that people would take the story of Grace’s desperate plight to their hearts but I never expected the response to be so overwhelmingly positive.
Which books/authors have influenced your writing?
I devoured books when I was young - the first book I ever read was The Mountain of Adventure by Enid Blyton when I was ill in bed with chicken-pox and after that I couldn’t stop reading. I ploughed through every book that she had written and then went on to CS Lewis, Agatha Christie, Jane Austen (I had to read Pride and Prejudice for school and then went on to read the others) and Leon Uris. So I suppose that each of these very different authors influenced my writing in some way.
I felt that the story flowed very well and very quickly. Was the writing of it the same or did you experience writer's block or wonder where the story was going?
No, I never experienced writer’s block, the story – despite its grimness – was surprisingly easy to write, probably because the characters seemed to write it for me. This was especially true of Jack; sometimes, when I read over what I had written the day before, I didn’t know where it had come from and often didn’t remember writing it at all!
What inspired you to write this particular story and how much of the book reflects your life experiences?
I have always been fascinated by what goes on behind closed doors and I once knew a couple who appeared to have a perfect marriage – but then I began to wonder if it wasn’t as perfect as it seemed. It gave me the idea for a story and Behind Closed Doors was born. Although it doesn’t reflect my life experiences – thank goodness! - the story is basically about control and I think there are always times when we don’t feel that we have control of our lives, when we are stifled by the demands of others – children, family, colleagues.
The characters Grace and Jack had a very real feel to them and when I was reading the book, I really was Grace. Does it feel creepy that you've created these very real characters or do you just see them as a figment of your imagination?
I feel proud of having created Grace and Millie but I’m very surprised – and a little appalled - that I could create someone as horrible as Jack. I really didn’t set out to make him as evil as he is, he just seemed to take over. I hope that nobody like him actually exists; unfortunately, they probably do.
Do you know a real Jack and is he based on an actual person?
Gosh, no! But, as I said above, there are very evil people out there, you only have to read the newspapers to know that people just as abhorrent as Jack do exist.
Was there ever an alternative ending to the one you finally gave us?
No, I couldn’t have had it ending any other way. I didn’t actually know how it would happen but it came about quite naturally, as the story progressed. And the last scene wrote itself - it was an amazing experience when it all came together at the end.
It's an understatement to say there was a little bit of hype around Behind Closed Doors and it has attracted some critical reviews as well as favourable ones. How do you handle the negative feedback?
It’s always good to read what people think of your book, whether it is good or bad. Some of the negative reviews aren’t helpful because they offer no constructive criticism so I prefer to concentrate on those that do. What is important is that my book provokes a reaction in the reader, and it is certainly doing that!
If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
Michael Fassbender for Jack, Emma Stone for Grace and Natalia Goleniowska for Millie.
Just for fun, what are your favourite books, chocolate and wine?
My favourite books are those that tell a good story, my favourite chocolates are anything combined with mint or orange, and my favourite wine is either a white Chablis or a red Pinotage from South Africa.
Read Angela's review of Behind Closed Doors here.