Welcome to another Friday Reads post. My featured book this week is the gripping suspense novel, I’ll Never Tell, by thriller author Philippa East, which will be published on January 5th. So grab a cuppa, get cosy, and let’s find out a bit more about the book then get chatting to Philippa. 😊
“To the outside world, the Goodlights are perfect.
Julia is a lawyer, Paul a stay-at-home dad who has dedicated his life to helping their daughter Chrissie achieve her dreams as a talented violinist.
But on the night of a prestigious music competition, which has the power to change everything for Chrissie and her family, Chrissie goes missing.
She puts on the performance of a lifetime, then completely disappears. Suddenly every single crack, every single secret that the family is hiding risks being exposed.
Because the Goodlights aren’t perfect. Not even close.”
You can preorder I’ll Never Tell here:
Welcome to my blog Philippa. Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Actually, no! Looking back, I think it’s obvious that writing was the perfect path for me, but I didn’t realise that for a long time. As a child (and now), I read copiously and always wanted to be around books. I used to do quite a bit of creative writing at school, but that fell off my radar when I began to pursue a career in clinical psychology. I came back to writing only around the age of thirty, when for “fun” I decided to try writing a novel. That novel was – and is – terrible, but it sparked my love of writing. I then wrote short stories for many years, which was a great way to practise my craft and learn what it takes to get published. I didn’t try my hand at another novel though until 2015, when I left my full-time job in the NHS to work part-time in my own practice. That novel – published five years later – became my debut, LITTLE WHITE LIES.
That’s an amazing writing journey, Philippa. Has any author inspired you?
I would absolutely have to say Gillian Flynn. Before reading Gone Girl, I really struggled to find any commercial fiction that really appealed to me; I mainly read literary fiction and Penguin classics! Gone Girl showed me that you could write a gripping thriller that also explored really fascinating interpersonal themes with a great prose too. I began reading all the great psychological thrillers that came after then… and ultimately began writing my own 🙂
I really enjoyed Gone Girl too. What do you like writing most?
I actually love the genre I write in (psychological thriller / suspense). For me, the “thriller” genre spans across crime, action and even horror, which gives loads of room to play in. Plus, the “psychological” element means that, in this genre, we are often exploring storylines or themes you might find in what has traditionally been called “women’s fiction”. All together, that lets me write books which hopefully have page-turning plots, but lets me really enjoy my fascination with the psychology of what to means to be human.
Do you have a special place for writing?
My spouse and I moved home in August 2019, and a big selling point of our new house was that it has a little office tucked away from the rest of the rooms, up its own little flight of stairs. It is the perfect space for me to write in – personal and private (Virginia Woolfe would approve!). It can get a bit chilly in winter, so I often take a hot water bottle in with me, but it really is a special place. Only my cat Mimi ever really goes in there, other than me. Sometimes when I am feeling very sluggish, I write in bed so that I can kid my brain that I am “just relaxing”. When it comes to generating ideas or grappling with plot problems, you’ll usually find me tramping through the Lincolnshire countryside on a long walk.
Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Good question! With LITTLE WHITE LIES (my first published book) I totally pantsed. It subsequently took me about 25 drafts to knock it into shape! With my second and third books (SAFE AND SOUND and I’LL NEVER TELL), I started out with really formal outlines, signed off by my agent and editor… but then as a full manuscrupt, those outlines somehow didn’t work. These days, I’d say I’m a “plantser”. I cannot plot a whole book out in advance, but I do try to get a general sense of the overall shape and story arc, and the basic cast of characters. I generally fill a whole notebook with story ideas, ideas for scenes, character descriptions and plot points, but in a very loose, scribbly way. I will then set about writing the first draft, and that will reveal further details and surprises as I go.
Is your writing ever inspired by your family or real life incidents?
Not consciously(!)… but every time I look back on a novel I have written, I usually realise there is something personal I was exploring in there the whole time. I think, as authors, we can’t help but letting a bit of ourselves seep into our work. In fact, I find it hard to write a story that doesn’t have some kind of personal resonance for me in terms of the themes I am exploring. I write (I think) to make sense of my experience and all the things I see in the world around me. Of course, I dress this up in a fictional story which I hope will entertain my readers, but every story is at some level personal to me too.
What are you writing at the moment?
The last year or so I have been primarily focused on my third book, I’LL NEVER TELL. It’s about the Goodlight family, who are seemingly perfect on the outside, but hiding some heartbreaking secrets… I am incredibly excited about this book, which is out in just a few weeks time on 5th January (and available to preorder now!). It features a teenage violinist who vanishes right after giving a jaw-dropping performance in a national competition – blowing her family’s world apart. I’m a violinist myself, having played from the age of about eight, so I really enjoyed putting all that experience into this book!
What inspired you to write this book?
I remember “seeing” two scenes very clearly in my mind when I was starting to develop ideas for this book. One was of a mother and father (Julia and Paul) driving through a foreign country to “rescue” their daughter even as their marriage unravels at the same time. In my head was the line “as they draw ever nearer the place where they hope against all odds to find their daughter, Julia is beset by a terrible, terrible suspicion…” I didn’t know what the suspicion was, but I wanted to write the story to find out!
The other scene was of a teenage daughter waking her father up very early in the morning so that they can go for a training run together. In the scene, it was hard to tell who was pushing whom: was the daughter more determined to drive herself onwards than the father? Or was the father the one relentlessly pushing her forwards? That scene ultimately became chapter two of I’LL NEVER TELL 🙂
It sounds a fascinating story. What time of the day do you write best?
I generally write (or start writing) in the mornings and write through the middle part of the day. I never write in the evenings – my brain doesn’t really work then! When I am writing (drafting), I cannot work for long periods. I try to write 2,000 words a day, and I can manage that within about two hours. After that, I’m wiped! When editing, I can manage up to 6-7 hours per day. I write Saturday to Wednesday. On Thursday and Fridays, I am working in my day job as a clinical psychologist.
What are your hobbies?
Well, reading, of course! I read every day, like sleeping and eating. I also love running and swimming to keep fit and get away from the desk. I also perform with my spouse in an Americana folk duo called The Miracle Cure. We regularly gig around our home county of Lincolnshire and further afield, and you can find us on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/miraclecuremusic. I also still have my ‘day job’ right now, working part-time as a clinical psychological and therapist, which feels like a good balance with my writing.
What advice would you give to other writers?
Study the writing craft. There are basic elements that make stories work for readers. These include: show vs tell, point-of-view, psychic distance and – so importantly – story structure (e.g. the “hero’s journey”; the “five commandments of storytelling”). It takes hard work, but getting to grips with these can be the quickest way to improve as a writer. Offering feedback and critique on others’ work can be a great way to refine these technical abilities. It is SO much easier to spot and correct things in others’ work, so this can be an important stepping stone for doing it successfully with your own.
Great advice, Philippa. Thanks for dropping by to talk to us today. I hope your book soars!
Philippa East grew up in Scotland and originally studied Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Oxford. After graduating, she moved to London to train as a Clinical Psychologist and worked in NHS mental health services for over ten years. Her debut novel LITTLE WHITE LIES was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger. She has since published two further psychological suspense novels, SAFE AND SOUND and I’LL NEVER TELL, and is currently working on her fourth. Philippa now lives in the Lincolnshire countryside with her spouse and cat, and alongside her writing she continues to work as a psychologist and therapist.
Author Contact Links
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Philippa-East/e/B07S3JQDGK (Hit the yellow “Follow” button!)