Thursday, 4 February 2016

Q & A with Anouska Knight

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

1.    Did you always dream of being a writer?

I’d really like to say yes to this. That I get to write for a living now because I knew exactly what I wanted for myself and was dedicated and savvy enough to make it happen… but the truth is, as much as I’ve always loved to write, when it comes to careers I don’t think I ever even considered it. A bit like rock-stardom I suppose, or movie-making. I’d have thought of writing professionally as something only the fortunate few got to do, something most likely out of the average Joe’s reach. Hooray for getting it wrong! As usual.

2.    Your newest novel is called Letting You Go, what is it about?

Letting You Go is about a family’s journey back from the brink of estrangement and the damage people inadvertently manage to do to one another, particularly loved ones, by holding onto secrets. Even those secrets that are kept with the best intentions.
Alex Foster is the central character in the book and she has a huge mountain to climb when her lovely mum Blythe falls ill and Alex has to return to the hometown she’s avoided since her little brother’s death a decade before. Alex hasn’t only been avoiding her hometown and its memories though, she’s also been keeping her distance from the man who couldn’t forgive her for not watching Dillon closely enough. Her dad.
Alex’s part in what happened to Dill is indisputable, but when she does return home Alex is confronted by more than just the old ghosts she left behind and quickly finds out that she’s not the only person who’s played a starring role in her family’s heartache. 

3.    What was your inspiration for the book?

I think I tend to write about issues that strike an uneasy chord with me, either as a mum or sister or friend etc, so quite often topics that worry me personally ping into my head and thankfully give me something to write about and make me feel super grateful I’m not in my characters’ shoes, poor buggers.
The triggering event of Alex’s journey in this story, Dill’s accident, was an avoidable tragedy in Alex’s eyes and in the eyes of her fragmented family too, so Alex having to get through life bearing the weight of her brother’s death seemed such an awful concept to me it had me hooked fairly early on. Alex’s main issue of guilt, how easy her initial mistake was for anyone to make and how her family unravelled because of it made me feel more for Alex than I have done for any of my characters so far. It’s too easy to think of people in simple terms of being either goodies or baddies but none of us are infallible and good people cock up too and that was what I wanted Letting You Go to be about.

4.    Can you tell us more about the main character(s)?

The story mostly follows Alex, but her younger sister Jem is on a fairly big journey of her own through this book too. Jem’s quite the contrast to Alex. Unlike her big sister, Jem’s been afforded the chance to grow up and flourish without the crippling burden of such a tragic accident on her shoulders so, unlike Alex, Jem still enjoys a close bond with their dad, Ted, and is a much feistier, self-assured character. That said, Jem’s still keeping a few things to herself and also has to take a gamble on difficult truths over easy secrets at the risk of causing further upset within her already fraught family.
Ted Foster, Alex and Jem’s dad, is one of my favourite characters. He might be a strong-willed workhorse of a man but his family is his weakness and Ted has made a few bad calls over the years as he’s stumbled to protect the women he loves from the unpleasant realities of small-town scandals.
When Ted originally found out why Alex was so distracted the day Dillon fell into the river, he couldn’t ever see a way to accept that Alex’s then boyfriend, Finn, was anything but a self-serving bad influence on his daughter, so when Alex returns home to support her ill mother and Alex and Finn’s paths inevitably cross again, Ted’s dislike for his daughter’s childhood sweetheart is rekindled, adding further pressure to an already fragile reconciliation with Alex.  

5.    Where and when do you write your stories?

Argh, wherever and whenever I can! I have a one-year-old son, Jesse, who pretty much dictates the parameters of any productivity around here. I’m writing this now while he briefly snores on the sofa next to me, but mostly I work late into the night when the rest of the rabble’s asleep. Letting You Go was a bit more tense than usual because it was largely written well after normal people’s bedtimes, sandwiched between Jesse’s four-hourly breast-feeds and the sleep that had to be factored in somewhere before the other kids were getting up for school, but we got there in the end…somehow! Newborns or not though, I’ll always be a night owl I think. Sleep is for wimps! That said, when I think about super-organised authors tapping away in quiet houses floodlit with afternoon sun, my lip does curl a bit.

6.    What do you do and enjoy when you’re not writing?

Fresh air. I live right by a big old area of forestland called Cannock Chase and love to blow the cobwebs away up there with Knighty and our delightful little hoodlums. Nature’s good for the soul, I just wish walking around in it didn’t take so much time out of the day or I’d be a-wandering all over the place.
Any sort of escapism is good though. After completing a novel I try to cram in as many books, films and box-sets as poss before I start feeling a bit slobby. Any free time left over around the family and housework and mundane to-do lists usually goes on food and cocktails with the girls, who usually haven’t seen me for half a year by that point.

7.    Can you tell us more about your debut novel Since You’ve Been Gone?

Ah, Since You’ve Been Gone. My first! I still can’t believe I got to write that book! Or that it was published by such a fantastic team and was on the TV and all of that wonderful loveliness. That was such a special time for us, I’ll love everything about that experience forever.
Sorry, rambling on!
So the story centers on Holly, owner of a bespoke cake shop, at a time when she’s just about picking herself up after the sudden death of her husband, Charlie. At least that’s what Holly’s trying to put over to her friends and family in hopes they’ll just leave her alone to suffer her devastation privately. 
Holly’s going through the motions, getting through her workload each week, when a spiteful cake-order sets her on a collision course with the Argyll’s, a father and son pairing whose biggest concerns in life seem to centre on debauchery and making money.
Ciaran Argyll and his polished upbringing couldn’t be more removed from Holly’s beloved Charlie and the down-to-earth, simple life Holly’s heart is still broken without. But Holly isn’t the only one with wounds to heal and she of all people should know that it’s easier for some people to survive their lives hidden behind a carefully constructed façade.
Since You’ve Been Gone is about Holly opening herself up to the unknown and gambling on love again despite knowing first-hand the costs involved when love is cut short.

8.    If you could switch places with a character from a book, who would it be and why?

I’m sorry, I say this time and time again, but probably still Anita Blake from Laurell K Hamilton’s Vampire Hunter series. These books are my absolute fave indulgence, and the pint-sized Ms Blake makes for an unconventional but utterly kick-ass heroine. She’s gritty, tough and has a crazy set of equally gritty men in her immediate circle. Oh, and she has creepy, otherworldly super-powers too. And unmanageable frizzy hair. Like mine. I bloody love her.

9.    What books have most influenced your life?

Lord of The Flies was the first book to give me a nightmare!
And I remember both I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and To Kill A Mockingbird stopping me in my tracks when I first read them in my teens. I think they were probably the first books to really make me sit back and think about unfairness and injustice.
Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues stayed with me too, in particular A Cream Cracker under the Settee. I was reminded of those monologues when I read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry recently, which I enjoyed immensely. Stories about the human heart are regularly set amongst the young and beautiful, these stories are a real tonic to all of that.
Umm, what else…
The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe was one of the most magical books I read growing up and even now the thought of discovering a snow-laden Narnia beyond hanging coats is utterly exciting, because you never know, right? Magic is so important in life. I don’t understand why we need to know the science behind everything all the time. I’d much rather keep checking my wardrobe in hope.

10. What are you working on at the moment?

     I am one whole week into my fourth - FOURTH! - book for Harlequin/Harper Collins. I’m really excited about it, which is usually the case at this stage. The tears come later.
     It’s a little darker than I’ve written before so I’m a tad nervous how that’ll go down. Whereas guilt, family bonds and redemption were some of the drivers for Letting You Go, this next novel is more hung up with the consequences of our actions and how silly situations can quickly escalate past the point of no return in the marvellous age of social media.
     I still feel like a rookie so trying out something a bit different with each of the books I write doesn’t seem like too bad an idea, see what fits me best sort of thing and keep the old fingers crossed! This will be the first novel I’ve written from three lead perspectives so I’m hoping there’ll be three times the headaches, heartaches and dramaramas. With the plot, I mean, not just my deadlines.
11. What do you enjoy most about writing?

     Hmm... The freedom, I think. Writing does for the brain what a good swim does for the body. Leaves you knackered and gives you chest-pains. Only kidding, that’s just at the deadline end of things. Writing invigorates you, gets the old endorphins flowing. Plus, you don’t even have to shave your legs first which is a total bonus.
     It’s an oddity though, the whole writing thing. It’s such an open thing to do – put something you’ve made yourself after months of hard work, out there for strangers to enjoy or poke at, depending on their viewpoint. 
     It’s open, but it’s so personal too. Regardless of what an author writes about, we’re sharing something of ourselves with the world, the feelings we’re trying to convey, the themes we want to share through our books. This is how our fraught little brains and emotions work, all spilled out onto paper. Or Kindles. 
     I do wonder how cool it would be to write under a pseudonym one day. Try something completely different and let blow. My dad’s come up with a storyline involving cannibal tribes (don’t ask) and keeps trying to talk me into giving it a go. I think he’s just trying to steer me away from writing anything steamy though. The thought of his daughter writing the fruity stuff makes his toes curl.

12. Pick three authors you want to have dinner with and tell us why.

     Liane Moriarty because I L-O-V-E her. I’m reluctantly growing up a bit now, three kids under my belt, growing need for Spanx and all that. I see a lot of the people Moriarty writes about in my own day-to-day, at the school gates and so on, so it relates. I also really like her balance of serious issues and funny observation. For me, her stories and characters just click.

     JK Rowling, not because I’m a groupie (have still to read any Harry Potters, sorry) but because I believe her to be a decent human being, a hard-working mother/writer/humanitarian, plus I hear she’s an advocate for the magical side of life. So of course I’d like to see if she’s good company… and how she holds her cutlery.

     Laurie Lee. (You never said they had to be alive!) His words draw a scene so beautifully… I reckon he could ask me to pass the pepper and I’d fall in love with him.
13. Imagine Letting You Go would be turned into a movie, who would you cast for the main characters?

Oh dear. I always imagine this. Maybe it’s an author thing? Or maybe I day-dream a bit too much. After such a crazy baptism into authordom though, the strangest most unlikely thing has already happened so a movie doesn’t seem such a bonkers thought after all that.
I think I see Alex as somebody like Kelly Macdonald, or maybe Emily Blunt. Emma Stone would make a great Jem and for some reason, I always thought of Kris Kristofferson when I was writing Ted. I was also perving on Gabriel Aubry a lot when I was writing this book, so a roughed up version would make a very agreeable Finn. The accent might be a bit of a problem, mind. Maybe we should go for Charlie Hunnam… or Tom Hardy. Scherr-wing.

14. Your second novel A Part Of Me was published last year, what is it about?

     A Part of Me follows Amy on her journey to becoming a mother despite fate repeatedly whipping the rug out from beneath her. She’s had an awful time, the relationship and career she’s invested herself in both seem to be falling apart just when her arduous path to motherhood finally seems to be getting her somewhere, so when one-man whirlwind Rohan Bywater blows into her office one day, Amy finds herself stuck between a rock and a really hard, unfamiliar place. Her head is telling her to ignore the cracks and stick to the plan for the sake of her dream, but her heart is telling her to risk everything she’s been working so hard for on someone new and completely unconventional, an unpredictable wildcard who is adamant that parenthood is not, and never will be, for him.

15. You have your one blog, what do you post on there?

     Umm, a bit of everything, I suppose. I’m trying to get into the swing of posting more regularly than I do, but it’s my little spot where I can go to reflect on the things that stick out in my world for whatever reason. So there’s the odd bit of booky stuff, of course. Any covert pics I manage to take at posh publisher dos will end up on there. But I also use that space to share the things that I love, or laugh at the daft stuff Knighty and I get up to with the kids or just to have a bit of a rant about how crap it is that my gorgeous sister is so ill. It’s a bit of a hotchpotch. An unedited hotchpotch.

16. Coffee or tea?

      Tea. Strong and milky with one big fat sugar, thanks.

17. Paperback or e-reader?

      Paperback. I like things. I like to have them in my hands and appreciate them. Like  Gollum.

18. Mountains or the sea?

     That is a toughie. A forested mountain over a cold ocean any day. But then lilos are more fun than crampons, I reckon.

19. Summer or winter?

      Winter. Snow rocks my world.

20. Sweet or salty?

      Arghhh… this is TOO hard! Both, Simona, I love both! My popcorn is always BOTH!

About the author

Since securing the top prize in ITV's widely-publicized UK writing contest, Anouska Knight has become an international sensation with her debut novel, Since You've Been Gone, hitting both The Bookseller and Heatseekers bestseller lists and securing praise from the likes of Jackie Collins and Jenny Colgan. 
A former bakery owner, she has gone on to wide acclaim in her native England and now writes full-time, currently on her next novel for Harlequin/Harper Collins.
Anouska lives in Staffordshire close to the countryside where she grew up, with husband Jamie, her childhood sweetheart, their two growing boys and new baby son. When not writing or wrestling small children, Anouska can still often be found baking and will whip up a cake at the drop of a hat if asked nicely.

Anouska on Twitter: @AnouskaKnight

No comments:

Post a Comment