I’m sure you’ve seen some of the hype surrounding With Malice this summer. Click on through to see the brains behind the book! (And have a chance at winning a SIGNED copy!)
Let’s play a get to know you game! Please tell us your life story, in eight words or less.
(Panics- begins to hyperventilate and try and think of clever words)
Just kidding! Would you care to tell us a little bit more about yourself?
(collapses in relief)
I am always tempted to make up a really interesting bio that talks about my history as an international spy, my hobbies in deep sea diving, a funny story about that time I climbed Mt. Everest and ran into the Loch Ness monster, and how I’m learning to be a ninja in my free time.
My real life is far more boring. I am a transplanted American who now lives in Canada. I worked for years as a counsellor for people with catastrophic injuries and illness, but have given it up to write full time. Currently, I spend a lot of time in old yoga pants making things up for a living when not wasting time on the internet, having full conversations with my dogs, reading or knitting.
What is your book about?
While on a school trip in Italy Jill is in a horrible car accident. She wakes up in the hospital with no memory of the accident or the six weeks before. Jill is devastated to hear that her best friend died in the accident and horrified that the police don’t believe it was an accident- instead they’re trying to prove Jill murdered Simone. Jill has to fill in the missing time while trying to decipher if other people’s stories of what happened are accurate before she’s forced back to Italy and a trial. She’s forced to question her friendship and more importantly, what she’s capable of doing.
Why should we read it?
One random book contains a golden ticket which entitles the winner to a Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory. Okay, I made that up- but it would be pretty awesome wouldn’t it?
I hope people read it because I believe it will start some interesting discussions. The only thing better than reading a book is getting to talk about it with other people. The book raises issues of friendships, frenemies, the role of social media, the imperfections of memory, and how you know what you might be capable of doing.
Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?
I great up in a family that loved books and stories. I don’t remember my first writing, but my parents kept a homework assignment I’d done in the second grade. We had to cut a picture out of a magazine and then were supposed to write sentences about the picture. Things like: The man has on a blue shirt. The sun is shining. Instead of basic sentences I strung mine together so they made a story (not a great story, mind you, but it was a story). The teacher wrote on the page “I’m sure someday you’ll be a writer.” When I published my first book my parents dug it out and had it framed for me. It still hangs in my office.
I do remember years and years of really bad poetry (I had a flair for the overly dramatic) and endless novels that I started and never finished. I would start, but then be discouraged that what was on the page wasn’t as good as what had been in my head. It took me awhile to realize that of course it wasn’t good. It was a first draft. Writing is about re-writing.
This was a fascinating story. Was there a certain person or event that gave you inspiration for it?
There were a few things that came together to form the idea of this book. I’m fascinated with long-term friendships and how they survive and evolve, or don’t. I knew I wanted to write about two friends who had been in a relationship for so long that at times it was hard to tell where the good parts and the bad intersected. I’d also worked for over twenty years in the field of vocational rehabilitation assisting with people with injuries and illnesses as an expert for the BC Supreme Court. I had done a lot of work with individuals with brain injury and taking the opportunity to explore identity and relationships when you can’t trust your own memory was exciting.
Once I wrote a full draft of the manuscript I knew it was missing something and two other pieces of inspiration fell into place. The first was that I was planning a trip to Italy and it occurred to me to set the book there. I did a semester abroad while in college. It was an amazing experience, but there is something very disorienting about being so far away from home and your own culture. I felt it would give Jill an extra push to explore her friendship if they were out of their current element. As I prepared for the trip I started to read more about the Amanda Knox trial and that motivated me to add the pressure coming from the media- where everyone else is deciding your guilt or innocence based on very little information.
The final bit of inspiration came from the first season of the Serial podcast by NPR. (If you haven’t listened- download it- you’ll thank me.) It’s a true crime story about a murder trial that happened in the 1990s. With each person that told their story I would shift my feelings. “He’s totally innocent! He’s guilty! Wait-he’s innocent!” I wanted to see if I could recreate that feeling for readers by providing them with new perspectives that might change how they felt about the storyline.
You included things such as police statements, travel guide quotes, Facebook comments and homework assignments in With Malice. How did you decide which forms of media to include?
I first decided what other perspectives that I wanted to have in the book and then tried to decide what the best way to show those perspectives- interviews, objective information, police statements etc. For example, are you more likely to believe something someone posts on Facebook versus what they tell the police? What might motivate them to tell the story differently depending on who they’re talking to? I enjoyed trying to imagine how different people were approaching the situation. There is a line in the book about how the truth is how you tell it, and I think unfortunately that is a very accurate statement in today’s society.
I snooped your blog and found that you went to Italy! How did actually being there help shape your novel?
The only thing I enjoy more than writing is doing the research for writing. I love learning odd and random things. Some of these find their way into the book, others just shape my own insights as I draft the book.
Once I knew that part of the book would be set in Italy the chance to go there was invaluable. Seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling the place hopefully allowed me to make the scenes there feel real for the reader too. I would go again in a heartbeat. I fell in love with the country.
What’s something specific you found in Italy that you included in With Malice?
The scenes that take place in the museum in Florence were fun to write. When I was there visiting a school group was also doing a tour and I slunk around following them listening to their conversations and watching where they went. I followed a couple into a stairwell where they had gone to make out and I decided to use that scene in the book.
Jill is an unreliable narrator. Who (besides Jill) is your favourite narrator with questionable reliability?
Oh how I love an unreliable narrator. I can think of many that I love, both characters in Gone Girl, Richard from The Secret History, Verity in Code Name Verity are some examples.
Most recently I read Beware That Girl and loved it. The main character Kate O’Brien is fascinating. If people are looking for another psychological twisty novel this one fits the bill.
With Malice focuses a great deal on memories, and the ways in which we perceive them. I have a false memory from when I was child about the untimely demise of our pet budgie. Apparently the way I remember things is not what actually happened at all! Do you have any false memories that you’re aware of?
Having false memories is way more common than most people think- especially things that happened in childhood. We all like to think that our memory is very reliable, but that’s not the case. Memory is a very flexible thing- impacted by our own bias, what we want to believe, and the stories we’ve heard about events.
While writing this book I was talking to my best childhood friend. I was discussing how we met and became friends. She interrupted me to say that wasn’t how it happened and then told a different story. Once she started talking I remembered the things she mentioned, but I had completely forgotten them until she mentioned them. It was a weird feeling.
What was your favourite part of writing this book?
I am lucky that I enjoy the process of writing. I know some writers find the process painful. While it isn’t always easy, and there are days when I want to pound my head on the desk, the vast majority of the time I love it.
The research was fun, but I think my favourite part was when I finished the third full draft of the book and suddenly the final puzzle pieces fell into place and I knew what I wanted to do for the next round of changes.
How long was your journey from first idea to holding a copy in your hands?
Initial hints of the book have been kicking around for years and years. I’ve always been fascinated by friendships and how they work-or don’t. From the time I had a fairly solid idea, to holding the book was about three years.
If people only take one thing from your book, what would you want it to be?
My number one goal is to create a book that people love reading. The kind of book where you can’t stop turning pages, and when you aren’t reading it, you’re wondering when you can get back to it. When you finish the book I hope you want to reach out to a friend and ask them what they think and then have a great debate over if Jill is guilty or not. And if she is guilty- of what?
What’s a question you’ve never been asked about your book, but have been dying to answer?
I haven’t been asked: Do you think everyone is capable of murder under the right circumstances?
I think most of us want to believe there are certain things we would never do- no matter the circumstances. However, I fear the truth is more complicated. While there are some people in the world who are truly evil, I think it is more common that good people do bad things and then work hard to find a way to justify it to themselves.
However- just so it is on the record- I’ve never wanted to kill any of my best friends and even though I’ve likely given them the odd reason over the years, I’m pretty sure they don’t want to kill me either.
Where can we find you?
Quillable’s tagline is “For all things noteworthy.”
Could you share something noteworthy you have come across recently?
I recently came across this quote and it’s given me a lot to think about.
“Never give up what you want most for what you want today.” Neal Maxwell.
To me it’s that good reminder to pause and determine what is it that I want most and then make sure I’m spending my time in an effort to get me closer.
Okay doesn’t she just make you want to be her best friend?
How about the next best thing?
A signed copy of her book! Courtesy of the ever fantastic Raincoast Books.
(Hint: You must be following this blog to win, so click that little button below and fill in your email before you head over. Save yourself some time!)
Follow the link below to the giveaway and may the odds be ever in your favour.
And don’t forget to check back later this week for my review! (Second hint: it was stay-up-stupid-late-to-finish-it good.)
***Canadian residents ONLY and you must be 18 years or better.***