TEN QUESTIONS WITH THE AUTHOR OF “GIRL FORGOTTEN”
By Louis Chapman –
Journalist (Time to Tell a Story)
Mediasource: L Chapman 2016
IT’S SET IN TWO TIME PERIODS ISN’T IT. WHY?
Leah is a young fourteen year old girl abandoned by her father in an orphanage. She cares for the younger orphans and most particularly the new five year old arrival Miss Pixie. A quarter of a century later Miss Pixie’s twin sister Annie returns to find out why her late sister had been abandoned there by her parents.
I plotted the story specifically to mirror the lives of the two women in a parallel voice, so yes. One character is set in the late Victorian period and the other in the Edwardian, so just after. I think there wasn’t a huge amount of difference in the writing aside from the obvious social, moral and economic development, oh and one was able to use the newly invented telephone whilst the other couldn’t!
WHAT DID YOU FOCUS ON THE MOST, OR TRY TO CAPTURE IN THIS TALE?
Even though I enjoyed putting together the murder twist at the very end, my purpose in the story was to explore the idea of looking back in the past and unfolding harrowing truths which often family members die without ever finding out. When Annie is old enough to pursue the subject of her sister’s abandonment she faces some shocking discoveries. There are things she learns about herself, her difficult relationship with her mother, and the reasons for decisions made when she was a child that she had no control over but affected her into adulthood. It is only by going through that journey that the character is able to make peace with herself and others, which is probably the most important outcome and the conclusive element of the book.
YOUR PREVIOUS BOOKS FOCUSES ON THE LIVES OF PROSTITUTES AND SLUM OCCUPANTS, WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE ON A MURDER MYSTERY?
I think “Girl Forgotten” is much more than just a murder mystery. It’s also a book about relationships, personal suffering, and survival, which I do tend to focus on quite heavily in my writing. Annie’s dysfunctional relationship with her mother is very commonplace in reality and just one facet of the whole story, as is her own desire to seek the truth about why her sister was sent away.
To keep a true perspective on my characters I like to look deeply into their mindset, quirks and personalities. Often people’s lives and experiences are much more complex than they seem and if that is explored well, it produces a much deeper visceral and evolving story.
WHO, OF ANY OF YOUR BOOKS, IS YOUR FAVOURITE CHARACTER.
It would have to be Edward Cross from The Whitechapel Virgin, simply because he is the most three-dimensional character I have ever created. An intelligent and ambitious young bachelor, but also an ego-centric nymphomaniac. I didn’t really know him that well until his unique personality began to slowly emerge in the story and he revealed a very dark and twisted mind.
It actually highlights how people can start with a simple desire for something out of the ordinary, which can then become an extreme inner infatuation or obsession that can ultimately turn them into their own enemy.
I LOVE HOW YOU WEAVE SO MUCH INTO YOUR STORIES, HOW DOES THE PROCESS WORK FOR YOU?
It depends. With Girl Forgotten, I had a seed of an idea in my head after reading The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. The story focuses on an old woman who wishes to recount her life before her death. Growing up with her twin sister in a crumbling manor house, she recalls dark family secrets.
After a while I laid the story to rest and began to weave my own tale about twin sisters. Usually I gather a mountain of research, notes, then begin to write snippets of scenes that I think will work in the story, laying out a plot sequence, synopsis and character spreadsheet as each character appears in the book. I would say 50% of the story is spontaneous whilst the rest is pre-scripted.
DO YOU KNOW THE BEGINNING, MIDDLE AND END BEFORE ACTUALLY WRITING?
Not at all. I know the general plot and where I am heading but I like to surprise myself and be somewhat spontaneous with my characters. That works for me, and usually all falls into place, and if it doesn’t, I cut out or re-do certain scenes. I didn’t know the twist of this story until I was at least half way through.
IS THAT A NORMAL WAY TO WRITE A PLOT TWIST? (LAUGHS)
There is no normal way to write anything. Everyone works at it differently. Some might need to have every single angle of the story figured out in advance, whilst others produce better results approaching it organically. The most important thing is that in the end it is readable, makes sense and is generally classified as a good read. (The proof is in the pudding as they say.)
ARE ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS LIKE YOU, AND DO YOU CARE ABOUT THEM?
That’s interesting. I have never really thought about it. I suppose some are, yes. In fact I probably have a few traits such as Edward Cross’s ambitious streak, Maggie Tanner’s strong will and Annie Reinhart’s independent and free-thinking approach to things.
As for caring about them.. I suppose I care about how I depict them. Even though they aren’t real people I’m very fussy about making sure my main character’s all end up content, issues resolved, or free from the burden of whatever dilemma the story engaged them in. Unless there is a sequel everything needs to be wrapped up.
I also care that they are written as true to actual real life people as I can get away with in a fictional context, without boring the reader. I look for individualism but also like to pad my characters with very human feelings, fears and desires.
HOW IS YOUR MAIN AUDIENCE RECEIVING YOUR WORK?
I am always humbly grateful towards my readers because I know they can always just go and choose ‘another book.’ I have received so many good reviews and so much praise too with my work. My main readership is in the United Kingdom where sales continue to build. It’s a brilliant experience and one I am glad I bravely undertook.
WHATS NEXT FOR YOU, AND WHAT ADVICE TO YOU HAVE FOR NEW WRITER’S?
I tell new writers to be themselves in thought, word and action. Don’t copy other writing styles, just scribble away until you find your own voice. Each of us has a unique voice and it comes out eventually. It is that uniqueness which is attractive to a reader. I used to hope I would write like certain famous authors. I’m sure we’ve all had that dream, but now I most definitely am happy to be writing as me and no-one else.
I always come to the end of a book and say ‘NEVER AGAIN’ because its mentally exhausting and takes me up to a year to complete from beginning to end, but deep inside I know a writer usually writes because he/she wants to and I almost always reach a point where I’m dying to take up the pen again. I just love the spontaneity of never knowing when, and the reader anticipation is good.