When nineteen-year-old Naomi Stone is snatched from her husband at knifepoint on the night of their wedding and taken to a deserted cemetery, she knows her life is finished. Drugged and disorientated, she loses consciousness as she lies in an open grave with a gun to her head.
But the following day, she mysteriously awakes to find herself unharmed and secured to a bed. She's in a beautiful bedroom in a secluded cottage in open countryside. Only one person knows she’s there – the man in the balaclava who’s holding her, feeding her, revealing nothing. Naomi senses the unfolding of a plan. She should be on honeymoon in the Caribbean. Instead, she’s trapped with an emotionless psycho with no hope of escape . . . And his voice is chillingly familiar.
Who is he? What does he want? What's happened to her husband? Where is she? Will anyone find her before it's too late?
- If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why?
That’s a tricky question. My favourite authors are those who are particularly gifted with words. Ian McEwan and Sebastian Faulks spring to mind, though there are many others. Working with them would be awesome because I’d learn so much. On the other hand, I’d feel very small and inferior, so maybe I’m best working alone.
- What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?
There is no typical working day for me really. I teach piano for a living, so I generally teach a couple of lessons first thing, then I set about the housework (doing the bare minimum as it really doesn’t excite me) and try to create some space for my writing before my teaching resumes late afternoon. The days are very short. A chunk of time goes into promoting and social networking, so precious little remains for actual writing which can be frustrating sometimes. I have to carve out some time for writing which often involves late nights. I don’t know how people write in cafés or even with background music. I met one author at a festival who does his writing on the bus on the way to work. That wouldn’t work for me. I need absolute silence and solitude, hence the late nights. My thoughts need to be still; my house (ideally) empty. When I do write, I find a comfortable sofa, (choice of 4 in my house. We don’t do chairs) put my feet up and sit with my laptop on my knee and attempt to press on. My eyes can roll and I can drift sometimes. Did I mention my sofas were very comfy?
- What is the hardest part of the writing for you?
Well the beginning is difficult. The middle can be excruciatingly challenging, and the least said about the agonies of the ending the better. It’s all difficult. Authors give birth to their books. There’s the conception of an idea, then the struggle through a long period of development which is a labour of love essentially, and culminates in the birth of a creative piece of literature. It’s all worth it in the end. You forget about the pain and dwell on it not at all because you have a little bundle of love in which you have so much hope, having invested a great deal of love and time. That’s how authors see their books. But – not to dodge the question – if I had to pinpoint the most difficult part, I suppose it is the plotting and planning. For me, I can only get so far with that before a) I get bored (I’m not the world’s greatest organiser. I’m quite impulsive and more likely to dive into the creative process prematurely) and b) I’ve gone as far as I can go with the planning part. The plot always changes once I start writing. I know instinctively if something is not working, and also, many great ideas occur to me once I’ve started the writing process that never would come to me with all the planning in the world. I have to get inside the heads of my characters by writing scenes. THEN I know what they would do in those circumstances and, sometimes, not before.
- When and why did you first start writing?
I started writing six and a half years ago. Why? It was the right time in my life. I’ve had four children. Parenting began at age 18 for me. I never regret my lost youth because I gained my children, which means that I didn’t lose anything. My children have been my life. I adore them. I stayed at home with them and taught piano for a few hours a week, increasing my lessons only as my children got older. The youngest one is fifteen now, so my life is more my own these days. I’m a creative sort of person I suppose. Music is a language and a creative form of expression. My abilities lend themselves to creative language. Words come as naturally to me as music-making, so writing was the one thing I had a desire to do. In their 40s, some women take up keep fit (I’d rather be trapped in a lift with an angry wasp than go to the gym – and that’s saying something) or gardening or cross-stitch. I took up writing and got completely hooked. To escape into a world of one’s own creation and spend time there every day, manipulating events, is a special kind of magic.
- How did you come up with the idea for your book?
I came up with the plot for Either Side of Midnight in ten minutes. Literally. Without giving away spoilers, I thought, What if a bride is abducted on the best day of her life. And what if . . . and then what if . . . ooo and then what if it ends up like . . . That would be fun to write. And Either Side of Midnight was conceived. It turned out to be a fairly complex plot in the end. I had only the sketch of an idea in the beginning, and with that, I plunged right in as I did in those days when I didn’t have a readership and had no one to please but myself. But the interesting part is that my own feelings at that time mirrored the feelings of my protagonist. It’s taken hindsight for me to realise this; it wasn’t conscious. My first book at that time (ESoM is the second book I wrote) was in the hands of literary agents in London. 3 separate agencies read my book in full, one after the other (agencies demand exclusivity if they’re willing to go to the trouble of reading your entire manuscript). The total waiting time for me was 9 months. My future was in the hands of other people – faceless people I didn’t know. I felt unsettled and nervous and powerless. During this time of waiting, my subconscious mind threw up a plot where a girl is abducted and held by a masked man. She doesn’t know who he is, what he wants and what the future will bring. And so I wrote ESoM while I waited. You have to see the parallels.
- Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now?
I would be a big reader if I had the time. As things are, I’m a binge-reader. If I go on holiday (I went on 3 short-ish breaks last year), I do nothing but read. My husband tries to talk to me. Just rude; he really should know better!! I can get through 4 books in a week on holiday. I love reading, but – I hate reading poor books and I give up without any guilt at all if I’m not enjoying a story. Life’s too short. My favourite book of last year was Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Fabulous. It did what all good books should do: reel you in on a large hook and not let go until the very last line. I wasn’t even on holiday when I made the mistake of thinking: I’ll just see what the beginning is like. Sucked right in. Finished in 24 hours when – between sniffs and snivels – I became aware of a messy house, starving children and a mountain of washing. The last book I read last month was called The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman. Another great book. Five richly-deserved stars.
- Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
Attend classes. Learn how to write from a technical point of view. You can’t guess how it’s done. Don’t write for money. Generally, for self-published authors, it isn’t lucrative. Be honest about your ability. Do you have a talent for writing and a way with words? Is this something that can be developed? In my experience, the most important thing a person can develop is their own unique writing voice. It took a long time for me to find my ‘voice’ – MY way of putting things. Don’t write well-used phrases. Don’t try to copy the style of others. Stay well away from clichés. Add humour to your writing, but with subtlety. No one wants to see a gag coming from four miles away. Surprise your reader. Get in a scene late and leave it early. Get readers turning the pages.