22 Jul 2016

Author Interview / Debbie Howells

 From the acclaimed author of The Bones of You comes a haunting and heartbreaking new psychological thriller about a man thrust into the middle of a murder investigation, forced to confront the secrets of his ex-lover's past.

"I was fourteen when I fell in love with a goddess. . ."

So begins the testimony of Noah Calaway, an ex-lawyer with a sideline in armchair criminal psychology. Now living an aimless life in an inherited cottage in the English countryside, Noah is haunted by the memory of the beguiling young woman who left him at the altar sixteen years earlier. Then one day he receives a troubling phone call. April, the woman he once loved, lies in a coma, the victim of an apparent overdose--and the lead suspect in a brutal murder. Deep in his bones, Noah believes that April is innocent. Then again, he also believed they would spend the rest of their lives together.

While Noah searches for evidence that will clear April's name, a teenager named Ella begins to sift through the secrets of her own painful family history. The same age as April was when Noah first met her, Ella harbors a revelation that could be the key to solving the murder. As the two stories converge, there are shocking consequences when at last, the truth emerges.

Or so everyone believes. . .

Set in a borderland where the past casts its shadow on the present, with a time-shifting narrative that will mesmerize and surprise, The Beauty of the End is both a masterpiece of suspense and a powerful rumination on lost love.

Credit: The Beauty of The End by Debbie Howells is published by Pan, priced £7.99
  1. If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why?

Jojo Moyes or Rosamund Lupton. Their characters are completely believable and they make you feel the emotions they write.

2.  What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?

I get up early and walk my dog, then try to start writing around 8am. This involves much procrastination before I get down to actually working, but then I’ll keep writing until I need a break – usually early afternoon in the form of another dog walk.

When I’m really immersed, I’ll write into the evening, and even get up in the night for two or three hours.

I write either at my kitchen table or from a big, comfy sofa. Both rooms have big windows and views of trees and sky – I need to be alone and it needs to be quiet. I’ve tried writing in cafés but there are too many distractions!

3.  What is the hardest part of the writing for you?

The part where I’m trying to plot the twists and turns that keep the reader turning the pages. Sometimes it feels like my brain is tied in knots. It’s usually all in my head where it makes perfect sense, but translating it into words in a time frame that makes
sense to the reader can be a challenge!

4.  When and why did you first start writing?

I loved writing at school – it’s fair to say, more than anything else. Over the years, I’ve started several novels, only to give up after a few chapters, which invariably – and rightly - ended up in the bin. Then a few years ago, I started writing more seriously. I was running my own wedding floristry business and it was the most hectic summer I’d ever known. I gave myself Mondays off, so I’d sit in the garden and write, as an escape. I finished my first novel and submitted it to agents. It was rejected, but I had enough positive feedback to encourage me to keep writing.

In all, I wrote 3 novels which were all commercial women’s fiction. The third, Wildflowers, caught the eye of 6 agents who all ultimately rejected it. I self-published all of them and they all sold quite well, but it was at that point I knew, that if I wanted a traditional publishing deal, I was going to have to write something different.

5.  How did you come up with the idea for your book?

The Bones of You came from a combination of ideas. I had this narcissistic character in my head who refused to go away and who I felt compelled to write about. It coincided with a time where suddenly I became aware of the issue of emotional abuse. I couldn’t believe how invisible it was and the more I learned about it, the more I wanted to write about it. I had the idea also, of telling Rosie’s story as her life flashed before her eyes.

All these came together as I started to write.

6.  Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now?

I love to read - my one complaint is that I don’t have enough time for it! As a published author, I often get sent books so my to-read pile is huge. At the moment I’m reading Cathy Rentzenbrink’s The Last Act of Love.

7.  Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?

I think when you start, it can feel daunting. I used to read other writers’ stories to publication – they were like fairytales that had come true… I kept reminding myself that however unlikely it seemed that I’d ever be published, it wasn’t impossible and I kept writing - through all the rejections – and there were many. It took several years, but that’s often the way.

Rejection is a fact of life for most writers. By agents, then maybe by publishers, too. Take it on the chin, revise, write another book. It’s the only way forward.

Even when the doubts set in, when you don’t think anything you write will ever be good enough, keep writing. It’s a subjective business. Not everyone likes every book. And you learn with everything you write.
There are two things I read quite early on, that stayed with me. The first was that the writers who get published are the ones who don’t give up – it sounds obvious but it’s true. The second is, not to write with an axe to grind, but to write with love.

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