Today I’m delighted to welcome Amy Bird to Me, My Books and I for the second time! You can read the first interview here.
Born in Hampstead, North London, I moved all around the UK for the next 18 years, before coming back to London for university. I’ve been here ever since, only a few miles from where I was born. I recently completed my Creative Writing MA at Birkbeck, and I’m also an alumni of Faber Academy. As well as being a writer, I’m also a lawyer – I work 4 days a week at one of the big City firms, specialising in employment law – and a trustee of a new writing theatre. My debut novel for Carina UK (‘Yours is Mine’) very excitingly became a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic, reaching the No.1 bestseller spot on the Amazon Women’s Crime chart. When I’m not writing or lawyering, I’ll generally be found cooking with my husband, curled up with my Kindle, or out and about sampling the cultural delights of London.
To find out more:
Where did the idea for Three Steps Behind You come from?
It was a bringing together of three different ideas, really. I wanted to write a piece exploring obsessional male friendship and hero worship. I was also interested in the challenge of writing from the point of view of a stalker. Plus I began wondering if authors could do ‘method writing’ in the same was as actors do ‘method acting’. Melding those three thoughts together gave me the character of Dan, a crime writer who believes he has to experience everything in order to write about it – but behind his writing is the obsessional need to get closer to his childhood friend, Adam, and Adam’s wife, Nicole.
How did you come up with the title?
My publishers actually developed the title, and I’m really pleased with it. I think it sums up the sinister ‘Who is watching you?’ nature of the book. It also really cleverly draws out the fact that there is a three-part relationship between the three central characters, and you’re never quite sure who is watching who, or has the upper-hand. There’s another link too, but I don’t want to do a spoiler, so people will have to read the book to see what that is.
Who was your favourite character to write and why?
Definitely Dan, the psychotic protagonist. It’s written in the first person, so I had to occupy his head-space for the whole book. That was a really exciting challenge and a very intense experience.
If Three Steps Behind You was made into a movie who would you like to play the lead roles?
For Dan, the odd-ball, intense one, maybe James McAvoy. For Adam, the charismatic object of his obsession, perhaps Michael Fassbender. And for Nicole, Adam’s neurotic wife, I think Emily Blunt or Eva Green would work well.
What makes Three Steps Behind You stand out from the crowd?
The intense and crazed world that Dan inhabits, which the reader is drawn into with him, plus the shifting interplay between the three central characters. You never really know which one will come out on top, or what their agenda is.
Do you follow a plan when you are writing or do you let the story guide you?
I know the full story arc when I start – so the beginning, middle and end – and also the character arc. I also have a very clear sense of the thematic threads I want to weave in. When you are writing suspense, I think it would be very difficult to keep that thrilling sense of momentum going if you yourself don’t know where you’re going. In terms of individual chapters, I know what I want each chapter to achieve, but I don’t plan the detail of those in advance. The act of writing is what stimulates those more granular ideas.
Do you think your writing style has changed since your first novel?
I read an interesting quote from Stephen Fry recently in an article about second novels. He said that your first novel is basically the outpouring of your life to-date, whereas the second novel is an act of professional writing. I can associate with that. I approached ‘Three Steps Behind You’ with a very clear view of the psychological thriller genre I was writing in, and with early steers from my editor. The result is deliberately a much tauter and intense piece. Not that I’m knocking my debut, ‘Yours is Mine’ – I’m proud of that too!
Do you read reviews of your previous novel? If so, do you let them influence your writing?
People seemed to find the first one a bit of a page-turner, and enjoy the twists, so I’ve consciously tried to develop that further in this novel. I’m also getting from some of the US reviews that they aren’t so keen on cliff-hanger endings over there. You’ll have to read the novel to the end to see if I took that on board…
Do you have any amusing writing/promoting stories to share with us?
As part of my research I went along to my local fencing club. Unfortunately, it seemed to have merged with the ‘Youth’ fencing group so I spent an hour fencing with these kids who’d been learning for years and who had to humour this clueless adult interloper. At first, it was right back to being uncool or different at school, as none of them wanted to associate with me. Then I realised: I’m an adult. I have social skills. I can chat my way through this one. Maybe. You’ll see that bit reflected in the book – I couldn’t resist drawing on the experience.
Milk, white or dark chocolate?
Dark with added sea salt – thank you, Pret a Manger!
Tea or coffee?
Tea. Milk, no sugar.
Morning or night?
Definitely night. It’s so much more sinister for thrillers. Plus I tend to suddenly wake up at about 10pm, and feel really active. Such a pain to have to rev up all over again in the morning!
Snow or sun?
Sun. My husband says I am solar-powered. Can be odd, though, when it’s sunny outside and I’m sitting inside writing dark and brooding stories.
Listener or talker?
Writers need to be a combination of the two. They have to be good listeners, so that they can absorb human behaviour and speech patterns. But being a good talker is essential too, whether in person or print. Otherwise, how would their stories get told?
Any last words for your readers?
If you’ve ever wondered if one of your childhood friendships could cross the line into obsession, and whether you ever really know someone, this book is for you.
Thank you so much for being here today Amy, it was a pleasure to have you on my blog again. I particularly enjoyed reading about your experience at the fencing club!
Now check out the book:
“Dan and Adam have always been close. In fact, they’ve been closer than Adam could ever guess. And if Dan’s going to get that close again, it will take time. It will take research. It may even take practice. Fortunately, Dan is a very patient person – and Adam trusts him. With his house key. With his secrets. With his wife…
But as Dan gets closer, someone is watching. Someone who will stop at nothing to uncover the truth… and seek revenge.
It’s only a matter of time before danger steps out of the shadows. Dan has his sight fixed on the future; perhaps he should have kept one eye on what lay behind?
This chilling psychological thriller from the author of ‘Yours is Mine’ explores love, obsession, and betrayal, and asks: can we ever really know another person?”
Three Steps Behind You is available now from all good e-retailers, including: