Author Interview with Amy Bird

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.

AMY BIRD

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:

Website | Twitter | Facebook

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Hi Amy,

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.

FUN QUESTIONS

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!

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Now check out the book:

ThreeSteps_Cover

“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:

Amazon | Kobo | iTunes

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Amy Bird – Author Interview

Today I’m delighted to welcome Amy Bird to Me, My Books and I:

Amy bird

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’m 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. When I’m not writing or lawyering, I’ll generally be found cooking with my husband, or in a theatre somewhere, or out and about sampling the cultural delights of North London.

To find out more:

Website | Twitter | Facebook

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Hi Amy,

Where did the idea for Yours is Mine come from?

One of my colleagues had his bag stolen while we were on team away day. That made me think – what is the most important thing you could have stolen from you? Probably your identity. And then I thought – what if you surrendered your identity voluntarily? And who would do that? The answer was Kate, my protagonist – recently bereaved, a lonely and vulnerable ‘Navy Wife’, she sees the chance to get her spark back by agreeing to a temporary identity exchange with another woman, Anna. Crucially, Kate believes that her own identity will be safeguarded. Anna has other plans.

Who designed the cover and why did you go for that particular design?

The very clever team at Carina UK – they have an excellent designer. My editor and I wanted something which would set it firmly in the suspense genre, and I think the bold lettering, with the watchful eye in the background, and the ‘how far would you go to get your life back?’ tagline really deliver on that.

How do you decide on names for your characters?

They just come to me, really. For ‘Yours is Mine’, the character of Kate is traditional but she wants to be refreshed, so that name works for her. Anna is a sinister character, but I didn’t want to give that way in the name – although as ‘Anna’ is a palindrome, I think that says quite a lot about how careful the character is in presenting herself as one united identity, the same whichever way you read her, when in fact she is quite the opposite.

Is any part of Yours is Mine based on your own personal experiences?

There are no particular instances that I drew on. But I think to some extent everything we write is based on our own experiences – it is very difficult to access an emotion unless you’ve dealt with that on some level. Plus for the circumstances of characters, I went for ‘write what you know’, as it conveniently fitted the plot – Kate is a lawyer and a Navy wife, and so am I! Also water-skiing and acting. I like that. So there is some of that in the novel, too.

How long did it take you to write Yours is Mine?

About nine months for the first draft, with various revisions after that.

Why did you choose to write in your particular genre?

I love reading fiction with a strong psychological suspense element to it – from Rebecca to Gone Girl. Also, this particular story lent itself to that genre. The prospect of having your identity taken from you permanently – even when it started out as a voluntary exercise – is classic thriller territory.

Who are your favourite authors and do you think they have influenced your own writing in any way?

I read a broad range of authors, which I suppose is reflected in the fact that although ‘Yours is Mine’ is a psychological thriller, there is some comedy and exploration of moral questions is there, too. I grew up on a diet of Thomas Hardy, E.M. Forster, Evelyn Waugh and Dostoyevsky. Now, I love Joseph Connolly, S.J. Watson, Martin Amis and Kate Atkinson.

Are there any occupational hazards to being an author?

I remember Zadie Smith saying there is a phase for each novel where everything you see or experience has to go into your book. I think there is that sense of living through the prism of your characters when you are writing. So it’s very important to take a good break – particularly when you’re writing a thriller!

If you could travel anywhere in the world to do research for a book where would it be?

I’ve heard Australia’s rather fun… But I’d also love to visit Russia – there is such an amazing literary heritage and I would love to be able to have a character tap into that.

FUN QUESTIONS

Paperback or eBook?

It’s not an ‘either/or’ – I love great novels, whatever form they’re in. Last night I was reading on my Kindle until gone midnight; as I type, I am surrounded by piles of paperbacks.

Dogs or cats?

Cats. Sadly they make me sneeze, so I can’t own one. If you ever really ‘own’ a cat, that is.

Hot or cold?

Cold shivers down my spine when I’m reading a thriller.

Sweet or savoury?

Savoury. I may have a slight pasta addiction.

Pen or pencil?

Pen. Have enough faith in your words to make them permanent.

Any last words for your readers?

If you’ve ever had one of those days where you want to stop the world and get off, you’re not so different from Kate in ‘Yours is Mine’. Perhaps the method she uses isn’t one you’d contemplate, perhaps she’s naïve, but in all of us there’s a bit of Kate. Question is: is there any Anna in you?

 Thank you so much for being here today Amy, it was a pleasure to have you on my blog. I particularly enjoyed reading about how you decided on names for your characters – Kate was a great choice by the way ;).

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Now check out the book:

Yours is mine

“How far would you go to get your life back?

Kate Dixon is miserable. So when an email arrives from psychology student Anna, offering her a no-strings-attached, three month long life-exchange, she jumps at the chance. After all: what has she got to lose?

But she doesn’t bank on how much Anna has invested in the swap. How long she’s been watching, putting her immaculate plan together as she waits to enter Kate’s life. And as more comes to light about Anna’s past, Kate finds herself in a desperate race to protect all she holds dear.

Leaving your life in someone else’s hands is a dangerous game; Kate’s about to find out just how seriously her opponent is playing.

Yours is Mine is a chilling psychological thriller perfect for fans of Gone Girl and Before I Go To Sleep.”

Yours is Mine, a psychological thriller about two women who exchange identities, is available now from Carina UK, the new digital imprint of Harlequin and via Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.comKobo and iBooks/iTunes.