Paula Daly, author of the brilliant Just What kind of Mother Are You? celebrated the release of her second book, Keep Your Friends Close on the 13th of March. I was lucky enough to be involved in her blog tour (and part of the official blog tour poster which is just ridiculously cool) and got the chance to interview the author herself.
The interview is below the cut and while it isn’t particularly full of spoilers there is more information on Keep Your Friends Close than the blurb gives away.
I read that your journey to becoming a published was different to most and that you had the desire to write but didn’t know what to write or how to start. When did that change?
When I read Stephen King’s book – ‘On Writing’. King encourages you to just start writing and to see what comes out. I began as soon as I finished the book and was surprised to find I didn’t want to stop. I found writing thrilling and knew immediately I wanted to try to make a career out of it if possible.
In a previous interview you said that your inspiration for Just What Kind of Mother Are You came from an episode of Oprah. Where did you get your inspiration for Keep Your Friends Close?
I was having dinner with a friend who had been unlucky in love, and she was complaining of the fact that she found it hard to meet someone. Without really thinking, I replied, “You don’t have any problem meeting someone, it’s snaring them that’s your trouble.”
Then I started to think about all the ruthless, driven women I’ve known, and the lengths that they would go to snare a man.
And then I thought – what if such a woman set her sights on my husband. And I was powerless to stop her?
Your crime novels always have an element of social commentary running through them. In Just What Kind of Mother Are You it was women’s roles in society while in Keep Your Friends Close it was about friendship and marriage. Do you consciously choose to write about these themes or do they develop as you write?
For me, the books always begin with ‘theme’. With the first book I was bothered by balance, or the lack of balance in women’s lives. I was troubled by how things can go spectacularly wrong if you’re overstretched. With the second book the theme is a variation on the first. What if you were so focused on all the wrong things that someone could sneak in and snatch everything from you?
Keep Your Friends Close is a very tightly structured novel. Did you have the plot and ending in mind before you started?
Yes, I knew the ending. Everything in the first few chapters is there to make the last third of the book work.
Eve’s character is complicated and driven and as a reader I can understand and even empathise with her actions. How did you go about creating her?
A book is only as strong as its baddie. So I spent a lot of time figuring out Eve’s motivation, as there’s nothing more deflating than a villain without a real reason for doing the things they do. Once you know what’s driving a person and the lengths they’ll go to get what they want, it’s not too hard to make them convincing. I want you to be almost championing Eve in some scenes, as I think it makes for a better story.
For me, the worse thing Eve does is draw in and confide in Natty’s eldest daughter. That’s the ultimate betrayal and I really hated her for that.
In comparison to many crime novels I didn’t find the main protagonist, Natty, as easy to like as Eve. What made you decide to blur the lines between the ‘good’ characters and the ‘bad’?
I would imagine you didn’t like Natty because she’s uptight, driven, and focused on all the wrong things. Focused on the irrelevances of life. But this is exactly what makes her vulnerable to attack. If she was being a wonderful, loving wife and mother, then Eve would have no way in. I think Natty represents how a lot of us become when we balance work and kids. We try to be perfect and lose ourselves in the process.
Of course a perfect protagonist is as boring as a cartoon villain. I want my characters to be flawed. I don’t want you to always like them. But I do want you to understand and empathise with why they do the things they do.
Sex plays a large part in Keep Your Friends Close, from why Natty and Sean’s relationship started to fall apart to how Eve and Sean’s relationship initially began. Not many crime novels chose to give the sexual lives of their characters so much prominence. What made you chose to do so?
Without sex as a tool to get what she wants, Eve is ineffective. It would have been impossible to write this book without tackling this side of Eve. But the main thing I wanted to illustrate is just how easily people will leave a relationship if given attention and flattery from another person (if they have been starved of affection for a period of time). I have seen it happen again and again. We like to think we’re more complicated than this, but I’m not sure that we are.
Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly can be purchased now from all good bookstores (I have always wanted to write that bit)
A huge thanks to Paula Daly for taking the time to talk to me. She can be found on twitter at @pauladalyauthor. And an equally large thanks to Alison Barrow, Director of Media Relations at Transworld Publishers. She can also be found on twitter at @alisonbarrow and arranged this whole thing.