I am over the moon to welcome Renee Knight to my blog. Author of the stunning Disclaimer (which I will be reviewing in a later post today), Renee worked for the BBC directing arts documentaries before beginning her writing career. I was lucky enough to get an early copy of Disclaimer and found it very hard to stop reading once I had started. Annoying things like work and sleep kept getting in the way. Once I finished I gave it to my mum. She didn’t let little things like sleep stop her from finishing the book in one sitting.
I loved getting the chance to ask Renne questions about the book. Warning – if you haven’t read it you might find it slightly spoilerific. Enjoy!
As a main character, Catherine was incredibly interesting – I wanted to know so much more about her and her past (and I wanted her to win!). How did you go about creating her?
Thank you, I’m pleased you found her interesting and were rooting for her. I knew I wanted the protagonist to be female of around middle age so she could have a secret which stretched back far enough. I gave her a career in television because I am familiar with that world. From there I decided she should be a documentary maker who is skilled in persuading other people to open up and reveal themselves. It was these basic elements which helped me to build up her character.
I love Catherine’s relationship with her mother and even though they didn’t have many scenes together, it was obvious how important it was for Catherine to have to have someone who loved her without judgement. How did you go about developing their relationship?
I wanted the reader to witness a more vulnerable side to Catherine: her need – like everybody’s – to feel loved and understood no matter what she may have done. I hoped the relationship with the mother showed another side of her character.
It is Stephen Brigstocke who writes the book which tells Catherine’s story and as Disclaimer progresses we see his descent into obsession with Catherine and having her pay for what he thinks she did. What inspired you to create such an antagonist?
I wanted to create a character as far away from Catherine as possible – on the surface at least. If you met Stephen and Catherine at a party it is probably Catherine you’d rather chat to, or on the bus, sit next to. So he appears rather unappealing but I hope your sympathy grows as you learn more about him.
Disclaimer is such a tightly plotted novel which left me as the reader guessing and speculating until the denouement. Did you plot your novel meticulously before you started or did vital elements of your story change as you wrote?
Thank you so much, that is good to hear. I did plot it before starting because I didn’t have the courage to plunge straight in – I needed to know where I was heading. Having said that, I knew too that I would probably change things as I went along and it was only when I was half-way through that I came up with idea for the end.
When the truth about what happened to Catherine, her confrontation with Stephen, and the true role Jonathan played was revealed I was riveted. Did you enjoy writing these scenes and were you ever tempted to let Catherine’s truth remain a secret, especially from Stephen (though I am so glad you didn’t)?
No, I was never tempted to let Catherine’s truth remain a secret. And yes I did enjoy writing those scenes purely because they came quite easily. I barely touched them after getting them down in the first draft.
Your supporting characters are extremely well thought out and rounded. Is it easier for you to create these secondary characters as opposed to the main protagonists?
Thank you again. No, actually I find the secondary characters the most difficult to write probably because it is tempting to skim over them and yet it is crucial they are convincing. They were the ones I went back and re-wrote the most.
People are loving Disclaimer but when you reread your work back are you tempted to make changes or are you happy it’s out there?
No I feel I have spent as much time as I could on it and now I am really pleased it’s out there.
Can you tell us all a little about your writing process? Are you a pen and paper sort of person?
I write straight into my computer – I’m quite a speedy typist having spent two years in my youth doing a shorthand typing course. I am quite careful about plotting, structuring and writing character profiles before I begin writing proper. Having said all that, I am in the process of planning my next novel and this time have written the plot out in long-hand first which I’ve found helpful. It made me slow down a bit which is probably a good thing. I work in the mornings and find that if I don’t start first thing then I lose momentum. I tend to work Monday to Friday, not weekends.
Have you already decided what you will be writing next?
I have decided. I have the characters, I pretty much have the story. But who knows, that might well change once I get down to it.
Huge thanks to Renee for taking the time to answer some of my questions. Disclaimer is out now in all good and evil retailers and it is published by Doubleday.