I’m delighted to welcome Barbara Copperthwaite as my Author in the Spotlight today. I read Barbara’s book Flowers for the Dead last year and thought it was brilliant. You can read my review here: Flowers for the Dead. The book was published on 2nd September 2015 and you can order a copy here.
First of all, would you tell me a little about yourself?
Despite writing about crime, I’m actually a very cheery person! But I’ve spent over twenty years as a journalist, interviewing people who have been victims of crime, either directly or through the loss of loved ones. As a result of people bravely and generously sharing their experiences with me, I know a lot about the emotional impact of violence and wrongdoing. That’s why my novels are not simply about the criminal act, but the repercussions they have; people are always at the heart of my thrillers.
I also briefly worked in Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow’s category A men’s high security jail, where I met a number of charismatic perpetrators of crime. I realised it really is not possible to judge a book by its cover – or a person by their façade. This is what fascinates me.
When not plotting murder (figuratively speaking, of course) I love to hide behind a camera and take wildlife photographs. It’s incredibly relaxing. I also dabble in drawing.
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always loved reading. I vividly remember discovering Enid Blyton’s Children of Cherry Tree Farm, and the storyline and descriptions of nature captured me. I moved on to more Enid Blyton, this time falling in love with crime thanks to her Five Find Outers series. The first time I cracked a whodunit before the big reveal, I was over the moon!
When I left school after gaining four A-levels, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and by chance saw a job ad in my local paper for a cub reporter. As soon as I started there a passion ignited, and I knew it was what I wanted to do. I was fascinated by people’s stories, by the way ordinary people’s lives exploded into the extraordinary, and how truth so often really is stranger than fiction.
For years people would ask me if I would write a book one day, but I couldn’t understand why: I was a journalist, I dealt with facts, and although I was still a bookworm I had no desire to write fiction myself. That didn’t come until I hit my thirties, and the idea I’d had years before, whilst working in the prison, began to grow and develop. I didn’t start writing it down until I was 37, though. So for me there was no bolt from the blue of inspiration, it was something that came about slowly. Once I started, I couldn’t stop, and now I’ve eased back on my journalism so that I can concentrate on being a novelist. I’ve been reignited by the passion that first manifested itself all those years ago.
In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?
Flowers For The Dead is a psychological crime thriller where the killer is as much a victim as the women he murders. Adam is a man who will do anything to make the woman he loves happy – even kill her.
The plot follows him in the present, as he stalks his latest victim, making her wonder if she is losing her mind; and in flashbacks explains how an innocent child was so tragically warped that he became the serial killer he is today.
His latest victim, Laura Weir, is already struggling with her own demons after witnessing her entire family being wiped out. She’s spent most of the last four years wishing she had died with them. Her vulnerability makes her exactly the kind of woman Adam can’t resist.
But only now that Laura is about to die does she realize how much she wants to live.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
My next novel has been outlined, and I’ve just started writing it. I’m itching to see how it works out, as I’m very excited by it.
It’s about a woman coping with the murder of her child, which is threatening to tear her marriage apart. Inevitably, nothing is as it seems, especially when an old friend appears from her past to help her cope with her grief as she accuses anyone and everyone of being the killer of her daughter. Then she discovers a terrible secret, and no one will believe her… There are a lot of twists and turns in this one – and not all of them I know about yet!
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past year? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!
The best crime novel has to be The Kind Worth Killing, by Peter Swanson. It’s absolutely brilliant! It constantly pulled the rug from beneath me every time I thought I knew where it was heading, and I raced through the pages.
For sheer beauty of language, I have to recommend a book called Meadowland, by John Lewis-Stempel. It sounds so dull – it’s a sort of year-in-the-life of an English field – but it’s incredible the way he brings nature to life in a realistic yet beautiful manner. It is reminiscent of John Clare, in some ways. Some of the passages are so glorious that I want to read them aloud so that I can share them with the world.
What are you reading just now? (December 2015)
Currently, I’m reading Dead Pretty, by David Mark. I haven’t read anything by this author before, but have heard really good things about him. So far, he is living up to his reputation, in my opinion.
Tell me about your reading habits: book or kindle, bed or bath, morning or evening?
Any time, any place, anywhere, any way! If I have time, I’ll always grab a book and read. I don’t mind if it’s Kindle or physical book. I’m a huge fan of having a long soak in the bath, with perhaps a cheeky glass of wine and some classical music playing, whilst losing myself in the pages of a good book. Oooh, yes please!
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
I’ve got a website www.barbaracopperthwaite.com which gives people an overview of everything I do, reviews of books I’ve read and fallen in love with, news updates, plus a link to my blog (they can read bits and bobs about what I get up to on there).
If they pop over to www.facebook.com/AuthorBarbaraCopperthwaite they can join a friendly little community, where we chat about books and all manner of other things. I sometimes run competitions and giveaways on there, too.
On Twitter I can be found @BCopperthwait (my name is too long to include the final ‘e’ in my name!). I tweet about all sorts, and am connected to lots of authors and book bloggers, so it’s a great way for people to discover the latest novel news or great reads.
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
This is incredibly tough! But I’m going to head back to my childhood for my answer, and be Maria in Elizabeth Goudge’s wonderful book The Little White Horse. I read and re-read that story as a child, until I knew it off by heart. I fell in love with the whole world created by the author, from the manor house to the village, to the silver world inhabited by the little white horse. Maria’s bedroom was round because it was located in a turret, and to this day I have a fantasy about having a circular room.
It is a beautifully written book, and all the characters really come to life – the description of Wiggins, at the beginning of the tale, makes me laugh even now! The ending is heartbreakingly wonderful, as the heroine realises that one day, when she dies, she will meet her little white horse again. Who could ask for more than an adventurous life, true love, good friends, and a happy ever after that goes on even after death?