Today I'm delighted to be shining the spotlight on Kaela Coble and her debut novel Friends and Liars which is published in the UK today.
Kaela Coble is a member of the League of Vermont Writers, a voracious reader, and a hopeless addict of bad television and chocolate. She lives with her husband in Burlington, Vermont, USA, and is a devoted mother to their rescued chuggle, Gus.
Friends and Liars is her first novel.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey?
I’ve always liked to write, but I never seriously considered writing as a career until after I had already graduated from college and started working in my first job in PR (and hated it). I was at a loss for what to do next so I saved some money, quit my job and went backpacking in Australia for four months - a little Eat, Pray, Love journey (before that book came out). It was such an amazing experience that taught me a lot about myself, and near the end of it I was sitting in front of this waterfall and it just came to me that I should write about it.
When I got home, I got work as an administrative assistant so I would have time and energy left to write, but it still took me two years after my trip before I actually started writing, and it took me at least two and a half years to finish my first book. I revised and queried and revised and queried and pitched and revised and queried, but in the end, it was a “stepping stone book,” -- it just wasn’t that good, but I needed to write it in order to get know that I could do it, and to get my writing muscles into shape.
I continued to query it, but I followed the advice I had read a hundred times to start work on your next project. So by the time I was finally ready to shelve that first book, I already had a first draft of a second one, which is what eventually became Friends and Liars. (Coincidentally, I also went through the query and revise, query and revise process for FAL for so long that I had a decent start on my next project before I got my agent).
I queried in the traditional way and eventually was offered representation by Stephanie Kip Roston at Levine, Greenbergy, Rostan Agency, and a few months later, I got a book deal with Corvus!
What inspired you to write Friends and Liars?
I grew up with a really tight-knit and interesting group of friends from childhood who remain friends to this day, and I always wanted to find a way to write about that kind of friendship but didn’t know what the plot would be. Then one day I was at my hairdresser’s sitting under the dryer flipping through a magazine, (the one time I allow myself to read trashy gossip mags), and I read a little blurb about the 30-year anniversary of the movie The Big Chill, which is about a group of college friends who come together after one of them dies, and I thought - that’s it! I just have to kill one of them!
The idea of a group of friends receiving letters bearing their darkest secrets from their dead friend is an intriguing one, did the story turn out as you initially planned or did it take on a mind of its own once you started writing?
That’s a really good question. The basic concept was conceived, as I said, in a flash, and when I sat down to tease it out the idea of the “secret envelopes” came and really spoke to me. That being said, the secrets themselves evolved and changed as I was writing and revising - in earlier drafts they were all different in some way, some drastically so. I think what surprised me is how fun it was to write, how deeply I came to love the characters and their special relationships, and how sad it felt to end the story.
If you had to describe Friends and Liars in one sentence, what would it be?
Friends and Liars is a story about a woman in her late twenties who returns to her hometown and her group of childhood friends when one of them commits suicide and leaves all their darkest secrets behind for them as his last words.
Psychological thrillers are proving to be a niche market at the moment, what do you think is its appeal to both writers and readers alike?
I would say Friends and Liars is more women’s fiction with a suspenseful edge, so not exactly thriller. I think that both genres are so appealing to writers because they are challenging but fun to write, and to readers because they keep you engrossed and flipping the pages to find out what happens. Like all reading, it takes us out of whatever is going on in real life and allows us to escape into another world for a while!
What would you say was the hardest part of the whole writing/editing process?
For me the hardest part after deciding on the concept is just figuring out where to start. I always start with an idea, a few characters, and a few plot points, but figuring out what should happen in the first couple of chapters is challenging and terrifying because it’s a completely blank canvas. Everyone groans about editing, but as long as I know what I want to work on, it feels kind of easy because I already have something to work with. And it’s a satisfying feeling to close out the document at the end of my writing time because I know I’ve improved upon what was there before.
Did you treat yourself to something special to celebrate your publishing deal?
Well everyone says how hard it is for writers to support themselves on their writing alone, so most of my advance went straight into what I call my “early retirement account.” But I did buy my husband a few more Christmas presents than usual, paid off the balance on my scooter loan, and I got a little tattoo of a book-like design on my wrist to commemorate the occasion. Oh, and of course lots of bubbles were consumed!
Have you anything exciting planned for publication day?
I actually live in the US so on the actual day I’ll just be here working (ho hum), but my husband and I are finally going on our honeymoon (we were married last summer) to a few places in Europe, and I’ll be in London for a few days in June. I’ll finally get to meet my editor in person, and hopefully I’ll get to see my book in stores while I’m there!
Finally what can we expect from you next?
I’m working on a book about two women who are best friends until one of them kills the other one’s fiancé in a tragic car crash. It has some of the same themes as Friends and Liars - how far the bonds of friendship can stretch, how people grow and change in the face of tragedy,how family dynamics can influence your life, and of course, a little romance. I’m finishing up a revision before my agent sends it out!
It has been ten years since Ruby left her hometown behind. Since then she's built a life away from her recovering alcoholic mother and her first love, Murphy. But when Danny, one of her estranged friends from childhood, commits suicide, guilt draws Ruby back into the tumultuous world she escaped all those years ago.
She's dreading the funeral - and with good reason. Danny has left a series of envelopes addressed to his former friends. Inside each envelope is a secret about every person in the group. Ruby's secret is so explosive, she will fight tooth-and-nail to keep it hidden from those she once loved so deeply, even if that means risking everything...