Sunday, 21 September 2014

Guest Post: Amy Bird talks about Toxic Relationships in Hide and Seek

This morning it's my stop on Amy Bird's blog tour for her latest psychological thriller Hide and Seek which is being published in 3 parts with the final part being published this Thursday.  As part of the tour Amy's publisher's are running a competition to win a trip to Paris, see details at the end of this post.

Amy is the author of the thrillers Three Steps Behind You and Yours Is Mine, and now Hide and Seek.

Having moved all over the UK as a child, she now lives in North London with her husband, dividing her time between working part-time as a lawyer and writing.

You can find out more at or follow her on Twitter @London_writer

Families can hide the darkest of secrets. When those secrets fester alongside already damaged relationships, those relationships go from ones of gently bubbling resentment to boiling toxicity. Just so in my new novel Hide and Seek.

There are some classic, almost stereotypical difficult relationships in families. The mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law is one example. That subtle competition for the son's affections might seem dated, anti-feminist even. But nonetheless there is often a latent power play beneath the surface, the battle to show who knows best, who now has the ear of the contested male. In Hide and Seek, we see this contest. Will's wife, Ellie, is one of the three first-person narrators. Gillian, Will's mother, is also a central character. The mistrust and latent enmity between the two women had already been established by Gillian's overbearing and insensitive nature, unpalatable to Ellie's sparky and independent nature. So when Ellie suspects Gillian of harbouring a secret that is fundamental to Will's identity, a battle begins. Gillian will keep the secret at whatever cost. Ellie wants it revealed. Not just for Will's benefit, but for the game of shattering Gillian.

But that is a relationship already gone bad, waiting to turn. What about relationships that seemed strong and healthy? Secrets threaten to destroy them too. Ellie does not tell husband Will everything she has discovered about his past, the past he does not yet know. That is not only a betrayal, it's the re-writing of rules. In a relationship where everything was shared, suddenly secrets are acceptable. That means each can follow their own obsessions without the other knowing, until it is too late, and both are in danger. This is not a new device, of course. The classic contemporary example of martial toxicity is Gone Girl. Only in those relationships in which the couple know each other utterly can the full knowledge of how to betray and conceal be exploited. 

There's also a more complicated relationship in Hide and Seek: the relationship of the characters with themselves, their past and their future. Will struggles to accept the fragments he learns about himself and obsessively pursues the full truth, to the destruction of everything around him. He must accept a changed identity if he is to move on. Ellie is grappling with what it will mean to be a mother, and how she will ensure her own identity is not lost. She acts recklessly, impetuously, as she embarks on this journey, putting herself and her relationship with Will first until she realises what the consequences of that can be.  And then there is a third character, whose narrative doesn't appear until the second third of the book. I won't tell you who they are. It would spoil the surprise. But there is a lot they have to come to terms with, however much they want to hide.

So what is the point of all this toxicity? What is the effect upon the reader? I wanted to create a novel in which the reader can see clearly the treachery that is being practised, the personal obsessions that are driving characters onwards, and the weight of the secrets they hide from each other. This, on its own, is not enough. It is the consequences of those characters' actions within their respective destructive relationships that drives the plot onwards. The battle over the secrets becomes a battle, ultimately, over life itself. The characters may come to realise they have gone wrong, that they need to save their relationships, themselves and each others. But by that point, it may to be too late to cleanse what has gone before. 

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