Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Debut Spotlight: Elisabeth Carpenter

Today it's my absolute pleasure to shine the spotlight on author Elisabeth Carpenter on the latest leg of the blog tour for her debut novel 99 Red Balloons which was published last month.

Elisabeth Carpenter lives in Preston with her family. She completed a BA in English Literature and Language with the Open University in 2011.

Elisabeth was awarded a Northern Writers’ New Fiction award, and was longlisted for Yeovil Literary Prize (2015 and 2016) and the MsLexia Women’s Novel award (2015). She loves living in the north of England and sets most of her stories in the area, including the novel she is writing at the moment. She currently works as a book keeper.

99 Red Balloons is the fifth manuscript I’ve written. I started writing short stories in the late 1990s when my eldest son was little, but it wasn’t until my second son was born (fourteen years later!) that I began my first novel. I spent three years writing and re-writing it and sent it to so many agents, I ran out of places to email it! 

After three writing three other novels (now consigned to the ‘bottom drawer’ of my laptop), I had an idea for another: 99 Red Balloons. I received several offers of representation for this book and it was a surreal time – I couldn’t believe it! The next nail-biting time would be finding the right publisher.

The book went on submission in the summer of 2016 while I was on holiday in Cornwall. At first, I tried not to look at emails, but I ended up checking every notification! In the August, we had an offer from Phoebe Morgan at Avon HarperCollins. It all happened so fast, I still can’t believe it’s real!  

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey? 
I began writing my first novel in 2011 after my second son was born, which isn’t that long ago really. I wrote short stories before that, but I find them more difficult. 99 Red Balloons is the fifth manuscript I’ve written – and the first psychological thriller.

If you had to give an elevator pitch for 99 Red Balloons, what would it be? 
When Stephanie’s eight-year-old niece disappears, family secrets bubble to the surface. Stephanie helps support Emma through the search for her daughter – after all, they are sisters - or so everyone thinks. 

Maggie’s granddaughter was tragically abducted in the 1980s. Until one day, she watches a police appeal for a missing child – one of the women on the news looks strangely familiar. What starts as a passing thought becomes an obsession that soon spirals and takes over her life.
(Sorry – that’s longer than the standard elevator pitch. I’d have to talk quickly!)

99 Red Balloons was an iconic pop tune for those of us old enough to remember, how did the book title come about?
The song was on the radio all the time when I lived in Germany as a child. Part of the book is set there, so the song weaved itself through the narrative. 

My working title, however, was ‘Remember Me’, but I didn’t think that was memorable enough!

The premise of this storyline of a missing child and family secrets is frightening, where did the inspiration come from?
As a mother, it’s my worst nightmare. I wanted to explore the effects this would have on the wider family circle. It’s a time when people come together, but also a time when relationships are tested to the limit. It’s such a horrific subject – I hope I’ve treated it with respect.

What attracted you to writing crime fiction as opposed to any other genre? 
My other manuscripts were a variety of genres: commercial, women’s, and literary. When I wrote 99 Red Balloons, everything seemed to click into place. I love fast-paced fiction, but I also try to combine this with characterisation.

Did you treat yourself to something special to celebrate your publishing deal? 
Some Prosecco and a meal out with my family.

Have you anything exciting planned for publication day?
Hopefully lunch with my mum and an evening meal with my family. There’s a theme there!

Finally what can we expect from you next? 
Anna’s mother, Debbie, disappeared in 1986 when Anna was just a baby. Thirty years later, the family receives an email from someone claiming to be Debbie. But what happened the day she went missing? It’s told from the viewpoints of Anna in the present day, and Debbie in the lead-up to that fateful day in 1986.

Two girls go missing, decades apart. What would you do if one was your daughter?

When eight-year-old Grace goes missing from a sweetshop on the way home from school, her mother Emma is plunged into a nightmare. Her family rallies around, but as the police hunt begins, cracks begin to emerge.

What are the secret emails sent between Emma’s husband and her sister? Why does her mother take so long to join the search? And is Emma really as innocent as she seems?

Meanwhile, ageing widow Maggie Taylor sees Grace’s picture in the newspaper. It’s a photograph that jolts her from the pain of her existence into a spiralling obsession with another girl – the first girl who disappeared…

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