Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Debut Spotlight: Caroline England

Today it's my pleasure to be shining the spotlight on Caroline England and her debut novel Beneath the Skin which was published last week.

Born a Yorkshire lass, Caroline studied Law at Manchester University and stayed over the border. Caroline practised family and professional indemnity law. She became a partner in a firm of Solicitors and instigated her jottings when she deserted the law to bring up her three lovely daughters.

In addition to the publication of her short story collection,Watching Horsepats Feed the Roses, by ACHUKAbooks in 2012, Caroline has had short stories and poems published in a wide variety of literary magazines and anthologies. She was shortlisted for the Impress Prize 2015, in the Pulp Idol 2016 finals and long listed for the UK Novel Writing Competition 2017.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey? 
Hi Shaz, I’m a former divorce and professional indemnity lawyer who lives in South Manchester. I came over the border from Sheffield to study law at the University of Manchester and stayed. I have three gorgeous daughters and three greedy cats but only one husband!

I suppose I had always thought it a romantic notion to write a novel, but never thought I’d actually do it. Though I had always made up stories in my head before sleep, I finally put pen to paper about ten years ago. I wrote very basic drafts of three or four novels, then decided short stories and poems were a lot less effort! Many of them were published in literary magazines and anthologies. A few years later, I came back to Beneath the Skin. 

If you had to give an elevator pitch for Beneath the Skin, what would it be? 
Four couples with interlocking histories; eight individuals, all with secrets that are ready to explode. Beginning and ending the novel is Antonia whose self-harming is only one thing she tries to hide. There’s more to the beautiful and placid Antonia than she’s telling anyone.

Beneath the Skin is a story about complex relationships and deeply hidden secrets, where did the inspiration come from? 
The characters first starred in a short story I wrote called The Dinner Circle, but I’m not sure where the inspiration came from other than my fascination with the things you describe - people, relationships, human frailty and deeply hidden secrets! Perhaps I should have been a psychologist - I’m always looking and listening to people, wondering what’s really going on inside…

If you had to describe Antonia in 3 words, what would they be?  
It depends whether you're talking on the outside or within! Perfect, repressed and fearful.

What attracted you to writing crime fiction as opposed to any other genre? 
I view Beneath the Skin as domestic noir, so some purists may not think it’s crime fiction at all! It’s suspenseful, I hope, but it’s a slower and more nuanced read than a traditional crime thriller. As one reviewer put it, ‘Be prepared to pay close attention to the twists and turns in this story so you’ll understand what’s really happened’. I adored Mary Wesley’s surprisingly risqué novels and I’m also a big fan of Maggie O’Farrell and Kate Atkinson. I have always enjoyed reading crime fiction, from Agatha Christie as a child through to Ruth Rendell, Minette Walters, Val McDermid, Ian Rankin and more recently Mark Billingham and Jo Nesbo. I think my writing has been influenced by the blend of those two genres, so I write about contemporary lives but with intrigue, complications, dark edges and secrets. And, of course, love!

You've previously had short stories published in various magazines and websites, how difficult/easy was it to make the transition to writing a fuller length novel? 
I actually started off with a chick lit type of novel, then moved onto short stories, not least because they were a quick fix, something to read out at my writer’s group on a Monday! There is definitely a craft to writing good short stories, so I suspect specialists would say that I wasn’t doing my job properly if that’s how I viewed them. I was a bit embarrassed about the whole writing malarkey; I’d admit to the odd short story and poem, but for ages I kept my novel writing in the closet! 

Did you treat yourself to something special to celebrate your publishing deal? 
I was taken out for a lovely lunch by my editor at Avon HarperCollins, but for one reason or another, it took a long time for the contract to be finalised, so the ‘moment’ seemed to pass. But now you've mentioned it, I think I should treat myself to something special in lieu! Any good suggestions?

Did you do anything exciting to celebrate publication day? 
I was flying home from a girl’s long weekend in Coral Bay, Cyprus in the early hours, so I had already done plenty of cocktail drinking and celebrating at the local ‘Elvis’ bar. After catching up on much needed sleep, I continued the celebrations with a glass of bubbly and a meal out with my family.

Finally what can we expect from you next? 
My next book, My Husband’s Lies, will be released in May 2018. It’s already available for pre-order on Amazon. After that, my hope is that Avon HarperCollins will want me to write more!

No-one remembers your past. But you do.

‘Antonia, Antonia. My name is Antonia.’

It’s been her name for many years. But sometimes, like tonight, she forgets.

Antonia has a secret. A secret so dark and so deep that she can barely admit it to herself. Instead, she treats herself to Friday night sessions of self-harm while her husband David is at the pub, and her best friend Sophie is drinking too much wine a few doors down.

Nobody close to her knows the truth about what the teenage Antonia saw all those years ago. No-one, that is, except her mother. But Candy is in a care home now, her mind too addled to remember the truth. Antonia is safe. Isn’t she?

The lies start small. They always do. But when the tightly woven story you’ve told yourself begins to unravel, the truth threatens to come to the surface. And then what’s going to happen?

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