Interview with Barbara Copperthwaite
Barbara Copperthwaite is a bestselling author of psychological crime fiction. Her debut, INVISIBLE, went on sale last year and became an Amazon Top Ten best seller in the UK. FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD has been equally successful, charting as soon as it was released.
Barbara kindly agreed to being interviewed for my blog.
Can you tell me a bit about your latest book please?
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.
How long did it take you to write?
My first book, Invisible, took me almost two years to write, because I only had time to work on it during my daily commute to the magazine I edited. Now, I’m a freelance journalist, working from home, so it was much easier to concentrate on Flowers For The Dead. I started working on it in January 2015, and the first draft took me six weeks. But then there were further drafts, and then it had to be sent to my editor, it had to be proofread, etc, so the whole thing wasn’t perfected and ready to print until August. During June and July I was also working with my partner, Paul, on the cover. He’s a professional artist, so I’m very lucky.
What research was involved?
I have reams of research on my laptop. As a journalist, research is second nature to me, and so I’ll do a mixture of things:
* Look at real life case studies: for example, Adam dyes his hair a shade darker, in order to look paler when grieving. This is actually something UK killer Jeremy Bamber is believed to have done after murdering his family. It was so melodramatic yet calculating; I couldn’t resist using it.
* Talk to contacts in the police and legal world.
* Check with therapists, counselors and psychologists I know, to ensure I’m getting the correct motivations and reactions in my characters.
* I also Google like crazy, reading FBI reports on serial killers and so on.
Learning the meaning of flowers was particularly fascinating. It’s a very genteel language that was great fun to subvert to more sinister use.
What genuinely shocked me during my research, though, was how easy and cheap it is to buy locksmith equipment and surveillance items. I was also stunned to discover that it is possible to turn a mobile phone or any other device with voice recognition software or a microphone into a ‘bug’. So that includes televisions that you ‘speak’ to, many laptops and tablets, smartphones etc.
Back in 2006 the FBI used a crime family’s devices against them, in order to gather evidence then successfully prosecute in court. These days anyone can do it by buying the right software on the internet. The programme will allow someone to eavesdrop on phone calls, get details on text messages, remotely control the phone using SMS, track the location of the phone with GPS and log the phone’s activities. It will also allow them to use the phone as a listening device and hear what is happening in the surrounding area. Scary stuff!
Would you like to see your books made into dramas or films?
If Hollywood were to contact me, I wouldn’t say no! It would be a surreal but incredible experience to see Flowers For The Dead play out in front of me on a big screen.
The hardest person to cast would be Adam, because he is so incredibly complex. It would have to be someone who has the ability to convey not just a cold-blooded killer but also a certain amount of vulnerability. Benedict Cumberbatch could probably do a great job of it, as he is a fantastic actor, but I’m not sure if he’s right for the role physically. It’s a bit random, but I think my top choice would be Daniel Radcliffe. He has the innocence – we’ve all seen that in his role as Harry Potter, but I’ve watched him in plays and he has the range to show an evil side, too. Playing a serial killer would definitely be a different direction for him!
Can we look forward to more books from you?
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. There are a lot of twists and turns in this one – and not all of them I know about yet!
Where do you like to do most of your writing?
I have an old-fashioned writing desk I sit at, in one of the bedrooms I’ve turned into an office. It’s the kind with the writing area that folds down, and I absolutely love it. Most of my writing is done there, with my dog, Scamp, sat patiently at my feet.
Writing is a solitary experience though, and I like being surrounded by people. So in summer I will often head outside with my laptop, and write in my local park. In winter, I can often be found sipping hot chocolate in a café whilst typing.
I see that you’re a journalist. How long have you been doing journalism as a career?
I’ve spent over twenty years as a journalist, writing for national magazines and newspapers in the UK. Celebrities don’t hold a lot of interest for me, on the whole, instead I prefer interviewing ordinary people; people who have found themselves thrust into extraordinary situations.
Through my work, I’m very privileged to have met people from all walks of life, who have experienced all manner of things happen to them – but in particular, those who have been victims of crime, either directly or through the loss of loved ones. As a result of them bravely and generously sharing their experiences with me, I know a lot about the emotional impact of violence and wrongdoing. This depth of experience lends my novels psychological insight into the characters, and a feeling of reality for the storyline. It’s also why my novels are not simply about the criminal act, but the repercussions they have. People are always at the heart of my thrillers.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to write their first novel?
Just do it! The hardest part is starting, so force yourself to begin, don’t let yourself get distracted, and definitely don’t listen to your fear telling you it isn’t any good. Write, write, and write some more, until you have finished it – don’t give up halfway through!
What you’ll have at the end is a first draft. It will be rough, and will need a lot of work, so don’t beat yourself up about it. There isn’t a single writer, no matter how experienced and successful, who doesn’t have to improve their first draft. With that in mind, recognize what has to be worked on in your own book, and then go through it again and again until it is the best you can possibly make it.
Describe a day in your life.
One of the things I love about my life is that every day is different. Some days are all about being a journalist. Researching a story, putting someone at ease, and getting them to open up to me, a total stranger, about the worst moments of their life. It’s a tough job, but such a privilege.
Other times I’ll be writing my book, doing in-depth research for part of the story I’ve just come up against. I might simply be staring into space, seemingly aimlessly, whilst trying to think out a problem in the plot.
Whatever my day involves, though, I always have to find time to walk my dog, Scamp.
How useful is social media for you?
Incredibly! Not only is it a fabulous way of getting word out about my novels, but far more importantly, it’s a way of readers being able to contact me. I love hearing from them, and being able to chat to them on Facebook or Twitter. They are so friendly, and their feedback is very important to me.
I am absolutely intrigued by your nature website, Go Be Wild. What’s it all about?
Juggling journalism, writing a novel, and doing publicity, plus running a home, can get a bit hectic and stressful sometimes. I constantly have ever-growing lists in my head of things I must do, and am always thinking three steps ahead with everything. But when I’m watching nature, all of that is left behind.
My nature website, www.gobewild.co.uk is something I do purely for pleasure. I’m no expert, and don’t claim to be, I just love keeping track of what I’ve seen on the blog, and write some features on the site, too.
I particularly love taking wildlife photographs. It really takes my mind off everything and focuses me on living in the moment. There is no past, no future, only that perfect time when I’m barely breathing as I focus my camera on something beautiful, such as a butterfly, and take the snap.
Hopefully, in addition to be a lovely, relaxing thing for me to do, Go Be Wild also resonates with other people.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
The best way for me to relax is to spend some time with Scamp and Paul. We like being out and about, going on long walks while I photograph wildlife. Catching up with friends and family is the best use of spare time, definitely.
I also enjoy drawing (again, mostly nature) and do a spot of knitting, sewing, or baking.
And, of course, I read – a lot!
Who are your favourite authors?
I’ve always been a bookworm. As a child I used to climb a tree so I wouldn’t be disturbed while reading! I’m one of those people who loves to re-read favourites: Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens; Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen; Far From The Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy; Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert; The Talented Mr Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith.
I’m also a huge fan of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. In homage to Rebecca, I chose never to name my character in Invisible, which was a fantastic device for showing just how invisible she had become in her own life.
Although I do have these favourites, I also love discovering new authors such as: Clare Mackintosh (I Let You Go), Paula Hawkins (The Girl on the Train), Ben McPherson (A Line of Blood), and Claire Kendal (The Book of You). I recently finished Peter Swanson’s ‘The Kind Worth Killing’, which I thought was brilliant.
Adam Bourne is a serial killer who thinks he is a saviour. When he murders young women and cuts off their lips, he believes he has done it to make them happy.
How did he become warped from the sensitive four-year-old who adored his gran and the fairy tales she read to him? What turned him into a monster who stalks his victims? And what is he trying to say with the bouquets he sends?
When he meets Laura Weir, Adam weaves a fairy tale romance around them. A tale she has no idea she is part of. As he hatches his twisted plan for their fairy tale ending, can anyone stop him before he creates the ultimate sacrifice to love?
You can buy ‘Flowers For The Dead’ from Amazon:-
To find out more about the novels INVISIBLE and FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD go to www.facebook.com/AuthorBarbaraCopperthwaite or follow @BCopperthwait on Twitter. To find out more about Barbara go to www.barbaracopperthwaite.com