I learned about Just What Kind of Mother Are You by Paula Daly by my almost-stalking of Allison Barrow – publicist of the wonderful Kate Atkinson – and who is also publicist to Daly. So, the lovely Daly started following me (she loves Atkinson too) and we started tweeting each other. After I finished and reviewed her debut novel Just What Kind of Mother Are You she was kindly enough to agree to this interview. I was thrilled! There were so many questions I wanted to ask, but as I usually do so as not to overdo it with writers, I stuck to 5. Here they are. Enjoy!
1.I know you are a freelance physiotherapist. How and why did you start writing? Did you ever think you would be a published writer?
I always wanted to have a go at writing, but I didn’t know where to start. I hadn’t studied English since I was sixteen years old and so I thought I wasn’t allowed to be a writer. That sounds silly as I write that now, but I did think you had to go on a course to be told what to do!
Then my friend recommended Stephen King’s book ‘On Writing’, and that gave me the confidence to just put pen to paper and see what came out. What came out was a series of short stories, followed by a couple of novels. Once I started writing I couldn’t stop. I loved it. I was totally thrilled by it. And then I began to dream of the possibility of making a career out of it.
2. Crime novels always have some strong social criticism behind the main plot. Just What Kind of Mother Are You deals with women’s situation in today’s society. Was the criticism deliberate of did it just come out organically?
It was very much the starting point of the novel. The theme of the over stressed mother came about directly from an episode of The Oprah Show:
Overwhelmed, working mother of two, Brenda Slaby, forgets to drop her baby at the babysitter’s, and poor Cecelia dies as a result of heatstroke in the hot August sun.
I was heartbroken by this poor woman’s story, and as I watched, I thought: That could have been me. I, too, was once so overstretched with full time work and children that I could have made a similar mistake.
The more I thought about this awful turn of events, the more I wanted to write about it. But I write thrillers, I could not do Brenda’s story justice. And so it wasn’t until I met a particularly difficult woman, a woman who is in the habit of making a person feel bad about their life, that the story popped into my head. Because I thought: What if you lost her child? What if you were so busy, that you took your eye off the ball, and her child went missing?
This terrified me.
3. Were you a fan of crime fiction/thrillers/mysteries before writing your novel? Which are your favorite books?
I’m not big on police procedurals but I do love a good, well-written mystery or thriller. Some of my favourites are:
Case Histories and One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson.
The Big Picture by Douglas Kennedy.
Out of Sight by Elmore Leonard.
Beneath the Skin and Killing Me Softly by Nicci French
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
Crooked Letter Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
4. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said a mystery won’t be good unless you –as a writer – don’t have the ending in mind when you start writing it. Could you tell us about your process?
I ALWAYS have the ending! I want the reader to put my book down completely satisfied by the way things were sewn up, and for that I must know what I’m working towards. Paramount is the baddie’s motivation, because if that isn’t worked out fully, the reader is likely to hurl the book across the room. I plan the novel out scene by scene on a couple of sides of A4, then I get started.
5. You are working on your next novel. Can you tell us about it? I’m curious about Joanne and whether you are creating a detective series around her!
The next book is titled The Day Before She Came and the premise is: What if your friend steals your husband? And you know she’s got a screw loose? But no one believes you? Not even your own children?
It’s about a woman, Natty Wainwright, and what she must go through to fight for what’s hers. DC Joanne Aspinall features again, but this time she has a different role. This time she’s on the trail of our hero, not the bad guy. Which mixes things up nicely, I think.
You can follow paula on Twitter: @pauladalyauthor