Author Talking… Louise Douglas

This looks like it might be becoming a ‘thing’. This Author Talking thing. It makes sense, of course. Nobody talks more than I do. This was actually proven* in a Swiss science lab in 2003 by a team of TOP sciencey dudes with white hair and PhDs in the Study of Talkology. So talking to other authors and then calling it Author Talking… (NB the dot dot dot is very important) was bound to appeal to me. Also, I am very nosy and it’s lovely to nose around the lives and routines of other writers and learn a little more about the habits and habitats of Genus Writus Novelabilis. This week’s specimen is a particularly huggable example called Louise Douglas. I am very fond of Louise. She read a copy of The Judas Scar pre-publication and came back with such heartening enthusiasm and wonderful comments – that made their way on to the cover, in fact – that I will always be grateful. As those of you who read my musings regularly will know, The Beast of Self-Doubt is always skulking nearby and when other authors – especially talented and successful authors like Louise – say nice things, it chases The Beast away. Albeit only for the time it takes to finish reading the nice comments…

So when I saw Louise’s editor tweeting the cover of her soon-to-be-published new book – Your Beautiful Lies – I brazenly tweeted back and asked if I could read an early copy. Occasionally brazen works a treat, and a few days later I was proudly clutching a proof copy. I took the book on holiday with me and spent two days engrossed in Louise’s beautiful writing. The story is set against the miners’ strike, the atmosphere of which Louise captures so well. It’s peppered with wonderful eighties’ references. Louise – who wrote the Richard and Judy pick The Secrets Between Us – is a master of relationship dynamics. The story centres around Annie, a flawed and sometimes lost woman, married to the local police chief, whose life is thrown into turmoil when her first love is released from prison still protesting his innocence and still in love with the her. With a wide range of characters from Annie’s frail mother-in-law, to her young daughter, to the gorgeous relationship between Annie and her younger brother, plus a host of less trustworthy characters, Louise writes an compelling tale which is part domestic drama, part crime, part love story. Add to this an envy-inducing cover and Louise’s immense skill as a writer, and you will find this a perfect holiday read, which is fortuitous considering it’s August and you might well have a holiday planned.

*Not proven at all

And now, a little spot of Author Talking with Louise Douglas…

1) So, Louise, Your Beautiful Lies takes place firmly in the eighties, with lots of nostalgic references to the decade that made me smile whenever I came across one. For me it was all about becoming a teenager, being a little rebellious, and discovering The Cure, Southern Comfort and lemonade, my first kiss and The Breakfast Club. What does the eighties mean to you? 

The eighties were a brilliant time for me too: a hectic few years of rebellion followed by marriage and then babies. I used to dance around the living room in the middle of the night with my son in my arms trying to get him to go to sleep to the music of Culture Club, Madonna and The Communards. I still can’t hear ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ without going completely to pieces remembering those magical baby days.

2) Your book is interwoven with description of the miners’ strike. Did you have family or friends affected by this, or was this something you had to research?

I come from South Yorkshire and I’d never before experienced politics affecting and dividing communities in the way the proposed mine closures, and the resultant strike, did. It was only when I was researching the book that I fully appreciated the hardships the miners endured – Thatcher had loaded the dice against them, and also the extent of police corruption. They were ‘them’ and ‘us’ years. A neighbour of ours, a police officer, legitimately bought a second home with the money earned on overtime during the strike. This was the era of the Yorkshire Ripper too. The music was great but they were unsettling times.

3) Annie and Tom are lovers from the past, torn away from each other in tragic circumstances. In the age of social media it’s far too easy to look up ex-lovers and I wonder whether this isn’t always a good thing. Have you ever looked up any of your old boyfriends?

Ha ha, yes! His name is Simon. He used to have long hair and was deeply opposed to the Establishment.  When I was 17 I loved him with all my heart. I loved him unbearably, I thought he was perfect. I googled him recently and discovered he lectures in digital marketing. I tried to listen to a lecture on YouTube and couldn’t even last two minutes it was so boring.

4) Writing isn’t always easy – in fact, in my experience it’s rarely easy – how do you motivate yourself on those days when it’s particularly tough going?

I still have a full time day job (as if you didn’t know the amount of time I whinge about it) which means time to write is precious. When it comes to motivation, it’s the day job I have more trouble with. Otherwise I find the humour and wit of like-minded writerly friends, Twitter, and the promise of future alcohol work a treat.

5) It is hard for many writers to get exposure for their books. So, if I drag out this handy soap box and loud hailer, are there any new writers or debut books you’d like to shout about? 

She’s not new but a writer I adore is Nell Leyshon. The Colour of Milk is one of my favourite books so far this year. Tammy Cohen goes from strength to strength with The Broken, I thoroughly enjoyed Cally Taylor’s The Accident, adored The Judas Scar by Amanda Jennings (I’ll pay you later, Ed.) and Louise Doughty’s Apple Tree Yard. Find of the year was Stoner by John Williams and an award-winning debut by a fellow Bristol writer is Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall. Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing is very different but wonderful and The Falling by Emma Kavanagh is a fabulous and very accomplished first book.

6) Wine or gin?

Can’t I have both?

7) The 1980s or the 1990s?

Eighties.

8) A city break in New York or a week on the beach?

Beach every time.

9) Lunch with a close friend or a dinner party with twelve new people?

Lunch with a friend.

10)  Make-up or bare-faced beauty?

Prefer natural.

Annie Howarth is living a restless life in a restless town. It’s 1984 and for a mining community in South Yorkshire, the strikes mean tensions are running high. Then a murdered girl is found on the moors and the anxiety levels are pushed to a dangerous breaking point.
Married to the Chief of Police, Annie should feel safe – William can be secretive, though surely whatever he’s hiding is for her own good.
But Annie is keeping her own secrets. Ten years ago the man she loved was ripped from her life in a scandal that still haunts the both of them, and now his return will put her family, her marriage, even her life, at risk.
Your Beautiful Lies is published by Transworld on August 14th.

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