Author Interview with Beth Thomas

Today on Becca's Books, I'm absolutely over the moon to be welcoming the fabulous Beth Thomas onto the blog, to chat all things books, and more specifically, about her upcoming release His Other Life, which I CANNOT WAIT to disappear into! With exactly a week to go until the eBook publication, it seemed like the perfect time to have a chat with the author and get you all excited about what I don't doubt will be another fantastic book!

Beth, for those who haven't yet heard of you or your work, could you provide us with a little introduction? 

B ~ Hello! Well, I'm a forty-something civil servant (yawn, let's not talk about that). My dream is to write full time, but at the moment I'm doing both jobs, as well as doing some voluntary work with my "free time". Consequently I never have any spare time, and hardly ever read or watch television. I feel a bit left out of everything at the moment! Who won Big Brother?

Your debut novel Carry You was released April 2014, so it's been a while since we've seen any exciting book news from you! How long does it normally take you to completely finish a book? 

B ~ I suppose I would have to say start to finish probably a year. But then His Other Life has taken me about twelve years, because I gave up on it around six months after I started writing it in 2002. But when Harper Collins gave me a two book deal with Carry You, I resurrected it and finished it. But generally speaking, I allow myself a year. 

His Other Life is about Grace learning that her husband Adam isn't as perfect as he first seemed to be. Beth, where did this idea come from? Did you enjoy writing it? 

B ~ I absolutely loved writing it! I can't begin to imagine where I got the idea from, though, except I've always been fascinated by the stories of people saying they're going round the corner to buy a Milky Way and never coming back. What happens to them? Do they decide to go, half way through eating it? Was that the plan all along? Or does something happen to them while they're out that makes them decide never to go back? 

What major issues/themes can we expect to be addressed in His Other Life

B ~ Because of my fascination with the reasons why people do this kind of thing, I've explored the relationship between husband and wife, and how one half of that coupling might be vaguely aware of some problems, but maybe not allowing him or herself to look at that too closely. Once you've made your choice of life partner and you're sharing everything with that person, it must be extremely difficult to acknowledge that you might have made a bad decision. And probably even more difficult to get yourself out of it. There's also a bit about the pros and cons of coconut cupcakes - I'm sure we'd all like to get to the bottom of that thorny problem. 

Can you tell us a little about the characters that we'll be meeting within your second novel? 

B ~ Well Grace is trying not to be naive, and failing! She has a friend, Ginger, who supports her when she needs it; and Matthew, Ginger's brother, is a policeman who keeps Grace informed on the progression of the missing person case. They've known each other from school. Adam, of course, is mostly absent, but we do learn a fair bit about him from Grace. I won't give anything away! Adam's parents feature in the story a bit, as do Grace's parents, brother, and sister. Grace's family are pretty close and obviously all love each other a great deal. Adam's family, maybe not so much. 

If you had to choose, what would you say was your favourite part of writing His Other Life

B ~ This is tricky to talk about without giving away any of the story! There's a part where Grace takes a trip to investigate Adam's disappearance. I think that was my favourite part. There's a relationship growing at that point and it was a chance for us to see the two people interact with each other at length for the first time. Also Grace takes the opportunity to claw back some power in her life. Added to all that, she goes to one of the most gorgeous places in England, so it was very relaxing and enjoyable to write about that. 

What's your planning process like? 

B ~ *Slides eyes sideways* I probably shouldn't admit to this but I don't really have a process per se. Well, that's not really true. The truth is, I don't have a process at all. I start with an idea, eg. husband pops out for something, doesn't come back. Then I start writing the first chapter. I suppose I kind of plan as I'm going along. I make notes at the bottom of the manuscript to make sure I come back and revisit every little hook I've set up. 

Is His Other Life a typical love story? 

B ~ My first thought on that question was 'No way!' But then I started thinking, what's a typical love story? Boy meets girl; they're from two feuding families; they both commit suicide. Or maybe: Boy meets girl; she discovers his mad wife is being kept in the attic; he's blinded in a fire. Or even: Boy meets girl; boy wants to drink girl's blood; girl marries him anyway (because he's hot!) The genre Romance is so hugely diverse, perhaps now more than ever, so either there is no such thing as a typical love story; or any story at all involving a relationship could be considered typical!

Are there any differences or similarities between His Other Life and Carry You

B ~ I guess they're similar in that they're both about someone recovering from a difficult incident in their lives, and how they go about that. I love writing humour, so I hope His Other Life is humorous! And there's a bit of romance to keep us all interested. 

Which was easiest to write, do you think? Your first novel, or your second? 

B ~ Gosh, what a question! They've both had their challenges, but to be honest I think Carry You was perhaps slightly easier, simply because so much of it was based on my own experience of training for and completing the London Moonwalk. My own mum died twelve years ago, so I used that experience too. His Other Life was just made up - I always find that more challenging. Especially in this case, where there had to be a big pay-off at the end... *locks lips closed: throws away key*

What kind of emotions will be pushed upon us once we begin reading? 

B ~ Like Grace herself, I predict you will experience an insane mix of all the emotions you can imagine! I think you'll be rooting for Grace. You might be horrified or disgusted or outraged. I hope you'll be intrigued and gripped! I hope you'll fall in love. And ultimately I'd be thrilled if you felt a sense of triumph and satisfaction. And of course a mad, impatient desire to read the next Beth Thomas novel! 

Would you agree with me if I were to say that writer's block is just a myth? If not, how have you managed to overcome it in the past? 

B ~ I think you're right, Becca. I think it's simply a label (or excuse!) writer's give themselves when they don't know what to write next. I very often get to a point in a story where I can't seem to move the characters on, or there just doesn't seem to be anywhere for the story to go next. Or at least, I can't see where it's going next. But of course there's always somewhere for it to go, because it's all just made up! When you write, you have the luxury of being able to make anything at all happen next - a shopping trip, a death, a broken fingernail, a car accident, and so on - so there's really no need to get 'blocked'. The only way out of it is to simply keep writing. Even if what you write is terrible, as long as it gets you past that log jam into waters that flow more easily, you can always go back and re-do the terrible bit. 

What's your favourite writing accompaniment?

B ~ I like silence. I like being warm! I love writing with a coffee when it's pouring with rain and freezing cold outside. I love it when the house is tidy around me - my head is always clearer when I'm not obsessing over the hoovering I should be doing. 

Are you a tea or coffee kinda' woman? 

B ~ Oh these are hard questions! I love a cup of tea, for a standard, ordinary moment. Not plain tea, mind you; it has to be Earl Grey, with the bag left in so it's super strong and you can really taste it. But for a special occasion, it's coffee all the way. I look on coffee as a treat, almost like a dessert, so I reward myself with it. I need lots of rewards, from getting out of bed successfully to finishing a chapter. I love it with flavoured syrup in it, like salted caramel or gingerbread. Lush! My son Zach bought me a coffee machine for Christmas a couple of years ago, which was one of my most favourite gifts ever! 

What are your top three inspirational tips for other writers? 

B ~ Firstly, write down your dreams! I've had so many brilliant ideas while I've been asleep. Secondly, carry a notebook around with you so you can note down funny things you hear or see - it may only be one line of snatched conversation, but it could be the starting point for an entire novel. And thirdly, like I said, if you're not happy with what you've written, don't dwell on it. Move on to the next scene or the next chapter, and come back to the weak bit. I am positive that you'll be able to improve it later, when the story is finished and you know exactly where it's going and what the characters are like. By that point, they will have developed a mind of their own, and you don't really have to think about it anymore!

Can we expect more from you in the future, Beth? 

B ~ Hell yeah! I'm a third of the way through my next book, and am very excited about it. It's not contracted yet, but hopefully the wonderful team at Avon will want to take it on when it's finished. And if they don't, I will write another, and another, and so on until they're sick of hearing from me and take me on just for a quiet life! I love writing more than (almost) anything else and to make my living doing it would be like making money from my hobby. Luxury. 

What kind of reaction are you hoping to get when His Other Life is unleashed upon the world? 

B ~ Well the lovely Claudia Carroll has likened it to Gone Girl, so if I get a reaction even close to what Gillian Flynn got, I'll be ecstatic! Seriously, I'm hoping that people will be gripped and intrigued and dying to know what happened to Adam. And of course a film deal would be the syrup in the coffee ;) 

Any parting comments, Beth? 

B ~ Only to say thank you so much for having me, Becca. And thank you for being a fan and loving my books. Your support, and the support of so many bloggers, as well as readers, is so very important to all of us writers. I really do appreciate it :D xxx

Beth, it has been absolutely fantastic having you here! I wish you ALL of the success in the world with His Other Life, and all of her future novels which I'll forever be eagerly waiting for! ;)  


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