Blog Tour: Review & Author Interview - My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry

Today on Becca's Books, I'm thrilled to be welcoming the fantastic Jane Corry to the blog. I'm delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for Jane's novel, My Husband's Wife, with my review of this riveting novel and an interview with Jane Corry, both of which I hope you'll enjoy reading!

Author Interview
Jane, with the publication of your Penguin debut, My Husband's Wife, fast approaching (May 26th 2016), tell us how you're feeling.
First of all, thank you so much for asking me to take part in your wonderful blog. I am really excited about My Husband's Wife because it is so different from anything I've written before. It's very dark and sinister at times. Yet it's also a love story about three people who just want to find love - only to discover the horrors when everything goes wrong. I keep telling family and close friends that they might be rather shocked by some scenes. I was taken by surprise myself when the story wrote itself in my head.

There is a certain buzz about your debut novel, and that fact that you've actually worked in a prison yourself. What was that like? Is there any one experience that remains with you?
Prison was both addictive and also scary. It's hard to explain why unless you're actually working there, day in and day out, with men who have committed headline crimes. When I stopped to think about it, I got nervous. But to be honest, I was so involved in writing stories with my men that I often forgot what they'd done until I left for the day. I'd then drive home to my teenage son, looking at people on the streets and thinking 'I've been in prison all day while they've led normal lives'. One experience which remains with me is coming in one day and being told that one of the men had just murdered another.

Where did the idea for My Husband's Wife come from? It's such an intriguing title, strange too. It certainly caught my eye from just the first glance.
I wanted to explore the relationships in a modern extended family. People often presume that first and second wives shouldn't get on. But what if one needed something from the other? What is it like to know that another woman is now living with a man whom you'd loved with for many years? What can that make you do under stress? How do we really define a 'good' or 'bad' person? Add a dollop of crime and you get a plot with a difference. I also like to take readers down one path and change direction. Several times! Hence the title.

If you had to choose three words to describe your debut, which would you choose?
Unexpected. Contradictory. Soul-searching.

I read in your author bio that your work within the prison 'wormed its way' into your debut. How so?
I originally started with the idea of exploring a relationship between two woman and the husband they both know (at different times of their lives). But even though I've finished my three year term as writer in residence of a prison, I can't banish it from my head. I am also a life judge for the Koestler Awards which are given to men and women writers and artists in prisons and mental institutions. So I am still very involved with prison life. That's why Joe, my criminal character, just knocked on my door during the first chapter and slipped in.

You could call it 'breaking and entering'.

Have you always been interested in crime? How did you come to work in the prison itself?
If you'd told me a few years ago that I'd be writing about crime, I'd never have believed you. I started out as a journalist and prefer to write about what I know. Then my first marriage broke up and, in the same month, I lost my regular weekly freelance column for a woman's magazine because the editor left. Although I had maintenance from my first husband, this was a big financial blow to my income. So I had to find a job outside the home after over twenty years. Then a neighbour advised me to look in The Guardian media job ads and there it was. 'Wanted! Writer in residence for high security prison'. I didn't want the job but needed the money. Once there, however, I was hooked.

In regards to your writing, how much research would you say went into My Husband's Wife?
A great deal! I went to enormous lengths to check the legal side was right. My old prisoner governor read it and the Law Society also put me in touch with a lawyer who did the same. I happen to know a retired judge and he kindly looked at it too. Oh and I contacted a pathologist who, despite juggling her own career and small children, made time for late night chats along the lines of 'Could someone die this way?' I also got in touch with the National Autistic Society for reasons which become clear in the novel.

Do you have any favourite thriller/suspense writers of your own?
When I was about 12, my mother introduced me to Josephine Tey. I loved the intrigue. I also like authors who 'play with your mind'. Maggie O'Farrell is a favourite too.

Tell us a little bit about your characters in My Husband's Wife?
I purposefully created a cast of different personalities. Lily, my female lawyer, seems good but has a hidden agenda. Ed, her new husband is an artist. He might seem self-centred but hasn't had an easy life. Carla is one of those little girls who is bursting to grow up and cause havoc. And Joe is the kind of dangerous criminal who will do anything for those he loves.

Can you relate to any of them at all?
There are parts of me in Lily. Like her, I've had my challenges in life. And the two of us had to tread that fine line between being professional and wanting to do good in prison. I also paint (like Ed).  

When Penguin got in touch with you about My Husband's Wife, how did you feel?
When my agent rang to say that Penguin was interested, I was in the middle of packing for a 60th wedding anniversary in our family. My husband was telling me not to take so much (story of my life) and we were also up against the clock with a long drive ahead from the south west to London. I thought 'that's nice' but I refused to allow myself to get excited because it seemed too good to be true. Then my agent rang an hour later to ask if I could meet Katy Loftus, the Penguin editor who had picked up my manuscript. How about that evening, just before the family party? Because we were short of time, she was actually prepared to come to the hotel we were staying at. That's when my heart started beating. From the minute I went down to reception and saw Katy, I felt as though I'd met up with an old friend. She 'got' my characters immediately.

How much time would you say you spend each day? Do you have daily writing goals?
I'm a morning writer: I get up at 7am, run the dog, have breakfast with my husband and am at my desk by 9.30. I write about 2000 to 3000 words in the morning. It's not so much my goal as what I do. Then I revise in the afternoon and do emails etc. For a break, I'll have another walk and or cycle round to my daughter who has just had a baby. She and her husband moved near us so I can be a hands-on Grannie. My own grandmother was a youngish grandmother too and she was local as well. In today's day and age when families aren't always near each other, I feel very lucky. I also go up to London twice a month (I used to live there) and write in the Quiet carriage on my youngest son's cast off laptop which is much lighter than mine and plastered with music stickers. I joke that the train is my second office.

If My Husband's Wife was to be made into a movie, which song would you choose for the opening credits?
'I will survive' by Gloria Gaynor: my mother, who died young, used to say that I'm quietly determined and deceptively tough. Like my characters.

How can readers expect to feel when reading My Husband's Wife?
Intrigued. Keen to know what's going to happen next. Misled. A sneaking sympathy for characters who've behaved badly. And an insight into how families can push the boundaries to the limits.

Is your next novel currently being worked on? Is it too early to share any sneaky news about it?
I've just finished the first draft and it's so exciting. I can't say too much about it except that it's about three sisters who set off to school one bright May morning and only two of them survive the day.

What are your plans for publication day?
A swim in the sea, however cold. A picnic on our local beach. A cuddle with my family. Happy emails to and from my agent Kate Hordern and editor Katy Loftus. And interviews with lovely people like you! (Arranged by the fabulous Penguin team, including my wonderful publicist Annie Hollands.)

Are readers to expect a twisting, turning plot within My Husband's Wife?
That sums it up perfectly!

Lastly, is there anything that you're hoping readers will take away from reading My Husband's Wife?
The thought that life is unexpected. You never know what is going to happen. Or that a certain person is the man, woman or child that you thought they were.

Jane, I can't thank you enough for being here today on Becca's Books, and taking the time to chat with me. I wish you nothing but the best for the big day and really hope My Husband's Wife flies from the shelves!
Thank you so much, Becca. It's been a real pleasure.

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Blurb
There's a fine line between love... and murder.

When lawyer Lily marries Ed, she's determined to make a fresh start. To leave the secrets of the past behind.

But then she meets Joe. A convicted murderer who Lily is strangely drawn to. Who she will soon be willing to risk anything for.

But is he really innocent?

And who is she to judge?

Review
When I was first contacted about joining the blog tour for Jane Corry's My Husband's Wife, I couldn't say yes fast enough. The cover, coupled with those dangerous few sentences, had my mind going frantic with all sorts of daring and dark possibilities. It's only recently that I've took such a keen liking to crime thrillers, having always been a firm lover of romance, but the promise of the blurb and even the author's riveting background heightened my anticipation and made me all the more eager to get stuck in. It turns out the wait, and my excitement, were completely worth it.

As soon as the novel begins, Jane Corry presents the reader with a radio broadcast announcing the death of Ed, and from the blurb, the reader is able to put two and two together and reach the conclusion that Ed is Lily's husband. Beginning the novel with such a bang really did it for me. Immediately I wanted to know how he'd come to die, who was behind it and, most importantly, why. So many scenarios ran through my mind, scenarios which I had to quickly pat down in order to not get ahead of myself. What I wanted was for the author to lead me from the present into the past, and then back again, bringing me sumptuously up to date at the end, which Jane did in the most captivating and satisfying of ways.

I adored the way this novel was told. Jane places the news broadcast about Ed's death right at the very beginning (2015), and then story deepens as we're taken back to 2000, fifteen years earlier. Essentially, what Jane does here is build up to the moment of the broadcast that we're greeted by first. Not only are we switching between the past and present day, but we're also reading in Lily's first person narrative and then Carla's third person narrative. It's unusual for me to enjoy a novel written in such a way, if I'm going to be truthful, mainly because I find it hard to keep up with where the characters are at, but in My Husband's Wife, I really don't think there could have been a more perfect way for such a spellbinding tale to be told. It was effective, had me hooked, and I couldn't bare to put it down.

Jane's characters within My Husband's Wife were superbly crafted, I have to say. From Lily the lawyer and Ed the artist, to Carla the little girl, each of them had a secret, a story to be told in the most delicious of ways. Lily is who we meet first. Lily is a criminal lawyer, just back off her honeymoon with new husband Ed. The case she's about to embark on, without her even realising, will change the course of Lily's life forever. What I really enjoyed about this novel was the way Jane peppered Lily's chapters with not only the criminal side of things, but the domestic side of things too. I was able to pick up on a strange sort of distance between Lily and Ed, but couldn't put my finger on why. I had to wait patiently for the truth to be revealed but what a glorious wait it was. Lily's new focus on Joe, a murderer who desires freedom despite having been found guilty, widens the distance between her and Ed even more. It's fair to say that Lily becomes fascinated with Joe and his case, and who can blame her? He's an intimidating man, but also, bizarrely,  She's a hard-worker, clever too, and what followed that first morning was absolutely gripping. The moments of tense silence as she and Joe looked at each other over the small table in the room they'd meet were incredibly written, so much so I could have been sat in that very room myself. These characters felt so real and vivid to me, their separate stories hard-hitting and powerful.

When the first chapter change arrived and I found myself with Carla, I wasn't quite sure of how Jane Corry was going to incorporate her within the story. When we first meet Carla she's a little girl. She's always been desperate to fit in, but with her Italian heritage, found it hard. I found Carla to be a strange character at times, but in an entirely good way. There were things that she'd do that had me wondering whether there was something much cleverer and darker hidden beneath the surface, and if perhaps given the right power, Carla could actually cause some destruction. As the novel progressed, I adored watching Carla develop as a character. I went through the entire book thinking to myself 'where is the author possibly going to take this?' and when Jane veered me off the course I thought I was following, it knocked me completely off of my feet.

There was so much depth to this novel, so much weight, and so much provided by the author to think about too. Lines were crossed, people were pushed, boundaries were broken, and in all honesty, it completely blew me away. Like unwrapping the strings around a parcel, one by one, I couldn't wait to finally reach that seductive middle. Where there were questions, Jane provided the answers, and I finished reading My Husband's Wife feeling entirely satisfied. The pages between the first and last were absolutely packed with all of those things that make a fantastic novel. The mystery, the intrigue, the shock, the horror! It really did have it all for me. I didn't know who to trust. I didn't know who to believe. And I didn't know for certain who was safe. Secrets were unearthed, those of which I had no inkling could have existed, and fates were tangled. This is, without a doubt, one of my top reads of 2016. The only thing I can think of to say to end my review with is that I cannot wait for Jane's next novel. I believe readers are in for a treat with this author, myself firmly include.

Becca's Books is awarding My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry with five stars. When I wasn't reading this book, I was thinking about it. And when I was thinking about it, I was compelled to pick it right back up again. A must-read for any readers out there who enjoy a weighty, thought-provoking and surprising novel, with characters who claw their way beneath your skin and refuse to leave. Massive thanks to Katy Loftus for providing me with a review copy of My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry, and for inviting me along to be part of the blog tour, which I feel is going to be a massive success. A one-of-a-kind novel, it will remain with me for quite some time.

About the Author
Jane Corry is a writer and journalist, and teaches creative writing all over the world. She was previously a tutor of Creative Writing at Oxford University and recently she spent three years working as the writer-in-residence at a high-security prison for men.

In her own words: 'I had always thought prisons were terrifying places for people who had done terrible things. But after my first marriage ended, I found myself working in one, and discovered a world I could not have imagined without actually being there. A world in which no one was quite who they seemed. A world that I found strangely addictive - so much so that it wormed its way into this book.'

You can find Jane Corry on Facebook | Twitter

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