Monday, 30 December 2019

Meet The Woman Downstairs - Guest Post Elisabeth Carpenter

How Exciting! Today I have another author lovely on my blog as part of my 'Psychological Thriller Author' series. Please welcome Elisabeth Carpenter whose novel 'The Woman Downstairs' was published in November. 

Have you always written in the psychological thriller genre?

The first manuscript I wrote was about a man who died and went to an afterlife. I classed it as ‘women’s fiction’ with supernatural elements. It was great fun to write and I worked on it for years before finally giving up the ghost (I know, groan!). I then wrote another three: literary, dystopian, historical, before I developed an idea for a psychological thriller.

Like many writers of this genre, I’d read the genius that was Gone Girl. The gripping internal struggles combined with the page-turning mystery really inspired me. I’m now writing my fifth psychological thriller and I love writing them!

I’m sure my readers would love to hear about your road to publication. Was it long and winding or did you take a short cut?

As per the above, it was long and winding! I subbed my first manuscript to about fifty agents and didn’t get more than a standard rejection. When I sent out my literary novel, I received seven requests for the full manuscript. It also won a Northern Writers Award, and I took this as a sign I was getting better. I didn’t get any offers of representation for this book, but I kept going and worked on my psychological thriller. I realised that it’s not just the quality of writing that captures the attention of an agent, it has to have a great hook.

I subbed 99 Red Balloons almost a year later and received four offers of representation. I signed with Caroline Hardman from Hardman & Swainson, and a few months later, signed a book deal for two books with Avon HarperCollins. It was a dream come true.

We all write differently. Could you describe your typical writing day?

My writing day depends how close to deadline I am! It would begin after dropping my son off at school. If I have a few months to deadline, I aim for 800-1500 words a day. Sometimes I find it hard to get into the flow, and I tend to be easily distracted with Netflix! I have to force myself to sit in front of the laptop. I love to write longhand with a nice fountain pen, but this can be time consuming.

Nearer the dreaded deadline, I will write for several hours a day and give myself small rewards for hitting self-appointed targets (an episode of the latest drama for example or read a chapter of a book).

School holidays are different, of course. I might get the odd half an hour to write, but usually I have to wait until bedtime to get those words down.

Where did you get the inspiration for your last novel?

The Woman Downstairs was inspired by the true-life story of Joyce Vincent. Joyce’s remains were found in her flat more than two years after she died. The documentary Dreams of a Life by Carole Morley featured Joyce’s friends who couldn’t believe that she died alone and went undiscovered for such a long time. They described Joyce as vivacious and loved life and assumed she was travelling, still living a glamourous life.

The location of The Woman Downstairs is a northern town – I set most of my novels in Lancashire. It follows the story of two women brought together by the discovery of a body in their block of flats.

Could you describe it in one sentence?

When human remains are found in a ground floor flat, the residents of Nelson heights are shocked to learn that there was a dead body in their building for nearly three years.

Are you a plotter or a pantster and how long does it take you to write your thrillers?

I used to be a pantster and would take a year to write my first drafts then months and months editing the hell out of it. Then I was lucky enough to get published and with that comes contracts. Writing to a deadline is often challenging – I must like torturing myself because in the past I wrote so close to sending it to my editor that sometimes I was in tears with the stress of it all.

This time, I wrote a detailed plan, chapter by chapter and I’m aiming to finish the first draft by the end of January so I can have at least a month editing it. Editing is my favourite part. I say that because I’m in the middle of the first draft. When I’m editing, writing the first draft will be my favourite part. The first draft takes about six months to write.

What does your family think of your writing?

They are so proud! My eldest son said he would read my book if I was ever published, but he hasn’t yet. I think he might think it a bit cringey! My youngest son thinks I’m famous because I’m ‘on Google’ – which is really sweet.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I go to an art class every Tuesday, which is so relaxing, and we have a lot of laughs. I love seeing friends and family, and of course watching Netflix. I love reading but now I read differently to how I did before I was published as I tend to scrutinise everything!

How important do you think social media is to a writer?

I entered the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller a few years ago. The organisers were a few days late announcing the results (I now know that most competitions contact those shortlisted a few days before) and there were several other writers on the competition’s Facebook page. We used to check-in several times a day and when the results were published, we consoled each other and decided to create a Facebook group. After a few months we met up and got along so well. We meet up once or twice a year and it has been such a support, and I’ve met some wonderful friends.

As an author, I don’t use Twitter as much as I should, nor do I update my Facebook page as often as I’d like, but it’s a great place to share news and I love hearing from readers who’ve enjoyed my books. Every time I get a message from a reader saying they’ve enjoyed my books gives me the push to keep going – because sometimes, as a writer, you wonder why you’re doing it, that I should be doing something more useful with my time!

What next for Elisabeth Carpenter?

I’m in the midst of writing the first draft of The Vacancy (working title – the only title I’ve ever been ‘allowed’ to keep was 99 Red Balloons). It’s about a woman who goes to work for a writer as her live-in assistant. But of course, being a psych thriller, nothing is quite what it seems!

Elisabeth Carpenter lives in Preston with her family. She loves living in the north of England and sets most of her stories there – including the one she is writing at the moment. Her fourth novel, The Woman Downstairs, is out now.

You can buy The woman Downstairs here

Where you can find Elisabeth:

Facebook          Website

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