Today Phillipa East will be talking about her novels and what goes in inside the head.
When did you start writing, and why?
I used to do quite a bit of creative writing at school, but that fell off my radar when I began to pursue a career in clinical psychology. I came back to writing only around the age of thirty, when for “fun” I decided to try writing a novel. That novel was – and is – terrible, but it sparked my love of writing; I haven’t stopped since. I’ve tried various other creative pursuits before in my life, from pottery to music, drawing to photography. But when I got into writing, I felt as though I had really found my medium of expression. For me, writing is a way to try and understand the world, other people, and myself. I think this drive originally led me into the field of psychology – and now story-telling has become my means to ask and explore those questions.
Which do you like to write, series or standalones? If you write both, what do you find the difference?
I tend to think of my books as standing “one step to the side of a crime”, rather than as traditional crime novels. I focus a lot on character and I’m a bit ropey on plot! As a result, I’ve tended to write stand-alone books (although I’m in awe of authors who can manage series!). For me, story-telling is about a character’s journey though challenge, conflict, “death” and “rebirth” (the classic “Hero’s Journey”) – even if that journey is primarily internal and psychological. For me, the story naturally concludes once the protagonist has completed their cycle of growth… Then it is time for me to find a new character in a new situation, for whom a brand-new journey of change is waiting to play out.
What do you like to do to relax when not writing?
I do a lot of reading! Reading is my absolute passion – it’s like breathing and eating for me! I also love to watch true crime programmes (I get a lot of ideas from the telly). When I’m being more active, I head off on walks round the Lincolnshire countryside (where I live), and I sing in an Americana folk duo on the Lincolnshire music scene. Sometimes though, my favourite way to relax is just to take a nap with my gorgeous cat Mimi 🙂. That’s Mimi in the picture.
Who is your favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?
This is a hard question for me, as I feel such an affinity with all the characters that I write! I think though that Jess – the teenage cousin of the missing girl in Little White Lies – really has a special place in my heart. The book (which is written from two alternating points of view) began originally as entirely Jess’s narrative. I think my own teenage self was in many ways channelled into Jess’s character, and while Little White Lies is a page-turning psychological thriller, woven into that is Jess’s own emotional coming-of-age story.
Who is your least favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?
Again, this is a really hard question as I tend to empathise with all my characters! Any “baddies” in my plots tend to be simply mistaken or misguided rather than malicious or evil, so even my “antagonists” are for the most part decent people. I believe we all have the capacity to do the wrong thing at times in our lives, and generally, I try to let my “villains” redeem themselves at the end. However, if I had to pick someone, there is a tertiary character in Safe and Sound (Prin’s father, Brian) who has a strangely skewed view of life and relationships, and who unwittingly causes great damage as a result. Though he doesn’t have a front-and-centre role in the novel, he was an interesting character to write, and I may even return to his story in another time and another place…
Links to Little White Lies:
Links to Safe and Sound
Tell us about your last book…
Ooh, yes! Safe and Sound, which is out from 18th February is one I’m really excited about. The book was inspired by the true-life story of Joyce Vincent, and the docu-drama “Dreams of a Life” made about her by filmmaker Carol Morley. Rather than trying to explain the book myself (and inevitably giving away spoilers), I’ll share the blurb with you here:
In a small London bedsit, a radio is playing. A small dining table is set for three, and curled up on the sofa is a body…
Jenn is the one who discovers the woman, along with the bailiffs. All indications suggest that the tenant – Sarah Jones – was pretty, charismatic and full of life.
So how is it possible that her body has lain undiscovered for ten whole months?
What’s coming next…
I’m currently working on my third novel which will hopefully be released in 2022. It’s about two neighbouring suburban families whose secrets are laid bare when a reality TV crew descend on their lives… Meanwhile, I’ve got rough outlines drawn up for my fourth novel (involving a teenage musical prodigy) and some embryonic ideas for a fifth (currently involving pyromania, a twisted love story, and the occult). Wish me luck with those!
Philippa East is a fiction writer based in Lincolnshire. Her debut novel LITTLE WHITE LIES was shortlisted for the CWA ‘New Blood’ Award and her second novel SAFE AND SOUND will be released in February 2021. In her day job, Philippa works as a Clinical Psychologist and therapist. You can connect with Philippa on Twitter (@philippa_east) and find her author profile here: b.link/philippa_east
Thanks to Phillipa for joining in this month of crime writers, we certainly do wish you well with the future novels, and give Mimi a hug from us. Readers – keep an eye out for Safe and Sound launching on the 18th.
Tomorrow we’ll be hearing from Louise Mumford.