Please welcome Mark Edwards to the blog! His brand new book, BECAUSE SHE LOVES ME, is out today, and he stopped by to answer a few of my questions about it, and more!
I’m very excited about your new book, BECAUSE SHE LOVES ME! Will you tell us a bit about it?
Thank you! Because She Loves Me is a psychological thriller with the theme of romantic jealousy and obsession. After a run of bad luck, graphic designer Andrew meets gorgeous, edgy Charlie and they embark on an intense affair. But then Charlie starts to display signs of the green-eyed monster…and increasingly scary and disturbing things happen to Andrew’s friends and loved ones. He has to find out if Charlie is really the girl of his dreams – or his nightmares… It’s been described by one reviewer as Fatal Attraction meets Misery, which I’m pretty happy with!
You have a long list of books written with Louise Voss (and I love the story about how the two of you became writing partners), as well as a few you’ve penned on your own. You have a background in marketing, but have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes, I’ve been writing for a very long time. Like almost all writers, I was the kid at school who got top grades for my stories, even though my teachers were taken aback by some of my stories about werewolves and demons. After I left university, I wrote my first novel (in long hand) but decided it was dreadful so wrote another. I then entered a long period of submitting to agents and, later, publishers without much success. It’s not an understatement to say I was utterly obsessed with the desire to be a published author. I was even on a BBC documentary about it, being filmed getting rejections passed on from my agent!
After a decade or so of this, I decided enough was enough and gave up. I couldn’t take it any more. But when Amazon launched KDP, Louise and I decided to self-publish our two co-written thrillers. They got to No.1 and 2 on Amazon UK, which led to a deal with HarperCollins and then Thomas & Mercer. After so many years of wanting it, the day I first saw my book in a store was pretty emotional…even if the reality of being a published author isn’t quite what I imagined! It’s a lot better than having a day job though.
What kind of research did you do for Because She Loves Me?
I lived it! When I was a student, I had a girlfriend who was horribly jealous and made both our lives miserable. The experience stayed with me but it took me a long time to find a story through which to explore the theme. My main character also suffers a detached retina in the book, which is something that happened to me two years ago. Surgeons saved my sight but I spent a month with a bouncing gas bubble in my eye. Not fun.
My first solo novel, The Magpies, was based on my real experience of nightmare neighbours, and the one I’m writing now was inspired by something that happened to me when travelling around Europe. My working process now is to experience something horrible and then turn it into a book!
What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
A little bit of both. I certainly don’t plot out the whole story before I start writing, but I have the central idea and know, roughly, how I want it to end. I also have a few key scenes in my head, which help me visualize the mood and the characters. But then I have an awful lot of detail to work out as I go along.
Writing Because She Loves Me was painful at times because I kept changing my mind about what was really going on. I had a long list of all the possible culprits and twists, and I had to ensure that there were multiple explanations for everything that happens. I spent days walking around my hometown trying to figure it all out. To the casual observer this doesn’t look like writing but that’s when most of the hard work actually takes place. Every book is like this: I always get hideously stuck at some point. Thankfully, so far, I have always been able to find the solution.
Why suspense? What do you love most about writing, and reading, in the genre?
I think when I started out I had no idea what genre I was writing in – I was just trying to tell a story. It was only later that I realised that my books all have murders and thriller/suspense plots, with elements of horror. I think most writers have a particular kind of story that they are naturally compelled to write, unless they are deliberately setting out to write, say, the next Twilight or Gone Girl for commercial reasons – which seems a bit fake to me.
I read suspense and crime because it’s exciting and compelling. I like to read about people in scary situations. I love books in which the characters really suffer! Having said that, I sometimes feel that if I read another book in which a woman is abducted and chained up in a basement, or yet another book about a marriage with a dark secret, I will scream. I’m always looking for something a bit different.
What do you like to see in a good book? Is there anything that will make you put a book down, unfinished?
As above, I want something that I haven’t read a thousand times before. The voice is important, and the subject matter needs to hook me. I need to give a damn about the protagonist – though they don’t need to be likeable (it drives me nuts when readers dismiss books because they didn’t find the main characters sympathetic).
I often abandon books and the only reason I do this is because I am bored. I have wasted too many hours of my short life slogging through novels that bore me. If I find myself counting how many pages I have left, that’s a bad sign!
What authors or novels have influenced you the most?
When I was at primary school, my mum left a copy of The Fog by British horror writer James Herbert lying around. The scenes of schoolboys butchering their teachers and so on had a big influence on me! After that, I became a Stephen King fanatic and pretty much only read horror as a teenager. Later, I started reading more literary fiction, like Ian McEwan and Bret Easton Ellis. All very dark stuff!
At 21 I read The Secret History by Donna Tartt and was completely blown away. It’s still my favourite novel. I could never hope to emulate Ms Tartt’s literary pyrotechnics but that book had a big influence on me and I will spend my life trying to make readers feel the way I felt when I first read that book.
If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
As above, The Secret History. Though I’ve read it six or seven times now and I love it every time.
Your road to publication is detailed on your website, and you worked hard for it. What’s one thing that you know now, that you wish you’d known way-back-then, and what’s one piece of advice that you’d give to an aspiring author?
This is something that has only struck me recently, and something that I lacked way back then. You need a very clear idea of the concept behind your book, who it’s aimed at and why anyone should give a damn about it. In other words, you need to be able to pitch your book in order to get an agent and/or publisher interested. Authors often have a woolly idea of what their books are about and who their potential readers are. Writers who break through almost always have a crystal clear vision and they stick to it. I didn’t do that for a long time.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
I have three children under eight. I don’t get free time! And if I do, I am too exhausted to do anything other than slump on the sofa drinking wine and watching box sets. My wife and I are currently working our way through The Good Wife and loving it. We are also working our way through all the wine we got given at our wedding earlier this year!
What’s next for you?
The fifth Voss & Edwards book, From the Cradle, is out in November. This is our first police procedural and introduces Detective Inspector Patrick Lennon.
I’m currently writing two books – a second Patrick Lennon novel with Louise, and my fourth solo novel, which is about a couple who experience something terrifying while travelling (see above!). They return home and think their ordeal is over. But, as they say in the trailers, the nightmare is just beginning…
About BECAUSE SHE LOVES ME:
A gripping tale of jealousy, obsession and murder, from the No.1 Bestselling author of The Magpies.
When Andrew Sumner meets beautiful, edgy Charlie, he is certain his run of bad luck has finally come to an end.
But as the two of them embark on an intense affair, Andrew wonders if his grasp on reality is slipping. Items go missing in his apartment. Somebody appears to be following him. And as misfortune and tragedy strike his friends and loved ones, Andrew is forced to confront the frightening truth…
Is Charlie really the girl of his dreams – or the woman of his nightmares?