The fourth and final fabulous author in our Sunday Girl series this month is Laura Marshall, the author of the thriller Friend Request. We had a good old chinwag about her favourite literary heroine, why a paperback wins over Kindle and the benefits of early morning writing sessions.
Kindle or paperback? Be honest…
Paperback, definitely. My sister gave me her old kindle so I gave it a try, but I really didn’t like it. I don’t have any snobbery about it – in fact I wish I did like it, as it’s so much cheaper and more convenient, but I miss the feel of a paper book too much. It just doesn’t feel like reading a book to me.
That was a toughy, sorry! The next question’s a little easier. Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes, always. I have started and abandoned many novels over the years, but Friend Request is the first one I actually managed to finish. I have tons of notebooks stashed away full of poems and bits of stories and ideas, but it wasn’t until I turned forty-one in 2015 that I decided it was now or never – time to really give writing a proper go. That was when I applied for the Curtis Brown Creative novel writing course; getting accepted onto that, and the positive feedback I got on the course itself, gave me the confidence I needed to keep going.
So, Friend Request – tell us a little about the story?
Louise, a woman in her early forties, receives a Friend Request from Maria, a girl she bullied at school … a girl who disappeared, presumed drowned, more than twenty-five years ago. Skipping back and forth in time between the present day and 1989 when Maria disappeared, we gradually discover the chilling truth of what really happened to Maria, a truth which puts Louise in grave danger.
And what was your inspiration behind the book?
When Facebook first started, I got friend requests from lots of people from school who I would otherwise never have heard from or of again (well, apart from that early noughties phenomenon Friends Reunited!). I began to wonder what it would be like to be contacted on there by someone you really didn’t want to hear from, someone who reminded you of unpleasant memories that you thought you had buried. The idea grew from that. I definitely used my own experiences as a teenager as inspiration (although obviously nothing as extreme as what happens in the book ever happened to me!). I am really interested in how our experiences in those teenage years inform our adult lives. I also wanted to explore the modern phenomenon of people sharing their entire lives on social media, as well as how what we present on our Facebook pages can be a very different story to the reality of what’s going on in our lives. We’ve all felt inadequate looking at someone else’s Facebook page, but it’s important to remember that we’re only seeing what that person chooses to show us. It’s not an accurate reflection of the reality of their life.
How long did it take to complete – did you have to lock yourself away?
I wrote it pretty quickly – the first draft was completed in about five months. During that time I was working, and I also have two children, so time was at a premium. I used to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning to write for two hours every day before everybody else got up. After I was signed up by my agent, I worked with her editing the manuscript for three months, until she felt it was ready to send out to publishers.
You’re quite the wordsmith, so do you often find yourself correcting people’s grammar?
Only inside my head! I think it would be rather rude to actually do so out loud.
We loved spending the day with our authors! What was your favourite item from the shoot?
It was all great – I love red – but I particularly liked the jeans. They were really nicely fitted but comfortable too.
Which literary heroine do you admire?
Flora Poste in my favourite book, Cold Comfort Farm. She’s so self-possessed and resourceful, and incredibly funny.
If you had to pick a book title to sum up your personality, what would it be?
Having had a complete career change and had my debut novel published in my forties, I’d have to say Brave New World.
And finally… text speak – yay or nay?
I am old enough to remember the days when nobody had a mobile phone, so it has to be a big, fat nay.
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