This is my fourth and final post in the run up to next weeks First Monday Crime panel event at City University in London. It is the final event for 2017 but promises to be a brilliant evening with not only the usual collection of top authors in discussion, but also a post panel ‘Pitch the Audience’ event which promises to be a lot of fun. With free wine and a ‘Secret Santa’ book swap, what more could you ask for? I am totally looking forward to the evening and it’s been my pleasure to be involved in the pre-event publicity as part of the blogging team.
Another bonus of being involved is the opportunity to interview some absolutely cracking authors. Today’s guest is no exception and it’s my great pleasure to welcome author Louise Jensen to Jen Med’s to answer a few of my questions. Louise has released three books with Bookouture, the first two of which, The Sister and The Gift have recently been released in paperback by Sphere. Before we hear from Louise, let’s take a look at what her books are all about.
‘I did something terrible Grace. I hope you can forgive me . . .’
Grace hasn’t been the same since the death of her best friend Charlie. She is haunted by Charlie’s words the last time she saw her, and in a bid for answers, opens an old memory box of Charlie’s. It soon becomes clear that there was a lot she didn’t know about her best friend.
When Grace starts a campaign to find Charlie’s father, Anna, a girl claiming to be Charlie’s sister steps forward. For Grace, finding Anna is like finding a new family and soon Anna has made herself very comfortable in Grace and boyfriend Dan’s home.
But something isn’t right. Things disappear, Dan’s acting strangely and Grace is sure that someone is following her. Is it all in Grace’s mind? Or as she gets closer to discovering the truth about both Charlie and Anna, is Grace in terrible danger?
There was nothing she could have done to save Charlie . . . Or was there?
The perfect daughter is dead. And a secret is eating her family alive…
Jenna is given another shot at life when she receives a donor heart from a girl called Callie. Eternally grateful to Callie and her family, Jenna gets closer to them, but she soon discovers that Callie’s perfect family is hiding some very dark secrets…
Callie’s parents are grieving, yet Jenna knows they’re only telling her half the story. Where is Callie’s sister Sophie? She’s been ‘abroad’ since her sister’s death but something about her absence doesn’t add up. And when Jenna meets Callie’s boyfriend Nathan, she makes a shocking discovery.
Jenna knows that Callie didn’t die in an accident. But how did she die? Jenna is determined to discover the truth but it could cost her everything; her loved ones, her sanity, even her life.
A compelling, gripping psychological thriller with a killer twist from the author of the Number One bestseller The Sister.
She can give you everything you want… But can you trust her?
Kat and her husband Nick have tried everything to become parents. All they want is a child to love but they are beginning to lose hope. Then a chance encounter with Kat’s childhood friend Lisa gives them one last chance.
Kat and Lisa were once as close as sisters. The secrets they share mean their trust is for life… Or is it?
Just when the couple’s dream seems within reach, Kat begins to suspect she’s being watched and Nick is telling her lies.
Are the cracks appearing in Kat’s perfect picture of the future all in her head, or should she be scared for the lives of herself and her family?
How far would you go, to protect everything you love?
Thanks for taking part in this Q&A. I’ve got a mixture of quick fire ice breker questions to get to know you a little better along with some more serious ones about your book, The Sister, so let’s get started.
Favourite childhood book?
Any of the Famous Five series.
Favourite/most influential author?
Enid Blyton. She sparked my love of mysteries, of laying clues for readers, of building tension.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Nashville! I’m generally a rock music fan do love a bit of country and sparkles.
Best compliment you’ve had for your work?
My sister asked if I’d used a ghost writer after she read The Surrogate because she couldn’t believe I’d come up with such an complex plot. It was a compliment. I think…
I think above also covers this!
Coffee or tea?
Earl Grey tea
Plotter or pantser?
Handwritten notes or typed?
What are notes?
Favourite place to write? Alone or in public?
Alone. I’m easily distracted.
Do you have a soundtrack for your writing? If so what is it?
When writing a first draft I listen to Einaudi piano music- I’d sing along if there were lyrics. Music features in all my books, I’m a huge music lover, so by the end of the first draft I’ve a soundtrack the characters listen to and I play that while I edit.
Jaffa Cake: Cake or biscuit?
Cake – although I should probably eat a few more just to make sure.
Now for the more serious stuff …
The Sister was your debut novel. Tell us a little bit about the book and your protagonist, Grace.
Grace is a grieving girl who thought the most frightening thing of all was being alone… she was wrong. Grace has been devastated by the death of her best friend, Charlie and can’t move on until she uncovers the meaning behind Charlie’s last words ‘I’ve done something terrible, Grace. Please forgive me.’ The book begins with Grace digging up a memory box she and Charlie buried remembering a secret pink envelope Charlie had put inside, but wouldn’t let Grace read at the time. Grace has been through a lot in her life and she really has to toughen up with everything that is thrown at her during the story. She’s funny, kind, loyal and braver than I thought she’d be. I’m very fond of her.
I really loved the twisted storyline which ran through the book and in particular the uncertainty which surrounded Grace’s family situation. How or where did you come up with the idea for Grace’s story?
I’d been to talk on self-publishing as I wanted to write a book about Mindfulness and chronic pain and before the talk started I was given 3 words, 10 minutes and told to write something. I wrote what is now Chapter 1 of The Sister. I’d never written fiction as an adult and at home I couldn’t stop thinking about Grace and Charlie so I thought I’d have a go and turning it into a short story.
You have a real talent for creating a sense of suspense and intrigue for your readers, creating characters that people become invested in, and putting them into situations which would try even the strongest person. I’ve met you and you seem really lovely and not at all psychotic, so how do you get your head into that dark space to really push your characters to their limits?
I adore feeling unnerved. I’m a sucker for horror films. I want my readers to really feel when they read my books, and I really feel what the characters feel as I write. My books are very cinematic. The story plays out in front of me as I write. My husband says I almost become the characters the more the book progresses which isn’t always a good thing. I think he’s afraid…
The book itself switches between Grace and Charlie’s childhood and Grace’s present. How did you approach writing the novel? Did you work chronologically or switch between the two perspectives as you wrote. How easy was it switching between the teenage and older characters?
I never write chronologically. I find it hard to focus, I think partly because of the physical pain I’m in so I’m constantly hoping around, writing random scenes and chapters and frantically trying to stitch them all together at the end. Initially The Sister was going to be a short story and as I had no idea what I was doing, or how to get to know my characters I started writing the past chunks as a way to discover what happened in Grace and Charlie’s childhood to form them into the people they are today. I loved their childhood stories so much I kept them. It’s important I think for readers to get a real sense of who Charlie was and although she isn’t alive for the present day chapters she really shines.
How and where did you start writing?
As a child I was always writing poems and stories and wanted nothing more than to be an author. At my end of school meeting with a careers advisor I was told it was impossible to make a living from being a writer, to get a real job in an office where I’d always be home in time to make my husband’s dinner. We didn’t have home computers and I was at a loss to know how to become published so I went to work in an office.
A few years ago I had a sudden change in health that left me with chronic pain and severely restricted mobility. I spent the first few years in a wheelchair, and I lost my business, my income and couldn’t do any of the hobbies I loved. I became clinically depressed and life looked very bleak. I started writing again for mental health reasons, to try and lift myself out of the black fog I was stuck in for the sake of my children. I feel so fortunate that it ended up turning into a career.
Did you always plan to write in the psychological thriller genre? Were there any other genres you considered or would like to write in?
Although I grew up devouring mysteries I always read commercial fiction and The Sister was supposed to be a love story. When I’d finished it and read it back I realised when two characters, Dan and Anna, left the story halfway through I became bored. I liked the edginess they brought to the story. The intrigue, I scrapped 40k words and rewrote the last half. I was going through a bit of a bad time personally and so I wanted Grace to suffer!
I’m an emotional reader and writer and I try to blend the tension and unease with a pull at the heartstrings story line. I’m very happy writing thrillers but I think I’ll write a commercial fiction story one day.
It’s been a year since The Sister was originally published in digital format by Bookouture. How did you find it second time around waiting for publication day? Was it easier knowing how successful the book had already been?
It was utterly terrifying. I have an unnatural attachment to Grace and Charlie so learning they’d be stocked in bookshops and reaching a wider audience was phenomenal but as anyone in publishing knows things can sometimes move quite slowly so there was a long period between me meeting the team at Sphere to any sort of announcement being made and I spent the whole time terrified I’d get a ‘sorry we’ve changed our minds’ email. It wasn’t really until I walked into Waterstones for my publication day launch and saw a pile of my books on a table it really hit me. Then I cried. I was aware that digital authors don’t always successfully make the crossover to paperback sellers so for The Sister to hit the mass market paperback charts within a few days of release was an amazing feeling and a relief.
Thinking back to when it all started, if there was one piece of advice you could give yourself as a novice writer at the start of your journey, what would it be?
Write the story you want to read. I heard so much conflicting advise. I wrote the whole of The Sister in past tense because an established writer told me everyone hates present tense and when I’d finished it I knew it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. It took ages for me to rewrite the present day chapters in present tense. Also prologues. I was told everyone hates prologues. I don’t! Write from the heart and you won’t go far wrong.
What has been the best part of your writing journey so far?
I think finding a world I can create where I can immerse myself in everyday has been instrumental in helping me deal with my new enforced lifestyle and overcome depression so although it’s been fabulous selling so many books, and reaching those number ones, being able to smile, and genuinely mean it has changed my life in unimaginable ways. Also it’s been a pleasure to meet so many fabulous people along the way. The bookish community is amazing.
Finally, e-book readers have already had the pleasure of reading your next two books, The Gift and The Surrogate, but as I’m a very needy reader, I have to ask how book four is coming along? Anything you can tell us about it at this stage or that you want to share with readers about your other two fabulous titles?
The Gift is a story of Jenna, who receives a heart transplant and then begins to experience emotions and memories she believes are coming from her donor, Callie. She becomes convinced Callie was murdered and sets out trying to prove it, putting her own life, and those she loves, at risk. Cellular memory, the concept that organs, in particular hearts, can retain memories when transplanted was such a fascinating subject to write about.
The Surrogate is the complex story of Kat and Lisa. Kat, unable to conceive, turns to her childhood best friend who offers to become a surrogate for her. This could have been quite a clichéd story but the characters took over and it became a dark story of hidden secrets, toxic friendships, and lies. I had such a good time writing this one.
Book 4 is due to be published next summer. It’s the story of recently separated Ali, who goes on a tinder date. She wakes up the next day with no recollection of the night before, covered in blood. At this stage even I have no idea what has happened to her!
Thanks Louise. I can’t wait to find out more about Ali next summer. I’m sure it’s bound to be another stonkingly fabulous book. If anyone would like to know how fabulous Louise’s current titles are (and they really are) here is where you can find my reviews for The Sister, The Gift and The Surrogate. You can bg yourself a copy of all three books by following the links above so why wait?
About the Author
Louise Jensen always wanted to be Enid Blyton when she grew up, and when that didn’t happen she got a ‘proper’ job instead.
Several years ago an accident left Louise with a disability and she began writing once again, to distract her from her pain and compromised mobility. But writing turned out to be more than just a good distraction. Louise loves creating exciting worlds, dark characters, and twisted plots.
Louise lives in Northamptonshire with her husband, sons, a dog and a rather naughty cat, and also teaches mindfulness. You can follow Louise on social media:
Louise Jensen will be appearing at First Monday Crime in December. The event this month is a real holiday treat! Not only do we have a cracking panel to look forward to – Louise Jensen, Chris Whitaker, Susi Holliday, Mel McGrath, moderated by the lovely Claire McGowan, but wine will be graciously sponsored by No Exit Press.
As an extra festive bonus, some of the finest crime fiction authors in the WORLD are going to pitch their cherished dream projects to you, the audience. A panel of experts, with savage wit and repartee, will be there to add commentary, but YOU decide who the winner is! There will be tears, laughter and possibly dinosaur detectives.
This part of the event will be crafted under the careful and caring gaze of MC Howard Linskey, Rod Reynolds, Abir Mukherjee, Cass Green, Leye Adenle, Susi Holliday, Derek Farrell, Lisa Cutts, Chris Whitaker, Mason Cross, Neil White and James Carol as they vie for the ultimate prize: the coveted title of First Monday Pitch an Audience Champion 2017.
And don’t forget to take part in the Secret Santa Book Exchange. Bring a book (pre-loved is fine!) wrapped in tissue/news/wrapping paper and get a book in return!
You can book tickets and learn more about First Monday Crime, at their website here.