Q&A Interview with Barbara Copperthwaite
I am very excited that Barbara Copperthwaite Author of Flowers For The Dead which I highly recommend giving it a massive 5 stars, has dropped by my blog to take part in my Q&A interview. So without further ado I would like to welcome the lovely Barbara Copperthwaite
Hello and thank you so much for joining me this morning
Hello thank you for inviting me, I am delighted to be here
Can you tell us a little about yourself and background?
Hello! My name is Barbara Copperthwaite, and I’ve written two Amazon bestsellers, Invisible and Flowers For The Dead.
I am also a journalist for national newspapers and magazines, which means I get to hear people’s incredible true stories – it’s a real source of inspiration to me, and is why I always make people the heart of my crime novels.
In my spare time I dabble in a spot of nature photography. Wildlife and the environment are things I’m very passionate about – don’t ever try to call me when Springwatch is on! Taking photographs of wildlife is a great way of relaxing, and when I’m relaxed the best plot ideas for my novels pop into my head.
It’s also very rare that you’ll see me without my cockerpoo, Scamp.
When did you know that you wanted to become a writer? And how did you go about it?
There wasn’t really a ‘lightbulb moment’ for me. I’ve always read a lot – I was totally addicted to Enid Blyton books as a child, and went from there, really. I grew up in the countryside, and would often climb a tree and read a book up there.
After leaving school with A-levels I didn’t know what I wanted to do. All my friends went to university, but it didn’t really appeal to me. Then I saw an advert for a trainee reporter with my local newspaper. As soon as I started that role, I knew I’d found my place in the world. Writing became a real passion, but when people asked if I’d ever write a book I was very skeptical: I was a journalist, I dealt in facts, why would I want to write fiction?
But my brief stint working at a men’s high security prison kept coming back to me… The prisoners there were just like anyone else I might meet on the street. I’d chat to them, forget what they were in for, and then remember… It triggered a curiosity about ‘judging books by their covers’, about our ability to ever really know anyone, and over the years the idea behind my first novel, Invisible, grew.
By the time I started writing it, I was 38 and working as special projects editor for a magazine company. It was a tough, stressful job, with long hours, and Invisible started out as a creative outlet to unwind. It wasn’t long before it became much more, though. I was writing for half an hour on my train commute into work and then on the way home, plus snatching time at weekends.
The lack of time I could spend on it became an increasing frustration. So when the chance for taking voluntary redundancy came up, I begged for it. Just a handful of weeks before my 40th birthday, I had no job, had packed up my home, and was moving to Birmingham to be with my partner and become a novelist. Midlife crisis, anyone?!
Can you tell us what genre your books are and the audience you write for?
My books are psychological crime. Although I don’t have an audience in mind when I write, readers tend to be people who think outside the box a little, who are interested in hearing things from a slightly different perspective than the one generally told. Invisible is about a totally forgotten and overlooked – even hated – victim of crime.Flowers For The Dead tells the journey from innocent child to serial killer. Readers are always telling me that they have never read anything like either of my books.
I’m fascinated by the psychology behind characters, and what makes them tick, and I want to make them as realistic as possible. They tend to be emotionally tense and intense reads. Anyone who enjoys gritty, realistic crime with intense human emotions at its heart will love my tales.
What is your writing process? And how long does it take?
I spend a LOT of time staring into space, thinking. And walking while thinking (I even dictate ideas into a recording app on my phone as I walk, sometimes). I have a skeleton plan of the book in my head but how I will achieve it is fluid; all those plot twists and fun, exciting bits are not yet formed.
Key scenes get written first – they can be anywhere in the book, I don’t write from start to finish. It’s a slightly chaotic way of writing, but the plan is always there to keep me on track. I’ve nicknamed it the ‘dot-to-dot’ style of writing, as I join each key scene.
One thing that is set in stone though is the personality of the characters; it is a pet hate of mine when characters in other people’s books do something that simply isn’t true to them. To avoid that happening, I write mini-biographies of everyone, from their physical appearance to their key traits, from where they were born to the influences in their lives that have made them the ‘people’ they are today. Even the information that doesn’t make it into the book proper is a huge help to me.
Once I start writing, it’s about eight months to publication.
Are your characters based on anyone you know or are they just fictional?
My characters are all fictional, although I do sometimes throw in the odd trait that I’ve noticed in people I know or have seen while out and about. Laura’s stubbornness in Flowers For The Dead is based on mine! There is a section where her aunt is talking about what she was like as a child, and how she always had to have the last word to the point where she could be heard walking up the stairs talking to herself, still making points after the discussion had finished… Yep, that was me!
Have you written about a personal experience in your novels?
There is a car crash in Flowers For The Dead, and the first part of it is exactly what happened to me. I can’t say more because it might spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read the book yet.
What research do you do?
As a journalist, research is something I really enjoy and is second nature to me. I love learning new things. For Flowers for the Dead, I looked into taxidermy and also the meaning of flowers, which was particularly fascinating. It’s a very genteel language that was great fun to subvert to more sinister use.
What genuinely shocked me during my research, though, was how easy and cheap it is to buy locksmiths equipment and surveillance items. I was also stunned to discover that it is possible to turn a mobile phone or any other device with voice recognition software or a microphone into a ‘bug’. So that includes televisions that you ‘speak’ to, many laptops and tablets, smartphones etc.
Back in 2006 the FBI were trying to gather evidence on a crime family but couldn’t get close enough to them to bug them the traditional way. So they used the family’s devices against them in order to gather recorded evidence, then successfully prosecute in court. These days anyone can do it by buying the right software on the internet. The programme will allow someone to eavesdrop on phone calls, get details on text messages, remotely control the phone using SMS, track the location of the phone with GPS and log the phone's activities. It will also allow them to use the phone as a listening device and hear what is happening in the surrounding area. Scary stuff!
Who would you like to co-write with and why?
There are some brilliant authors whom I really admire and would love to co-write with and learn from…but the problem is that I think I’d be so overawed that I would totally show myself up! It’s probably best if I stick to my own company for now.
What’s your favorite book?
Oh, no! I have so many favourites, and each fulfills something different for me. Books I re-read again and again include:
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens; Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen; Far From The Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy; Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert; The Talented Mr Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith. The main characters in all of them are incredibly flawed. It’s obviously something I’m drawn to as both a reader and an author.
I’m also a huge fan of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. In homage to Rebecca, I chose never to name my character in Invisible, which was a fantastic device for showing just how invisible she had become in her own life.
I’m also a big kid, so love reading childhood favourites again. Peter Pan, The Little White Horse, The Hobbit…
I also love discovering new authors such as: Clare Mackintosh (I Let You Go), Peter Swanson (The Kind Worth Killing), Ben McPherson (A Line of Blood), and Claire Kendal (The Book of You). Also, I simply have to mention Meadowland, by John Lewis-Stempel, which is a jewel of a book about the British countryside.
So, um, that’s a very long-winded way of saying I can’t answer that question!
What’s your favorite food?
Chocolate! I always give it up for Lent, and it’s so tough.
What’s your favorite film?
Depends massively on my mood, but the old Ealing Comedies are always guaranteed to make me laugh out loud. The Lavender Hill Mob is particularly endearing, and every time I watch it I find myself hoping, hoping, hoping that they’ll get away with it this time.
What’s your favorite song?
I listen to classical music when writing, and I adore The Lark Ascending, by Vaughan Williams. The only problem is that it makes me stop whatever I’m doing so that I can drink it in. At the other extreme, I love Elvis’s ‘I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You’. The line ‘take my hand, take my whole life, too’ is beautiful, simple, symbolic.
How can readers find out more information about yourself and your books?
Oooh, so many ways! My website www.barbaracopperthwaite.com is a way of finding out more about me professionally, but is also where I share my book recommendations. I just have to tell the world when I’ve come across a great book!
For the latest on what is happening in my life and with my writing, head to my blog: www.barbaracopperthwaite.wordpress.com
There is general chat, fun, and the occasional competition over on my Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/AuthorBarbaraCopperthwaite My followers are absolutely brilliant, so do pop over and join in the conversation.
I can also be found on Twitter @BCopperthwait Sadly, my name is too long to be spelled correctly on it.
I look forward to seeing you all in one way or another.
Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to join me, I am super excited to be hosting your Author Chat over on Crime Book Club on the 28th April
Thank you I have enjoyed it, also thanks so much for inviting me to do an author chat! I'm very excited, by April I will probably be hyper!!