What was your inspiration for The Widow’s Club?
It’s hard to recall that first flash of inspiration that led me to write The Widows’ Club because most of my waking hours are spent looking for those hooks that could be the beginnings of a good story. Sadly, my notebooks are crammed full of cryptic notes that had me all excited at the time, but somehow failed to germinate into a fully formed premise. What I do remember about The Widows’ Club is playing around with the idea of a support group, and I considered lots of different types of group before settling on one for widows and widowers. I was grabbed by the idea of exploring lost loves and new relationships, which is the perfect hotbed for a suspense novel. The more I thought about it, the more the story came alive and I do recall that moment I pitched the idea to my editor and agent over lunch. We have regular brainstorming sessions and more often than not, it’s a matter of throwing ideas around until one grabs our attention. This time it was different. I set out the premise and that was pretty much it. Everyone like it and I couldn’t wait to get started.
Most of your novels are set in and around Liverpool and your home town often feels like a character in itself. How does your city inspire you and are there real places in your novels or do you fictionalise your city?
It’s hard not to be influenced by my home city, and I do like to write about places that may not be as well known to readers who don’t live in the area. Liverpool City Region has lots of hidden, and not so hidden gems, and Hale Village is definitely one of them. It’s in Halton, on the edge of the Mersey and it’s incredible to find this isolated village with a strong sense of community in what is actually quite an urban setting. I live about a ten minute drive away and it was a joy taking my dog on regular research trips. If you follow me on social media, I’ve posted lots of photos and there’s even a map I’ve drawn that picks out some of the areas of interest in The Widows’ Club. I should add that while the village is real, as is the village hall and Ivy Farm Court, there isn’t a Tee’s Cakes in Hale, nor is there a widows’ support group that meets once a month, or at least, not one quite like the one Tara and Justine set up.
What do you think about how female characters are portrayed in suspense novels?
I love writing suspense novels with strong female leads, but invariably I’ll be placing my characters in very difficult situations. They may not appear strong to begin with, but it’s important that they’re allowed to develop, to find their voice and to be stronger than they thought they were. It’s the writer’s job to make sure that these women are portrayed as survivors rather than victims, and my editor wouldn’t let me get away with allowing a man to come to the rescue. They have to save themselves and sometimes they’re not the innocents we think they are.
[Spoiler alert] That being said, I set out to do something different with The Widows’ Club when I created Faith’s character. I wanted a main character who might look like a victim, but was actually the predator. I know I shouldn’t admit this, but she was a joy to write and I loved her wicked ways. There’s something liberating about putting yourself in the mind of someone who doesn’t conform to society’s rules. I lost count of the number of times I wrestled with the plot only to realise that Faith could simply lie her way out of a situation, and she never doubted that she could get away with it. It turns out she was right.
Do you have a favourite scene in The Widows’ Club?
I can always tell when I’m enjoying writing a scene by how quickly I’m typing and how many typos slip through those early drafts because I’m lost in the story. The stand out scene for me is towards the end of the book where April and Tara are supposed to meet Faith to warn her about Nick, but only April shows up. April is quite a timid character when we first meet her, but it’s in this scene in Pickering’s Pasture that she comes into her own. She’s determined to make her friend see sense and she dares to stand up to Faith. Considering how serious the situation was, that scene always makes me smile.