Updated on July 5, 2016
Q&A with Liz Nugent (BLOG TOUR)
You may remember that a couple of years ago I read (and loved!) Unravelling Oliver, Liz Nugent’s debut novel, published by Penguin. Well, Liz is back with her second book, Lying in Wait, and it’s a dark, thrilling adventure with a deliciously twisted central character!
14th November 1980: Andrew and Lydia Fitzsimmons, a judge and his wife, have murdered Annie Doyle and buried her in their back garden. Unfortunately they’ve left a few loose ends: their son, Laurence, is suspicious and Annie’s sister, Karen, just won’t let it go. What will they do when obsession begins to take over and the tangle of lies falls apart?
Intrigued? Well, to get you even more interested, I’m pleased to say that Liz Nugent is stopping by at 50ayear today to answer a few questions about her book and writing in general! Over to the Q&A…
Hi Liz! First off, how did the process of writing Lying in Wait compare to writing Unravelling Oliver, especially as your first novel was so popular?
It was completely different! It took seven years to write Unravelling Oliver while working a full-on full-time day job. Second time round, I had a deadline and a genre. Genre didn’t cross my mind on my first book. Also, I learned so much in the editing process of book one that I was able to put into practise in the writing of Lying in Wait. The popularity of Unravelling Oliver didn’t really help because I knew expectations would be very high. I guess it’s like having a second child and hoping that everyone will like it as much as your first-born.
Are there techniques you use when writing for radio, television or theatre that particularly help you when writing a thriller?
I worked on an Irish TV soap opera for ten years and the key thing you want in soapland is for people to tune into the next episode, so you must end each one with a strong cliff-hanger. I think that, in particular, really helped when writing these books. I don’t want the reader to put the book down. If they do, I want them to look forward to coming back to it. Apart from that, the core principles of characterisation, plot, structure and dialogue apply to writing in any discipline. I suspect every writer writes to their strength in one of these areas. I think mine is probably characterisation. I know my characters very well indeed.
How did you develop the (excellent!) character of Lydia? Was she influenced by any other characters you’ve seen in books or on TV and film?
When I wrote the first draft, the story was told entirely from Laurence’s point of view. It was my editor who suggested that Lydia was a much more interesting character, and when I started writing her I certainly found elements of Lady Macbeth, Mrs Danvers, Miss Havisham and Medea. There are not too many sociopathic older female characters in literature, so it was fun to explore her from the inside out. Luckily, as soon as I step away from the laptop I leave the character on the page. Otherwise, I’d be divorced.
Readers can often root for unsympathetic characters, and even want them to succeed. Did you feel that way about any of your characters in Lying in Wait?
I really did. As deranged as Lydia might appear to be, I lived in her head for a long time while I was writing her, so when I was her, I would be thinking from her point of view and yes, I wanted her to win. But equally, when I was writing Laurence or Karen I wanted them to win.
I especially loved the ending to Laurence’s story. Did you have that in mind from the very beginning, or did it develop as you wrote?
Very difficult to answer that without spoilers, but I knew he would never be able to cut the umbilical cord and live happily ever after. I just had to decide on the scale of the damage. I don’t dare say any more! I loved Laurence so much. He is so innocent in the beginning and so manipulated later. I did, however, give him one great day in Rome when he saw the possibilities of how his life could be.
Are you working on any new projects at the moment?
Yes, I am currently working on book three, which will be partially set in the south of France. I’m going to live in Monaco for a month to write and research in the Princess Grace Irish Library. It is (very loosely) inspired by this beautiful song by The Divine Comedy: