Cynthia Clark talks about her new book, If You Only Knew.
1. Can you tell us more about your debut novel, If You Only Knew?
If You Only Knew is the story of Elizabeth, who from the outside looks like she has the perfect life – a wonderful husband, two adorable children, a beautiful house, a couple of good friendships, and an amazing career, one that she has worked extremely hard to build. Elizabeth also has an enormous secret, one that she has managed to keep for more than sixteen years. As the story unfolds, this secret comes back to haunt her and Elizabeth is faced with a very real possibility of losing everything that she holds dear.
2. How did you come up with the idea for this novel?
It must have been brewing in my subconscious for a long time without me even knowing. Then, one evening, I was lying in bed and the plot came to my mind. I started writing there and then, not even bothering to get to my computer. In fact, the prologue was written on my iPhone. For the next several weeks I wrote for a few hours a day, coming up with plot twists and creating the characters as I went along.
3. Do you see yourself in any of the characters in your novel?
Not at all. The only similarity is that I too tend to alphabetise my spices, like Elizabeth. And like Ellen, I love to cook, although I’m certainly nowhere as good as her.
4. What was the most difficult part about writing this book? And what was the most fun part?
Finding the time was certainly the biggest challenge. Parts of If You Only Knew were written when my twin girls were infants. There were many nights when I’d stay up after the 3am feed and write until they’d wake up again. It was tough, and I was utterly exhausted, but in retrospect those stolen hours were also the best, a quiet time during a very hectic period where I got to lose myself in the story and create new characters.
5. Do you have a set daily writing routine?
No, even though I’d love to have one. I’m a planner, and do best when I can stick to a schedule. But these days I write whenever I can, most times in the evenings or while the kids are taking a nap.
6. Who are your favourite authors?
Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters are by far my favourites and I tend to reread their works every couple of years. I love Margaret Atwood, Lily Koppel and Roald Dahl. When I’m in the mood for something very light, I enjoy anything by Sophie Kinsella and I also have a soft spot for Marian Keyes and Cecelia Ahern. Right now I find myself reading a lot of Dr Seuss and Tove Jansson, sometimes the same book over and over.
7. What message do you want readers to take away from your novels?
That not everything is as it appears and nobody’s life is perfect, irrespective of what it looks like from the outside.
8. When did you decide to write and what prompted you to start?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, which is why I pursued a career in journalism. When my husband and I moved to London a few years ago, we decided that I would take a career break and try to fulfil my dream of writing a book. If You Only Knew is the result of that decision.
9. Has any other writer in particular influenced the way you write?
We learn from everything that we’re exposed to and books have always had a prominent place in my life. I don’t think there’s any one writer that influenced my writing style but rather a melange of everything I’ve read over the years.
10. What’s next for you?
I’m contracted to write a second book for Aria, which I am currently working on. I’ve also just moved to Philadelphia – the third transatlantic move in seven years. So right now I’m getting used to a new city, enjoying exploring the neighbourhoods and indulging in the delicious cuisine.
A wife, a mother, a killer.
One wrong decision, one terrifying night, leaves student Elizabeth with a stark choice – kill or be killed. And the consequences of that choice will shape her whole life.
Now a wife, a mother, and a lawyer, she must find a way to out run her past, protect her family and live with her secret. But is it really possible to live a happy life with such a huge shadow cast by the past? And as it becomes clear that someone else knows her secret and is hunting her down, time is running out for Elizabeth to keep her family safe.
Cynthia Clark has written a heart-stopping story about the choices we make and how far we’d go to protect our families. Even if it means deceiving the people we love most…
Cynthia Clark was born and brought up in Malta, where she graduated in Communications and went to work for a daily newspaper. She has since lived in the US, where she worked as a writer in online business journals. She and her husband now live in Philadelphia with their twin daughters.