Karen Osman talks about her new book, what she is working on next, and when she started writing.
1. Tell us more about your latest book, The Home.
My second novel, The Home, is a psychological thriller, set between the 1970s and 1980s, about successful career woman Angela whose memories of an abusive children’s home affect her adult life. The book delves into the darkness of living in a children’s home, casting a shadow over family ties and what it means to belong.
Abandoned as a baby, Angela is desperate to escape her supposed refuge, yet despite being adopted and taken into the hearts of a wealthy couple, the scars of her childhood remain. When Angela discovers the identity of her birth mother Evelyn, their reunion is no fairy tale and as sinister events start to unfold, Evelyn fears she may not survive her daughter’s return.
2. How did you come up with the plot of the book?
As a mother of two young sons, 2 and 4, I still remember that double-edged maelstrom of emotion of those new-born days – a mix of joy and worry – and it’s been a powerful influence in my writing for my new book, The Home. At the same time, I was researching about the horrors of children’s homes in the ’60s and ’70s, much of which only came to light many years later. It’s incredibly disturbing that such events could have happened in places which are supposed to protect children. From here, I started to develop the outline of a plot and the character of Angela was born.
3. Can you tell us more about the characters of Angela and Evelyn?
Angela is ambitious and career driven and the 1980s were an interesting time for women. On the one hand, Margaret Thatcher was a powerful example of what could be achieved by women, but on the other hand, sexism was very much present. The hardworking personality of Angela is the polar opposite of Evelyn who is content to rely on government support and often plays the role of the victim, abstaining from as much responsibility as she can get away with.
4. Can you describe The Home in three adjectives?
Chilling, dark, surprising.
5. What comes to you first – the setting, the characters or some aspect of the story?
When I plan a new book, I usually focus on coming up with the big idea of the plot first. From here, the characters, and the setting follow. I’m a bit of a planner when it comes to novel writing and I try and outline as much of the book as possible. This includes character development, chapter outlines, and narrative arcs. Of course, you can’t plan out everything and I do get a lot of ideas as I’m writing and I enjoy that surprising element of the process.
6. What is your favourite and least favourite thing about writing?
My favourite part of writing is creating the first and last chapters. These are usually the most exciting for me. I also really love building the narrative. My least favourite part is all the re-reads that are required to make sure the book is as good as it can be!
7. When did you decide to write and what prompted you to start?
I have always written in some form or another from a very young age. I loved it and it was, and continues to be, a daily part of my life – even on holidays! From a professional perspective, I would say probably in 2011 when I set up my writing business, Travel Ink, in 2011 which provides content services for the travel and tourism industry. I started writing novels in 2016, when I won the Montegrappa Writing Prize for The Good Mother, which then led to a three-book deal.
8. What is a great book you’ve read recently that you would recommend?
The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn was fantastic. I’ve also just finished Annabel Kantaria’s new book I Know You.
9. What are you working on next?
I’ve already started writing my third novel, The Perfect Lie, about a lawyer who is representing a young woman who has been raped. As the case develops, the lawyer is reminded of a past she would rather forget and her perfect life starts to unravel.
Angela was just a baby when her mum left her for the last time, and a children’s home is no place to grow up.
The home’s manager Ray takes the girls off to his ‘den’ in the garden and the littlies come back crying, and Ray’s wife Kath has special wooden spoons which she saves for beating any of the children who dare to misbehave. So, when wealthy couple James and Rosemary come to choose a child to adopt, Angela is desperate to escape.
But the scars of her childhood remain, and when Angela’s search for her birth mother Evelyn is successful, their reunion is no fairy tale. Soon strange and sinister events start to unfold, and Evelyn fears she may not survive her daughter’s return…
Originally from the UK, Karen won the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature Montegrappa Novel Writing Award 2016 with her crime-thriller novel, the bestselling The Good Mother. When she’s not writing novels, Karen is busy bringing up her two young children and running her communication business Travel Ink.