Susan Gee talks about being drawn to flawed characters and dark stories.
1. Tell us more about your new novel, Kiss Her Goodbye.
Kiss Her Goodbye follows two characters, Hayley Reynolds, a teenager who has murdered a girl from her college and DS Beverley Samuels, the detective who is trying to solve the crime. Hayley is a flawed and complex character and the story follows her as she manipulates those around her. DS Samuels is haunted by a past case and Hayley uses that to manipulate her. The story is more of a ‘will she get away with it?’ rather than a ‘who done it?’
2. How did you come up with the idea for this novel?
I wanted to write about a teenage girl who was a killer rather than a victim. I also wanted to explore a story from a troubled character’s perspective to see what made them tick. I was interested in trying to understand the complexity of a troubled character like Hayley.
3. What was the hardest part of the book to write?
Hayley’s character is dark, but I didn’t want to demonise her. I wanted to portray a flawed character with a degree of sympathy. Trying to do that against the terrible acts that she commits was a challenge, but it was an interesting journey.
4. Did you do any specific research for the book?
The book is set in the 1980s so I did have to research events taking place at the time. Also as the book is set in a real place I wanted to make sure that the shops and bars were the ones that were around at that time. The main character loves New Order and so it was fun to revisit some of their music.
5. Can you describe >Kiss Her Goodbye in 3 adjectives?
Dark, troubled and twisted.
6. How long did it take to write the novel and how many drafts did you write?
I finished this novel and then put it away for a couple of years while I explored new ideas. I decided to send it out to two competitions and was lucky to be the runner-up in both. From this I secured an agent who suggested adding the character of the detective so I rewrote it again with the new point of view included. So it has had a few re-drafts.
7. Do you have a special place where you like to write?
I write in bed or on the sofa. It can be hard to find a quiet space in a busy household so I’m used to working with people around me.
8. What authors have inspired you in your writing journey?
Flawed characters and dark stories are the ones that I’m drawn to. I loved The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks and The Long Walk by Stephen King when I first read them. Annie Proux write so concisely and truthfully, Broke Back Mountain is a brilliant short story. When I was younger I loved a wide range of books from John Irving to Jane Austen. I think inspiration comes from every book that you read. There is always something that you take away from a novel.
9. When did you decide to write and what prompted you to start?
I have always written. I used to write short stories, but always wanted to write a novel. I realised that the only way for my novel to exist was to actually get down and do it. I was tired of hearing myself say the words, ‘I’ll write a book one day.’ I took an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester University, which was very useful. It introduced to me to other writers and gave me the confidence to finish the book.
10. Can you tell us a bit about your plans for the future?
The future will involve writing more words. I have started a new draft for another novel. It will be dark and there will be a dead body in it. This is inevitable.
Seventeen-year-old Hayley Reynolds is unwanted at home, and an outsider at school. Pushed away by her best friend Kirsten Green, she makes a deliberate, chilling decision – if Kirsten can’t belong to her, then she won’t belong to anyone.
DI Beverley Samuels has the body of a schoolgirl on her hands – a murder that brings back the hauntingly painful memories of the case she’s tried so desperately to forget.
There’s something deeply disturbing about this crime – and yet with little hard evidence it’s up to her to decide who she will believe….
Susan Gee was a finalist in the Daily Mail Write a Bestseller Competition as well as a finalist in The Good Housekeeping fiction competition. This is her first novel.