Map of Blue Book Balloon

5 October 2020

#Blogtour #Q&A - She Lies Close by Sharon Doering

Cover by Julia Lloyd
She Lies Close
Sharon Doering
Titan Books, 8 September 2020
Available as: PB, 400pp, e, audio
Source: PB kindly provided by the publisher
ISBN: 9781789094190

Today I'm delighted and honoured that Sharon Doering, the author of Who Lies Close, has stopped by to answer some questions... which makes that sound very like an investigation but it's really not!

BBB: Sharon - thank you for agreeing to answer some questions about She Lies Close. I have to say that (without giving anything away about what is happening to Grace at the start of the book) I think it’s a long time since I encountered such a twist in the first few pages! 

Overall, Grace is a very strongly, well realised personality in a very particular situation. How did you (do you) find your way into that? Does the plot come first, or the person (or the place…?)

Sharon: Thank you so much for having me!

I am a character-driven reader and writer. If I fall for a character in a novel, I will follow them anywhere! I love a strong voice.

In She Lies Close, the basic premise came first, then I focused on character. The plot details slipped into place as I wrote or I hammered them in during edits.

BBB: I like to ask authors about all the arduous travel they must have undertaken in far-flung places for research purposes. Was there much of that? (You say your neighbours aren’t like Grace’s, so I’m assuming this isn’t your neighbourhood thinly disguised).

Sharon: Travel sounds lovely -- in theory, at least! My family vacations are usually a bit of a mess -- but I haven’t travelled for anything I’ve written. I rely on the internet to answer my research questions.

I’ve mostly lived in the city of Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. This story takes place in the suburbs, so I’m familiar. She Lies Close is not about my neighbors or my suburb, but it could be! Who knows about any of our neighbors? That’s the lure -- Who knows what goes on next door?

BBB: When you’re writing, do you work it all out in detail first or just launch in – and do you always know how things were going to turn out, or end up surprising yourself? (For example, did the characters change as you wrote the book? Did they take over the story? Or are they as you first imagined them?)

Sharon: I just launch in! I am a pantser, not a plotter. I don’t know exactly where things are headed (though I have an idea). Sometimes the characters seem to take over and evolve on their own, sometimes I push them along. When I edit, I change some of their choices to serve the story.

BBB: Did any other writing (or media) particularly inspire She Lies Close?

Sharon: The inspiration for She Lies Close came from my family’s move to a new neighborhood years ago and finding out that a guy down the street was being prosecuted for a child crime. Within months he was convicted, sold his house, and went to prison. While it was creepy (and I wouldn't let my little boys play near his house), I never felt desperate. I had a good support system in my husband.

It got me thinking though…What if you moved right next door to a dangerous man, a suspect in a child kidnapping (maybe murder), and what if you had no support system, no sounding board? What if you were recently divorced and financially strapped? What if you had secrets of your own and mental health issues complicating your life? What if your sinister neighbor started talking to your little girl, giving her gifts?

I took the premise of a dangerous next-door neighbor and added a big old bag of What Ifs. I wanted to write a psychological thriller that was dark, desperate, and also funny. I wanted to write a thriller where the characters were stretched too far, where we get to witness some of them snap.

The Fever by Megan Abbott influenced my book. In The Fever, Abbott weaves mental and physical health into her story in such a mysterious way. After reading The Fever, I thought I might be able pull off what I wanted to do in my book.

BBB: What were you trying to achieve with the book - beyond writing a great story? (It’s perfectly OK to say ‘I don’t know!’ or ‘It speaks for itself!’)

Sharon: That’s a great question, and yeah, I definitely had controversial themes I wanted to explore with this book in addition to writing a compelling story.

I wanted to explore how close any of us can be to losing our mind - how many things would have to go wrong in one person’s life to push them over the edge.

I wanted to explore how the sheer volume of worrying news stories can make us hypervigilant.

I wanted to explore parenting, how far we’d go to protect our children, and the unintended consequences of that.

I wanted to explore relationships, gender inequalities, and gender roles.

I wanted to explore our differing perceptions of reality, and how some of that reality can be affected by environmental exposures, viruses, drugs we take.

I didn’t have an end goal to answer these questions, I just wanted to throw these questions into the stew and see what bubbled up.

BBB: What inspired you to write in the first place (particular books, something that happened...) and how did you get started writing?

Sharon: It was the late 90s. I was twenty-four, working as a biotech stock analyst (I hated this job), and I started reading fiction as an escape. The most wonderful, eye-opening, mind-altering thing happened to me. I read this thriller and thought, Huh. I could do better. That had never happened to me before. (For the record, in this particular late-90s thriller, the woman sidekick was a bimbo, and the villain was doctor evil-ish.).

When I sat down to write my first short story, I fell madly in love with the process. That was it for me. I knew I would never stop. I have been writing for twenty years, I've had an agent for twelve, and I've written dozens of short stories and seven novels. That's how long it took before a publisher offered me a contract.

Oh, how I wish I was one of those little kids who knew they wanted to write. As a kid I loved Stephen King, but it never dawned on me that I could “be a writer”.

BBB: And what did you expect from it? How does the reality compare with that?

Sharon: That’s such a great question. The trick is, you can’t expect anything from your writing. Expecting publication or financial success will leave you feeling like garbage because the odds are stacked against you and there is too much you cannot control. You have to agree with yourself that you’re writing novels because you love the process (even if there is no award, no publishing deal).

Now that I have a contract, there are deadlines and expectations. It’s exciting and terrifying and strange. Mostly, I’m just so happy to be in the game.

BBB: Which writer(s) do you admire most?

Sharon: When I started writing novels, my favorite writers were Stephen King, Dennis Lehane, Megan Abbott, Laura Lippman, Gillian Flynn, T. Jefferson Parker, James Lee Burke, George Saunders, Lisa Unger, Jonathan Hart, Richard K Morgan...

I am a deliberate student now, and I read more widely and quickly (and differently). When I’m reading any book, I’m thinking, Oh, look at what they did there. Brilliant idea! Oh, how clever. I love how they revealed that, or that’s an amazing twist.

Now I am in awe of so many more writers. Some of my recent amazing reads…Kimberely McCreight, Mary Kubica, Raven Leilani, Riley Sager, Wendy Walker, Lauren Wilkinson, S.L. McKinnis, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Victoria Helen Stone, Samantha Downing, Victoria Helen Stone, Vanessa Lillie, Jen Pashley, Samantha Bailey. The list goes on.

BBB: What's your writing day/ routine like? And where do you write best?

Sharon: Routine? Ha!

Like so many people who have kids doing e-learning at home, I am going a little nuts with the lack of routine.

I have been writing in short, thirty-minute bursts while wearing noise-cancelling headphones designed for power-tool work. It is not ideal, and my ears hurt.

If I can hide in the car in the garage for two hours while the kids are watching TV/playing video games, I am usually productive enough. The key is non-interrupted time.

I rely heavily on caffeine. 1-2 cups of tea, then 2-4 cups of coffee, and I round it out with 1 coke zero.

BBB: Do you have a book locked away that you wrote when you were 15? If so, is there any chance of it seeing the light? Or will it get the Terry Pratchett steamroller-the-harddrive treatment? 

Sharon: Love this. I started writing short stories in my twenties, novels in my thirties. I wrote one horror, one romance (it was horrendous), one PI novel, and three tech thrillers. I might rewrite one or two of those tech thrillers (or write them as screenplays). Even though they are 5-10 years old, the premises are still pretty cool, relevant. Besides those one or two tech thrillers, I am focused on moving forward and not looking back. We get better with practice so it’s good to let those older manuscripts die.

BBB: Finally… you’re lost in the woods late at night and take shelter in a tumbledown cabin. A rescue party is on its way but will take several days to reach you. You have plenty of food and water, and even better, you have a book with you! Which book should it be?

Sharon: All of my very favorite books are thrillers or horror, but if I were reading Stephen King or Gillian Flynn while lost in the woods, waiting for a rescue, I would be terrified! So, maybe I’d rather have something funny to keep me grounded? A book of short stories—Pastoralia by George Saunders. Maybe a Matthew Quick novel like The Silver Linings Playbook. Or a children’s book—Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.

BBB: Sharon, thank you so much for those answers - best wishes with She Lies Close, may it find its way into the hands of many readers!

You can find out more about She Lies Close at the Titan Books website here or on Sharon's site here as well as the other stops non the tour (see poster below!)

And you can buy the book from your local high street bookshop, online from Hive Books (who support local shops), Blackwell's, Foyle's, WH Smith, Waterstones or Amazon.

Blogtour poster for "She Lies Close"

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