This month I interviewed Sarah Stovell, the author of Exquisite, a psychological thriller. Exquisite was a great read. It was not too long, not too short, and had just the right amount of suspense. I can’t say too much about it—it would ruin the fun. The story is about two women; one is an aspiring writer, the other a happily married, well-known author. The book alternates between the two women, as they describe their life and their deepening relationship. But, as you’ll find out, something is clearly not right…
Welcome Sarah. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am about to get a puppy because I am that stereotype of a woman whose children are now at school and I clearly have a compulsion to keep on cleaning up shit. That’s all you need to know.
What made you go into writing?
I didn’t much fancy any of the other jobs.
Exquisite is a psychological thriller. Your other books aren’t. What made you change genre?
Where do you get your inspiration for your stories?
I’m not a fan of the word ‘inspiration’. I don’t think I’ve ever really felt inspired as such. I get ideas when I’m out walking. I try and walk at least four miles day, and that’s when I get small ideas that slowly, after a lot of thought, develop into bigger ideas.
Is there a genre you prefer, as a writer? As a reader?
As a reader, my tastes are fairly eclectic but veer towards women’s literary fiction. As a writer, I like to produce a page-turner.
Your descriptions of the Lake District in Exquisite are beautiful. Locations of your previous books The Night Flower and Heartwood include Tasmania and America. Did you do anything special for your research on all these places?
I set ‘Exquisite’ in the Lake District because it is a place I love. I really, really love it. I could wax lyrical about the Lake District for literally a million hours. I plan to live there one day with a Border Collie and he and I will tramp the fells for ten hours a day. I can’t wait… Anyway, what was the question? The other books … Well, I just read about the places and imagined them. I actually don’t think that is the best way to do setting. It makes a massive difference when you are psychologically connected to a place, as I am to the Lake District.
Your books seem to revolve primarily around women (who are often damaged in some way), and female-female relationships, like the mother-daughter bond, friendship or even obsession. What is the appeal for you about these female characters and their interaction with other women?
Yes, I am very drawn to female relationships. Partly, this is because I am a woman, but also because the most significant (by which I mean complicated, not necessarily fulfilling) relationships in my life have been with women. I am interested in the deep bonds of friendship that women often forge. I also interested in mother-daughter relationships, which can be the most fraught relationships around but can also, if you get it right as a mother, be incredible (so far, I have a great relationship with my daughter, but she is only eight, so there’s a long way to go). I am also interested in romantic relationships between women, how loving and nurturing they can be, but also how terrible. I wanted to look at female violence, which is often psychological in action, but no less wounding for that.
Are you working on a new book? (And if so, can you tell us about it?)
I am almost finished! It is about an eighteen-year-old woman named Annie, who is impoverished and desperate and who goes to work as a nanny for a very wealthy family because her mother has gone missing and Annie has been evicted for not paying the rent. While there, something happens to a child in her care…
I am looking forward to reading it. Thanks so much, Sarah!