Q: How would you describe your first novel using only three words?
A: Dark, emotional, surprising
Q: Can you share how I LET YOU GO came to be?
A: The inspiration for the book came from a real-life hit-and-run in Oxford, England. I had just joined the police service when a 9-year-old boy was killed by a driver who didn’t stop and never came forward. I kept thinking about this driver, wondering how they could live with themselves, and about the mother, and the grief she must be feeling. Years later I lost a child myself, in very different circumstances, and I realised the impact such a trauma has on one’s life. I began writing about a woman running away from a sad past, and the result was I LET YOU GO.
Q: Did your professional experience help in writing the story?
A: Yes, absolutely. The story is completely fictional, but my experience in the police helped in creating an authentic world. I had much less research to do in relation to investigations and how to reproduce the work police environment.
Q: With your background as a police officer, have you found a lot of errors when it comes to writing crime fiction scenes?
A: When I’m reading crime fiction and thrillers I’m always impressed when the author writes authentic police characters. Personally I’m less concerned about procedure being a hundred percent accurate – it is fiction, after all – but more sensitive to the realism of a situation. Police officers calling each other ‘Detective’, for example, is something I see a lot in British crime fiction, but never happens in real life! I always find it hard to swallow when UK police brandish guns about, or keep their police cars at home, or charge people they haven’t even interviewed yet. It suggests a lack of research that takes me out of the story.
Q: Was the book therapeutic for you to write?
A: Yes, but also quite painful. Some of the sections I wrote felt very raw to me. I put myself into the book when writing the way the character feels after losing a child. I also had a lot in common with the spouse of the detective, Mags. I know what it feels like to give up a police career to raise a family.
Q: Why did you give up your job as a police officer?
A: I wanted to prioritise my family. I had a peer assessment done at work and the results said great things about me. It talked about how positive I was, how I was full of energy and great ideas, and had time for everybody. I showed it to my husband, and he joked, ‘who is this woman? I don’t think I know her.’ I realised I was using all the best bits of me at work, and giving my family the leftovers. I took a career break to settle the children into school, and decided to cover the bills by working as a freelance writer.
Q: Mags, the wife of the detective in I LET YOU GO, also represents someone giving up her profession to be a stay at home mother. Did you see yourself in her?
A: She is an intelligent woman who was very successful at her career. In some aspects she misses some of her former life. She struggles with losing her identity. I definitely suffered with that when I left work.
Q: Jenna’s dog Beau plays a prominent role in the novel. Do you have a dog?
A: I have two gorgeous spaniels. I think dogs are heroes and provide great company. Beau helped Jenna in the healing process. In the beginning she wouldn’t let him get close to her, but eventually he forced his way into her heart.
Q: Very sadly, you have lost a child yourself. Were you able to channel some of your pain into shaping Jenna’s grief and loss?
A: My son died when he was five weeks old. It was, and still is, the hardest thing that has ever happened to me. I found some of the scenes in I LET YOU GO exceptionally difficult to write, and extremely emotional. There would be times when I would be sitting at my keyboard, tears streaming down my cheeks, wanting that particular scene to be over. It was just too raw, too real. But overall, I think I did find it cathartic, just as I used to find it therapeutic to blog about the way I feel.
Q: How did the story come together? Did you follow an outline?
A: I plotted the story roughly, wrote a first draft, then tore it apart and plotted in intricate detail before writing it again. And again. And again! There were eight drafts of I LET YOU GO — it was tough to get right because the twists are so important and needed to work in a particular way. I’m very envious of those writers who can write without planning — it must be very liberating!
Q: What are the main themes of the book?
A: There are lots of themes in the book. The obvious ones are grief and trauma, and the way we learn to let go of our past, but split-second decisions are also explored. I’m fascinated by what I think of as Sliding Doors moments (after the film), where life could have been very different if you’d taken a different path.
Q: Is there any possibility of a sequel with this book?
A: Definitely not. I’m aware that some people feel the ending is ambiguous, and it’s impossible to discuss without spoilers, but there’s a group on my Facebook page where readers can come to talk about the story and ask me questions about it. Suffice to say, the story – as far as I’m concerned – has been told, and I have no plans to return to these characters.