To celebrate the release of Out of Sight - published this month by Quercus Books - author Isabelle Grey kindly agreed to answer a few questions on Book After Book.
Hello Isabelle! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the release of Out of Sight. Can you tell us what it is about?
A: Out of Sight is a novel of psychological suspense. Patrick Hinde is a good man whose coping strategy is to compartmentalise and ‘forget’ the things that upset him. Following a difficult visit from his parents, his failure of memory causes the death of his beloved son, Daniel. Struggling to accept his wife’s forgiveness, his avoidant behaviour becomes worse, leading him to hurt those closest to him. The novel is also a love story; in France five years later he meets Leonie, who cherishes the romantic belief that love can heal his damage. But will Patrick be able to change his destructive behaviour?
This is your first work of fiction after a series of non-fiction books written as Isabelle Anscombe. Do you feel any different about the publication of Out of Sight?
A: I wrote most of my non-fiction books a long time ago, but I remember how, when I first made the jump from non-fiction to TV drama, the freedom to make things up was wonderful! Now the big jump is from screenwriting to fiction, where it’s possible go inside my characters’ heads and describe their thoughts in as much detail as I want. In a script, you’re placing those internal thoughts in an actor’s close-up or reaction shot. The biggest personal difference is that I feel much more exposed as an author than as a screenwriter. An audience rightly identifies with the actors, and the writer can remain pretty invisible, which suits me; but readers of fiction like to know about an author, and I’m still getting used to that!
What kind of research, if any, have you carried out while you were writing Out of Sight?
A: The story was built around newspaper reports of two unrelated but near-identical tragic incidents that occurred within a week of each other in France in 2008. In order to make sure I was getting things right in terms of how such deaths would be handled here, I spoke briefly to a former detective, a coroner, a forensic psychologist, a family law barrister, and even a childhood friend who’s now a judge. I was a journalist, so it’s still important to me to check my facts before turning them into fiction, although some details don’t matter - in TV crime drama, for instance, it’s an accepted convention that DNA and toxicology results always come back the same day! I can write with greater confidence if I know what would happen, but I don’t feel obliged to stick to anything other than my fictional ‘truth’.
You have extensive experience as screenwriter. Would you like to see Out of Sight adapted for the TV? If so, would you be happy to let another screenwriter work on it?
A: Of course I’d love to see Out of Sight as a TV drama or a movie! And I certainly wouldn’t say no if I were asked to write the screenplay; but I enjoy the fact that film is a collaborative medium, involving many different skills. I’m happy when I hand a script over to the director, actors and production team, so in the same way I’d be happy to see another screenwriter adapt my novel. A fresh eye may well find something different in the story and make it their own, which would be exciting to see.
Due to the popularity of social networking websites, it seems that interacting with readers – be it via a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a blog etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?
A: Yes, they do! Plus I’ve recently started a blog. But writing a novel is a big and time-consuming task, so having some social life on Twitter without leaving my desk is very tempting. And I’m so impressed by the knowledge, generosity and humour out there - after all, I wouldn’t be talking to you now if it weren’t for Twitter - and I look forward to ‘meeting’ more readers.
What one fundamental piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
A: Keep writing, get to the end, then work out what the story is and do some re-writing. The real writing starts at the second draft when you can see what you’ve got.
And lastly, is there anything that you would like to share that I haven’t asked?
A: Do watch out early next year for my episode of The Accused on BBC1, which I’ve been writing with Jimmy McGovern.
Thank you for your time!
Isabelle's publisher has generously offered two copies of Out of Sight! For a chance to win, all you have to do is click here and complete the form. The competition will close on 3rd October at 1pm and is for UK readers only.