In conversation with... Alice Clark-Platts

Hi Alice! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of The Flower Girls, whose serialisation on The Pigeonhole I loved! Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: 3 girls go out to play but only 2 come back…

One of them, Laurel, aged 10, is convicted and imprisoned. Her sister, Rosie, aged 6, is instead given a new identity. Flip forward 19 years to a windswept coast in Devon where Rosie is staying for New Year’s Eve and another little girl goes missing…

The Flower Girls is a novel about nature versus nurture. It asks at what age can you become culpable of a crime and whether anyone can ever be truly rehabilitated.

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing the book or did it take an unexpected turn as the characters grew on the page?

A: I always change my mind half way through writing a book! The characters become so much more developed for me as I get going writing the book – it throws up loads of other ideas that hadn’t occurred to me at the outset. With The Flower Girls, I had a very strong sense of the relationship between Rosie and Laurel but the other characters really came alive through the writing and that did change the plot somewhat.

What kind of research, if any, did you have to carry out while you were writing this novel? In general, is research something you enjoy or a means to an end?

A: I’m not a researcher in the sense that I’d go and sleep in the jungle for 2 weeks to see what it’s like! But I did read a lot of books concerning child murder and child crime for The Flower Girls and, in the past, I have visited police stations and I have a fantastic police contact who helps me with procedural questions. I’m not a historical fiction writer so, whilst I like to have a real sense of the atmosphere and psychology of certain things, I’d rather be steeped in it than write it down on the page as sort of proof I’d done research!

If this novel was going to be turned into a film, who would you cast in the roles of Laurel and Rosie?

A: Good question! Maybe Kaya Scodelario for Rosie. And Emily Boynton for Laurel?

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about a scene in the book that you love or that was particularly difficult to write?

A: Lots of scenes were very difficult to write. The scene that made me cry pathetically at my computer was the letter that Laurel writes to Rosie. And as much as many people can’t abide him, I did enjoy writing the Max scenes. He’s such an idiot really. A well-meaning man but a total idiot!

Is there anything that didn’t make it into the final version of the book?

A: I don’t think there was in this book. My previous novels have had huge chunks removed – whole storylines! But The Flower Girls has remained fairly composite from start to finish. Although now I think about it, there was a social worker in a few scenes that we cut.

If you are already working on your next writing project, would you mind giving us a little anticipation of what we are to expect?

A: A murder set within the febrile, incestuous confines of an orchestra! And a podcast detailing it all online… who is telling the truth?

What are you reading at the moment?

A: I read a lot of crime fiction. But I’m actually reading The Librarian by Salley Vickers at the moment. It’s a lovely ode to literature with a smattering of romance thrown it too!

Due to the popularity of social networking websites, interacting with readers – be it via Twitter, Facebook Instagram 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: Anything can disrupt my writing schedule – laundry; housework; cat videos; Seth Meyers clips; staring into space… anything that means I don’t have to focus my mind on – what I’m convinced at the time – is the most terrible writing. It’s just another things to add to the list of possible procrastinations. So that’s ok. The more the merrier!

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: Always, to read. Read all the time, anything and everything. And once you’ve got into that habit, think about why you like some things and don’t like others. Oh, and then sit down and actually write. And stop watching cat videos.

Thank you for your time!

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