In conversation with... Phoebe Morgan

Hi Phoebe! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of The Girl Next Door! Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: Thank you so much! The Girl Next Door is about sixteen-year-old Clare Edwards, who is found dead in a local field in a small town in Essex. The town is shocked by her murder, and gradually, secrets and lies are revealed – showing that in this small, gossipy community, nothing is quite what it seems… 

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 had the idea for Clare’s death and for the marriage at the heart of the novel, but the ending changed during edits, and further twists came to me as I wrote! I tend not to plot everything out right at the start, rather I begin with an idea or a character and then usually things grow from there. It does mean there are often big rewrites, but I find those easier than the excruciating first draft!

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: For me research is more of a means to an end – I’m always impatient to get on with the writing process! For this book I spoke to a couple of police officers, and a doctor, to try to get the medical side as accurate as I could. However, I have definitely used artistic license to add drama, which I think is ok in fiction (though some will probably disagree!)

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

A: Ooh I don’t know! I don’t tend to picture my characters as actors, but let me think… I think someone like Nicole Kidman would make a good Jane, she was fantastic in Big Little Lies, and for Rachel it would have to be someone like Rachel McAdams, just because she’s my fave!

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: The police scenes were quite difficult to write, just because it’s a world I don’t have direct experience of (thankfully!) – but I do love DS Madeline’s character, and enjoyed writing her chapters. I also loved writing Jane’s gossipy meet-ups with her school mum friends, they allowed me to be much more catty than I am in real life! Jane doesn’t really have an internal filter – so you see all of her thoughts, no matter how nasty they are…

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

A: Yes! In the original book, Madeline was a school teacher, and she changed into a police woman which was a huge alteration but one I’m very glad I made! There was also a lot more of her originally, and she was in the first person, but in order to pull the focus onto Jane a bit more, I changed Madeline to third person and kept Jane in the first person, so that hopefully the reader feels more inside her head and attached to her perspective. With my books I often find they change quite a lot from first draft to final book, but it’s always an interesting process as you get to know your characters more along the way. 

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: I’m writing my third book now and it should be out in 2020. It’s about a couple who go on holiday to the French Riviera, only to have the police ring their doorbell and accuse Callum, the husband, of a murder back in the UK. It’s told from several perspectives, and is currently called The Babysitter though I anticipate that probably changing! It still needs work at the moment and I will be eager to see what my editor thinks of the story – and of course I hope readers eventually enjoy it too!

What are you reading at the moment?

A: I’m reading a non-fiction proof of How to Fail by Elizabeth Day, which I was desperate to read because I love her weekly podcast. She’s a journalist and writer who interviews people about the ways they think they have learned from failure, and I always find it very reassuring and inspiring to know that even the most outwardly successful people have messed up at some point in their lives! I highly recommend it, and the book is great too. I’ve also just finished reading a backlist Paula Daly book – I love all of her novels and if you like suspense then do give them a go!

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: Hmm no I don’t find them disruptive really, I love hearing from readers that have enjoyed my book and I think for me social media has been a great way to help bring people to my novels. I suppose I do spend too much time on it when I ought to be writing, but I’m trying to be more disciplined! If I know I really need to get my head down and write, I try to put my phone in another room or out of reach so that I can’t be tempted to pick it up and mindlessly scroll. I guess I am relatively lucky in that I’ve been using social media since school, so it feels quite natural and not too much of a hassle. If you’re reading, do connect with me on social media if you want to!

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

A: Take chances with your writing, accept help when people offer it, do your research when submitting to agents or publishers, polish your work, and don’t give up! Ever! 

Thank you for your time!

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