In conversation with... Elizabeth Kay

Hi Elizabeth! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of Seven Lies! Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: Thank you so much! Most simply – and perhaps as you might expect! – it is a book about lies. It’s about the lies we tell ourselves, those we tell our friends and our families and about how little lies can evolve into something much bigger. I think, for me, it is also a book about truth. In an era of fake news, misinformation and discussions around the authenticity of social media, I found myself wondering what the truth actually looks like. Can we accurately report on our own lives? Is there ever only one version of the truth?

I hope that it’s also a book about the intensity and emotional intimacy of female friendships. I was particularly keen to explore how childhood friendships can evolve into adulthood, and what happens when they become tangled and complicated. It’s also about grief and loss, themes which run through the entire story, and about the things we might find ourselves doing in our darkest moments.

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: No, I hadn’t figured it out at all! Before Seven Lies, I had been working for nearly three years on a novel that, despite my best efforts, just wasn’t coming together. I couldn’t create a sense of momentum in the story, and it always felt both too confusing and too simplistic. I eventually decided to start afresh (which felt like giving up rather than beginning anew!).

I didn’t know at first what this new project should be, but there were a few things that felt interesting to me. I wanted to explore female friendship and, more specifically, a friendship that was grounded in genuine affection. And then, as soon as I sat down in front of a blank page, determined to fill it, the protagonist in Seven Lies came to me. Jane is stubborn and independent, but she’s very lonely and quite vulnerable too. I wanted to tell her story, and I had to work out what it was. The other characters – her mother, her sister, her husband, her best friend – began to appear around her and the story started to take shape. It grew and grew with each chapter.

How does it feel to be a published author?

A: It isn’t an exaggeration to say that this is very much my childhood dream come true. I have always wanted to be a writer. I assumed for a long time that it would never happen and so this feels both wonderful and very surreal. I’m thrilled!

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

A: Oh, this is a very good question! And, truthfully, I’m really not sure. Drama Republic have optioned the rights and are currently working with a screenwriter. If things continue to progress (and I really hope that they do!), it’ll be so interesting to find out who they’d want in those roles!

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: I found the last few chapters particularly challenging. I rewrote them again and again. I wanted them to feel tense and compelling, and so the pace felt very important. But I also wanted them to feel unexpected, and so I wanted to make sure that I hadn’t given too much away earlier in the novel. And I suppose I also hoped that they might feel moving and emotive in some way. I hope I managed to get there in the end!

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

A: There are so many chapters and ‘scenes’ that were cut during the editing process, but I don’t feel now that any of them were essential. It’s amazing how quickly you forget about the characters who didn’t make it onto the final page!

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 am! I am currently working on the first draft of a new book. I hope it will become another novel that focuses on female relationships. I’d like to explore female anger in particular, because this is something that’s fascinating me at the moment. But I’m still very much in the early stages so I’m not quite sure where it will go! I always love dark, compulsive mysteries, so I’ll be aiming for something that ticks these boxes.

What are you reading at the moment?

A: I’m currently between several books! However, I’m struggling to concentrate much more than usual at the moment. That said, I’m very much enjoying Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner.

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: I very much enjoy social media, so these don’t feel too demanding. Although I do find it relaxing to abandon my phone for a day or two every now and again. I’m particularly fond of Instagram and it has been brilliant to see the photographs of Seven Lies taken by readers and bloggers. It feels like a lovely break from staring at a blank page! In terms of disruptions, I recently had a baby, so that’s the biggest challenge to my writing schedule at the moment!

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

A: We are often told that persistence is absolutely key to becoming a published author. And I think that’s very important to remember and very true too. But I would also advise aspiring writers to know when to give up on a project. I would say: don’t be afraid to start afresh!

Thank you for your time!

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