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Barbara Copperthwaite

PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLERS TO GIVE YOU SHIVERS

The best books for Autumn & Halloween #autumnreads #Halloweenreading

If you’re anything like me, at this time of year I hanker after a book that can give me chills as I sit in front of my fire. It can simply be set at this time of year and evoke howling winds and snow scenes, or be a full-on ghost story, or even something with just a touch of the supernatural, but it has to give me goosebumps. So I thought I’d share some books that I think fit the bill…

 

Naomi Cottle finds missing children. When the police have given up their search and an investigation stalls, families call her. She possesses a rare, intuitive sense, born out of her own experience, that allows her to succeed when others have failed. Young Madison Culver has been missing for three years. She vanished on a family trip to the mountainous forests of Oregon, where they’d gone to cut down a tree for Christmas.

It’s not often the phrase ‘beautiful’ can be used about a crime book, but The Child Finder really is something quite special, utterly unique in its ability to spin a gorgeous fairytale over the horror of child abduction. Doesn’t sound possible, does it? But this cleverly-wrought book manages it, alternating narrative between the world of Naomi, who is ‘the child finder’, and the lost girl Madison. Madison copes with being held prisoner by telling herself she has fallen into a book, and has become the snow child. These sections are heartbreaking, stunning, beautifully-phrased, and delicately judged, the balance never falling over into the cloying or ridiculous. In addition, the glorious language of little Madison somehow manages to hit a note that is even more sinister because of its naivety rather than despite of.

The reader needs to be prepared for a tough read, though. This is a book full of beauty and ugliness, with a tragically sad vein running throughout.

 

In January 1937, clouds of war are gathering over a fogbound London. Twenty-eight year old Jack is poor, lonely and desperate to change his life. So when he’s offered the chance to join an Arctic expedition, he jumps at it. After a brief Arctic summer at Gruhuken, in winter permanent night falls. Jack feels a creeping unease. One by one, his companions are forced to leave. But Jack is not alone. Something walks there in the dark…

The unique setting for this ghost story is what attracted to me to it initially. Author Michele Paver uses the eerie location of the uninhabited Arctic to create a spine-tingling atmosphere that feels both scarily large and claustrophobically close. The descriptions are, pardon the pun, hauntingly excellent, from the ice which pops and cracks constantly as though talking to itself, to the cold beauty of the Northern Lights; from the bone-chilling constant darkness of an Arctic winter where the sun never peeps over the horizon, to the creeping certainty that someone or something is out there, watching, waiting. This is not a book where much happens, instead it plays on the emotions, unsettling the reader and giving them goosebumps of anticipation. A beautifully-written, old-fashioned ghost story, I thoroughly enjoyed Dark Matter.

 

The reader is thrown into the middle of a marriage in its death throes. But who is telling the truth, when everyone has their own axe to grind? Just who is controlling who? From the very beginning I was changing my mind about who is the bad guy in this marriage, as each character is so relatable yet also has flashes of something uncomfortable and nasty beneath the surface. The characters are a bit of a cliché, though – the devastatingly beautiful and fragile wife, trying hard to be perfect; the pretty secretary and single mum, trying to make ends meet, who falls for her handsome new boss; the handsome boss with a secret…

Still, I was hooked, wondering just what the outcome would be, although initially it was along the blasé lines of: ‘will it follow the pattern of Gone Girl or Girl On A Train?’ That soon passed as I realised I was reading something that is a very different animal indeed.

Behind Her Eyes boasts the hashtag #WTFthatending – and rightly so. It is ingenious, dastardly, devastatingly well-plotted, and totally unique. It does, however, require a huge leap of faith on the part of the reader; a total suspension of disbelief that many lovers of crime fiction and psychological thrillers may not be happy about having to make. This is a strange, genre-blurring tale with a jaw-dropping ending.

A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives. But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity – that she, in fact, is Lydia – their world comes crashing down once again.

If I tell you this is a book in which very little happens, it will sound boring. No one could accuse The Ice Twins of being boring. Absorbing, haunting, heartbreaking and disturbing…all of those things, most definitely, but boring it is not.

So much of the action, though, happens in your imagination, and that is what makes this so clever and so very powerful.

It works on many levels, too. Is it a psychological thriller? Is it a ghost story? Is it a gothic tale? Or the story of a domestic crime? Somehow, this intelligent and complex novel manages to be all those things, yet never feels confused.

Each page you turn is the turn of a screw slowly, very slowly, ramping up the tension, as the Moorcroft’s marriage falls apart. As Kirstie/Lydia changes from one moment to the next. As secrets are revealed and conclusions jumped to. Expectations are built up that make the reader believe they are being led in one direction, only for things to switch around.  The Ice Twins contains enough twists and turns to give you whiplash.

And the ending…how I wish I could tell you about the ending. It will give you shivers, and stay with you for a very long time. But you won’t mind being haunted by this clever, psychological ghost story.

 

Late one summer evening, antiquarian bookseller Adam Snow is returning from a client visit when he takes a wrong turn. He stumbles across a derelict Edwardian house, and compelled by curiosity, approaches the door. Standing before the entrance, he feels the unmistakable sensation of a small cold hand creeping into his own, ‘as if a child had taken hold of it’.

At first he is merely puzzled by the odd incident but then begins to suffer attacks of fear and panic, and is visited by nightmares. He is determined to learn more about the house and its once-magnificent, now overgrown garden but when he does so, he receives further, increasingly sinister, visits from the small hand.

If ghost stories are your thing then you will love this novella by Susan Hill, best known as the author of The Woman In Black. So often, modern authors fall into the trap of trying to write a film rather than a book when creating paranormal stories. Hill doesn’t rely on visual descriptions of horror, or clichés designed to make you jump if only they were on the silver screen. Instead she builds spine-tingling unease, an atmosphere of tension, and the constant feel that perhaps you need to check over your shoulder before continuing to read. I actually got goosebumps at times when reading this, despite little happening that is truly sinister – instead everything is suggested, allowing the imagination to fill in the gaps, cleverly allowing the reader to create their own fear. This little book is elegantly written and subtly-told – a proper, old-fashioned ghost tale that is perfect for this time of year.

 

 

Lose yourself in the dazzling prose of this magical tale, as author Erin Morgenstern breathes life into Le Cirque des Reves (The Circus of Dreams), which appears suddenly, opens only at night, then disappears just as rapidly. From the colourful descriptions of the various tents, the amazing wonders, and even the incredible smells and tastes, the dream-like words create their own spell.

At the heart of this is an unusual love story, which builds subtly between two magicians hiding their skills in plain sight; two people who were bound from childhood before they even knew each other. Critics may say the ending is disappointing, and I’d agree that if put under a microscope it could be better – but frankly the writing transports and transforms to such a degree that it is worth any plots holes just to have sat back and enjoyed the journey.

The Night Circus is one of my all-time favourite books. Go on, allow yourself to be enchanted by it this Halloween.

Still looking for a Halloween read? THE PERFECT FRIEND is a psychological thriller set around at this time of year.

TPF-YELLOWHRShe’ll do anything for you…

My name is Alex, and my world has been shattered.
My husband has left me.
My children won’t speak to me.
My friend Carrie is the only person I have.
She’s the only one I can trust to keep all my secrets.
She’d never do anything to let me down.
Would she?

FIND OUT MORE HERE

FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD is a modern, psychological thriller take on a Gothic fairytale which, according to the Sunday Mirror, ‘will have you looking over your shoulder and under your bed.’

Flowers for the dead kindle idea16 02ADAM WILL DO ANYTHING TO MAKE LAURA HAPPY. EVEN IF IT KILLS HER.

After a devastating car crash wipes out her family, Laura struggles to get her life together. Grieving, she becomes forgetful. She doesn’t remember how money got into her purse, or buying that pint of milk…

Adam is the perfect boyfriend. He cooks meals. He does the housework. He looks after Laura’s every need. He knows everything about her.

But Laura has never met Adam. And she knows nothing about him.

What turned him into a monster who stalks his victims? How did he become warped from a sensitive boy who adored the fairy tales his gran read to him? And what is he trying to say with the bouquets he sends?

FIND OUT MORE HERE

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Meet Alex & Carrie: creating the characters in The Perfect Friend #autumnreads #Halloween #psychologicalthriller

Halloween approaches; a time of strange goings on, when people deliberately choose to scare themselves, or others decide to… This is the time I chose in which to set my psychological thriller The Perfect Friend.

Just who are Alex and Carrie, the two women at the centre of The Perfect Friend? It’s been such fun getting under the skin of these two women. Their backgrounds, complexities, similarities and differences have been burned into my brain to such an extent that I now feel almost as if they are real and have chosen to reveal themselves to me, rather than being creatures of my own creation.

Alex is clearly vulnerable, struggling every day to deal with what life has thrown at her, to come to terms with decisions she has made that haven’t always been wise. She is 44, and empty nest syndrome has triggered the anorexia that ravages her body and mind; all she wants is to be a wife and mother once again.

Quote from psychological thriller THE PERFECT FRIEND, by Barbara Copperthwaite

Despite her fragility, I admired the strength she shows every single day to try and inch her way back to normality and put her problems behind her – and let’s not forget her desperation to make amends for the past. She is haunted by guilt, and that is the driving force behind all of her decisions. Somehow, she is determined to make things better and rectify her mistakes, no matter what the emotional cost; that means that sometimes, despite the good intentions, wisdom isn’t informing her new choices.

Quote from psychological thriller THE PERFECT FRIEND, by Barbara Copperthwaite

Carrie is her polar opposite, and being almost half Alex’s age, is like a surrogate daughter to her. Despite her youth, she’s tough in the face of a terminal diagnosis, and always positive, refusing to give in to what life has dished out for her. Nothing and no one are going to daunt her or stop her doing what she wants, and she encourages Alex to relax, enjoy herself, and be more ‘glass is half full’.

But when mysterious threatening messages are delivered to her, it’s clear there is more to her than meets the eye. Alex’s interference means Carrie is blissfully ignorant of what’s going on. Instead, Carrie continues to concentrate on trying to improve the life of a woman she’s grown so close to she almost thinks of her as family. But will Alex’s good intentions cause more harm than good? Will their friendship end up destroying one another?

Quote from psychological thriller THE PERFECT FRIEND, by Barbara Copperthwaite

Carrie was incredible to write, and in many ways empowering. She’s a survivor, just like Alex – they are two sides of the same coin. I don’t write about helpless women being in jeopardy and needing to be rescued. I create women who deal with jeopardy and save themselves and those they love, whatever it takes. Sometimes that means making morally dubious or down-right dangerous decisions. Inserting suspicion, then paranoia into the relationship between Carrie and Alex, and using them to prise open the cracks in their friendship into chasms was a fascinating experience as I discovered how each woman reacted.

Quote from psychological thriller THE PERFECT FRIEND, by Barbara Copperthwaite

Female friendship is built on commonality and the exchange of secrets, on making ourselves vulnerable in order to let someone in. Exploring how lies can be used to protect ourselves or others, or produce devastating harm, is a theme throughout the book.

Quote from psychological thriller THE PERFECT FRIEND, by Barbara Copperthwaite

Would I get on with either woman in The Perfect Friend if I met them, I found myself wondering. Knowing them as I do, with all their secrets laid bare to me, yes, I think I would. Both are a curious mixture of tough yet vulnerable, and it would be wonderful to sit down with them and chat. Alex would talk gently, always watchful and wary, but once drawn out she’d become more talkative. Carrie would be the entertainer, suggesting we do shots, or go dancing, or do something crazy. She’d make me feel instantly at ease and ask me all about myself. It would be lovely. But could I trust what they tell me? Ah, now that is a different story…

About THE PERFECT FRIEND

TPF-YELLOWHR

My name is Alex, and my world has been shattered.

My husband has left me.

My children won’t speak to me.

My friend Carrie is the only person I have.

She’s the only one I can trust to keep all my secrets.

She’d never do anything to let me down.

Would she?

This dark, gripping psychological thriller will have you holding your breath until the very last page.

THE PERFECT FRIEND is available on: AmazoniBookstore; KoboGoogleplay; Audible

‘This book is darker than a blackhole, & will suck you in just as effectively’ #bookreview CROSS HER HEART, by Sarah Pinborough @SarahPinborough #tbr #psychologicalthriller

THEY SAY

Lisa. Ava. Marilyn.

Three women, three secrets and a hidden past that could destroy them all.

I SAY

Winning the award for possibly the shortest reader description in history, but personally I think it’s an inspired idea as this is a book best gone into cold with no expectations. You don’t know the storyline, you don’t know what is coming, instead you dive in and…boom.

Pinborough’s last book was much talked about because of the controversial turn it took; this is a much more traditional psychological thriller, but even so, don’t think that you know what lies ahead of you. Take nothing for granted. Each new reveal of information is like being slapped in the face by an icy wave that takes your breath away. You’re left feeling… TO READ IN FULL, CLICK HERE

The real life inspirations behind Jo Furniss’s psychological thriller THE TRAILING SPOUSE @Jo_Furniss

Today, I’m handing over to fabulous author Jo Furniss, who’s going to tell you all about her new book, The Trailing Spouse…

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Jo says: Hi everyone! I’m a writer of dark psychological thrillers, and I just released my second novel, THE TRAILING SPOUSE, which is set in Singapore.

I’m originally from England, but I spent the past 15 years living in Africa, Asia and Europe. This year, I relocated ‘home’ to the UK. Forever? Who knows…

After seven years in Singapore, I left a little piece of my heart in the Garden City. Little did I know as I wrote The Trailing Spouse that it would prove to be my swansong to this wonderful country. As you can see from the photos, it’s a place of contrasts: city vs jungle, old vs new, rich vs poor. And all squeezed into a tiny island measuring only 40 miles by 20 miles.

What else can I tell you about Singapore?

It’s hot hot hot. Most days reach 30C/90F degrees with super-high humidity. It plays havoc with your hair!

Singaporeans are CRAZY about food and you can get a Michelin-starred meal at a street stall for £2.

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A view over the Central Business District of downtown Singapore

Have you heard about the new movie, based on the novel Crazy Rich Asians? Well, the title is pretty accurate – Singapore ranks alongside London, New York and Silicon Valley for having the highest rate of millionaires (and billionaires!) per capita.

But there’s another side to life in Singapore. Hence the gilded cage on my book cover…

The term ‘trailing spouse’ causes expat women like me to shudder. It’s a commonly-used phrase, but ‘trailing’ sounds so pathetic, doesn’t it? However, like the main character in The Trailing Spouse, for the seven years I lived in Singapore, I was classed as a ‘dependant’ – permitted to live in the country only because my husband had the all-important Work Permit. (Of course, I could have switched careers and got a corporate job – plenty of expat women do – but I had a writerly dream to pursue!)

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Reflections at Kepple Bay – a crazy-looking building that inspired Amanda Bonham’s apartment, called The Attica

Happily, my ego is strong enough to withstand the indignity of being termed a ‘dependant’! Nevertheless, the status rankled and I became quite fascinated with the idea of power imbalance inside a marriage, and how much paranoia that could raise in a woman’s mind. The story of The Trailing Spouse is born from that insecurity and vulnerability.

There was a second aspect of Singapore life that fascinated me. Everyone in Singapore – or pretty much everyone – has a maid. Someone who lives and works in the home, like a cleaner, nanny and PA rolled into one. Unfortunately, not all of these migrant women are treated well. As soon as I started to write a novel set in Singapore, I knew I had to bring that inequality to the fore.

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A classic ‘Black and White’ colonial house

Finally, the snapshots from my photo album, scattered through this post, are real places that feature in The Trailing Spouse. When I first moved to Singapore, I stayed for a few blissful weeks at a waterfront condo, which inspired my character’s luxurious apartment.

The black and white house – a military officer’s residence from the colonial era – is where she goes for a disastrous book club meeting. My good friend lived here and little did she know that I was writing her home into a book!

I hope you enjoyed this rough literary guide to Singapore. If you’d like to explore further, I popped a link to The Trailing Spouse and my own Facebook page below. I’d love to hear if you’ve visited the country or any other that has inspired you as much as Singapore inspired me!

AMAZON

FACEBOOK

‘What an opening scene!’ #bookreview SNAP, Belinda Bauer

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‘A different slant on a detective novel’

THEY SAY

SNAP DECISIONS CAN BE DANGEROUS . . .

On a stifling summer’s day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack’s in charge, she’d said. I won’t be long.

But she doesn’t come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever.

Three years later, Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother. . .

I SAY

What an opening scene! It has everything: vulnerability, heart, tension, fear…. From then, I HAD to keep reading.

Being somewhere between detective novel and psychological thriller, this book is a different slant on both, and…TO READ IN FULL, CLICK HERE

Letter to myself 5 years ago

Are YOU a winner? Find out now! #booklove #ThePerfectFriend #HerLastSecret #FlowersForTheDead #summerreads

Running my giveaways over all social media has become something of a tradition now, done every time I bring a book out. They’re always such fun, but I think this one has been the best yet – and that’s thanks to all of you who entered. Across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and my blog, you’ve come together and entered in your droves. In fact, this competition has had more entrants than any other competition I’ve run!

It’s been lovely to see new people commenting and joining in – and that’s what this is all about: my way of saying thank you to all my readers for their support, and also a chance for us to get to know each other a little. It was particularly interesting hearing which character from any book you’d be, given a chance, as well as getting into brilliant discussions about middle-aged woman as main characters, or giggling over the silly spot the difference. As for your reaction when asked to describe THER PERFECT FRIEND in three words…well, I was blown away by what you said!

FIVE lucky winners have been chosen at random out of the countless entries. Here’s a quick reminder of what I’m giving away:

ONE lucky winner will receive a SIGNED COPY of The Perfect Friend.

TWO lucky winners will receive a SIGNED COPY of Her Last Secret.

ONE lucky winner will receive a SIGNED COPY of Flowers For The Dead.

ONE very lucky winner will have a CHARACTER NAMED AFTER THEM in my next book. *

Winners should contact me by either private messaging me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or sending an email to InvisibleAuthor@outlook.com Anyone named as a winner who has not contacted me by midnight UK time on Monday 13th will lose their prize, and another winner will be chosen in their stead.

* Please note that the character will have your name but will not be based in any way upon you or any person living or dead. Any similarities are coincidence. They may be a good person or a bad person – they could even be a killer. So be prepared! The part they play may be large or small. Entry into the competition is taken as agreement to these conditions. Thank you.

***AND THE WINNERS ARE***

 

You're all winners!-2

Beth Toale, Jo Robertson, Gillian Lillford, Aisha Ahlaam, and Pia Mortensen CONGRATULATIONS! I can’t wait to hear from you.

Thanks again to everyone who entered. Have a great weekend xx

PhotoFiction: Val Penny shares #writing inspirations @valeriepenny @crookedcatbooks #authorinterview

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Authors reveal the images that inspired 100,000 words

THIS WEEK: Val Penny reveals how Edinburgh provided the perfect setting for her detective series…

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ABOUT VAL

Val Penny is the author of The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. The first In the series, ‘Hunter’s Chase’, was published by Crooked Cat Books on 02.02.2018 while the sequel, ‘Hunter’s Revenge’, will be published on 09.09.2018 and the third in the series, Hunter’s Force follows shortly. All books are available to order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and The Edinburgh Bookshop.

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VAL SAYS: Thank you for inviting me to your blog today, Barbara. I am very excited because my second crime novel, ‘Hunter’s Revenge’ is published by Crooked Cats Books and available to pre-order from Amazon.

The story is set in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. I think setting is very important to a novel and did consider creating an imaginary town for my story. However, I lived in Edinburgh for many years and know the city well. I definitely saw my main protagonist, Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson, as a city policeman. Also, Edinburgh is a beautiful city and it is lovely to ‘research’ by walking around my favourite places! TO READ IN FULL, CLICK HERE

The controversial rise of the middle-aged female protagonist + GIVEAWAY #ThePerfectFriend #amwriting #prime

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When I wrote The Perfect Friend I didn’t think twice about my main character being a woman of 44. She needed to have been through the mill and have life experiences that had left her emotionally scarred. So Alex Appleby came into being, mother of twins, former wife of Owen, who in her struggles to come to terms with the disintegration of her family has developed adult-onset anorexia. Her vulnerability leads to her forming a claustrophobic friendship with Carrie Goodwin, 24, who she quickly thinks of as almost a surrogate daughter. And who she decides she needs to look after and protect no matter what…

I didn’t suspect I was doing anything controversial at the time. Then I read comments from Fay Weldon, respected author and playwright of hits such as The Life and Loves of a She Devil. Recently she wrote a blog post about middle-aged main characters, claiming that publishers tend to turn away novels about middle-aged women because they are ‘depressing’. She adds they ‘are probably wise to do so.’ (To read her post in full, click here).

Photo by Alessio Lin on Unsplash
Women don’t disappear from life at 40. Photo by Alessio Lin on Unsplash

Is she right? She is an author with far more experience, at a far higher level, than me – yet I can’t help disagreeing. It seems ridiculous to discount an entire section of society on the grounds of age and/or gender. Women don’t disappear in real life at the age of 30, so why should they in books? (As an aside, I’ll add that I dislike the term middle-aged, but have used it here for ease of understanding and for want of a better term. In the context of this post, I’m using middle-aged to cover anyone aged 35 to 65.) There wasa time when books with female characters were almost exclusively below the age of 30 or, on occasion, a much older woman such as Miss Marple. But not now. The ‘middle-aged’ female protagonist is becoming more common – isn’t she?

I decided to do some research among my fellow authors. Recently I was talking about it with Jo Furniss, author of best-seller All The Little Children and The Trailing Spouse.

‘I think the popularity of domestic thrillers in particular have made the 40-something woman not just visible, but irresistible. It’s the age when women have it all going on; challenges coming at them from every direction,’ she says.

Photo by Lorna Scubelek on Unsplash
The irresistible lure of the 40-something woman. Photo by Lorna Scubelek on Unsplash

‘It’s a time when life, potentially, swerves to the dark side. By their 40s, many women have committed to their major life choices; a partner, a family, a career. But it’s also the age when you realise that you’ve taken a vast gamble, dumped all your chips on black or red, and with hardly any genuine control over who comes up trumps.

‘That love-of-your-life; is he what he seems? Those kids; you’d give up your life for them. Your hard-won career; a secret from the past could ruin all that. The stakes are high. You have everything to lose. Life begins to get serious at 40, and that’s too much for novelists and readers to resist.’

I can definitely relate to what Furniss is saying. From my own life experience, I can say there’s something about the old trope ‘life begins at 40’, and the urge to take gambles. When I was approaching my 40thbirthday I decided to change direction, turn my back on journalism, and instead become a writer of fiction. There was a drive to achieve it ‘before it was too late’, and as I am a woman in my forties it seemed logical that I write about them, too. This is particularly evident in Her Last Secret, which centres around Dominique as she tries to stop her family from falling apart with explosive consequences, and The Perfect Friend, where Alex struggles against adult-onset anorexia and losing touch with her husband and children.

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So in addition to there being a lot riding on this time of life, as Furniss states, and therefore there being a lot of potential storylines to explore, is there another reason for the increase in middle-aged female characters at the heart of books? Perhaps it’s in part about the rise of female authors coming to writing success in their 40s.

This theory is something Weldon also tackles in her post. ‘We now have a sorry state of affairs in which older women, who tend to be the only ones with the time, energy, experience and patience to write novels at all, have an uphill struggle trying to get them published.’

At no point did my editor or publisher comment that The Perfect Friend might be a hard sell to readers because of my main character’s age. Furniss hasn’t had problems, either. Perhaps we have simply been lucky. Weldon has a further word of caution, though: that readers simply aren’t interested in women of a certain age.

‘Readers come in all sizes, sexes, shapes and ages, but all prefer their novels to feature young women rather than old,’ she writes. ‘This applies particularly, alas, to older women, who are by far the more prolific readers of fiction. (Men tend to prefer non-fiction – histories, biographies, science, car mechanics.)

‘And older women, my theory is, prefer to identify with themselves when young, not as they are now, in the days when they were sexually active, agile of limb, and not afraid of adventure. It makes for livelier reading.’

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Is Weldon correct? Would The Perfect Friend be better if Alex were a decade younger? Is the fact that Carrie is 24 what has saved the book? Do readers simply not want to know about middle-aged women? A quick scan of my reviews shows that not one person has mentioned anything critical about the characters’ ages. It’s hit the Top 50 on Amazon USA, reached Number 21 on Amazon UK, and sat at No 1 on Kobo, so sales have been healthy.

My experience isn’t unique. KL Slater is the bestselling author of psychological crime thrillers, including Safe With Me, Blink, Liar, The Mistake and The Secret – and she’s convinced that age doesn’t put people off.

She says: ‘Judi, in Liar, is in her late fifties and still battling menopause symptoms among other personal problems. I received lots of messages from mature female readers who loved her! I enjoyed exploring stereotypical views of older women through the character of Judi, of what they’re capable of and, in particular, how they are so often side-lined or at worst ignored. Judi managed to set a few people straight.’

Far from being ‘depressing’, this new breed of character is breaking taboos – and being applauded for it.

Photo by Catherine McMahon on Unsplash
Middle-aged women are breaking taboos and celebrating life. Photo by Catherine McMahon on Unsplash

Under A Cornish Sky author Liz Fenwick believes that attitudes have altered among readers.

‘When Under A Cornish Sky came out there was a clear spit in reviews. The younger ones loved Demi, the 26-year-old character, while the older readers adored the 60-year-old protangonist,’ she says.

But she noticed a changed when One Cornish Summer was published. ‘There has been a big shift, with many of the younger readers really rooting for Hebe, the 54-year-old, and the older ones feeling for Lucy, who is 28.’

So the theory that readers aren’t interested in characters of a certain age isn’t holding up. In addition, not all authors creating main characters in their 40s are doing so simply because they are themselves.

‘My protagonist in my psychological thriller, Where The Missing Go, is a woman in her 40s, though I am still in my 30s,’ says Emma Rowley. ‘It worked because I needed her to have accumulated all of the trappings of ‘adulthood’ – husband, house, a teenager – and be struggling with what it meant when they were lost or threatened in some way. I wanted the stakes to be as high as they could for her.’

There it is again, that thought of a character having a lot to lose. A middle-aged woman fits this perfectly.

Rowley agrees with Fenwick that changes in society and perceptions of how we age are adding to this shift in attitude over main characters.

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Could this be the dawn of a new era, where woman of a certain age emerge from the shadows of stories, to take centre-stage? Photo by Shashank Sahay on Unsplash

‘It makes me wonder if we are seeing more older heroines partly as a reflection of the fact it is taking the younger generation longer to achieve the traditional markers of adulthood: perhaps 50 years ago she would have been in her early 30s and be playing the same fictional role?’ she says.

This was the driving force behind Jennifer Joyce’s decision to include an older female character in her latest book. She writes rom coms that usually feature characters in their early 20s and 30s, but knew she wanted to try something different this time.

‘The book centres around three single mums, and this particular character had decided to go it alone using IVF and a donor after the breakdown of her long-term relationship and then have a baby. It made sense that she would be slightly older than my main characters usually are,’ she says.

Susanna Beard, whose latest book, The Truth Waits, is out in November, and features a woman of 45, feels strongly that books should reflect the reality. She says: ‘As the population ages, it’s much more balanced to have stories about middle-aged people and older.’

The rise of the strong middle-aged female man character may be controversial at the moment, but it’s also unstoppable as society and perceptions change. Rather than being ‘depressing’ this age group is a previously ignored resource that can provide drama, emotion, mystery, and insight. Ultimately, as long as the story is good, who cares about the age of the characters?

 

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GIVEAWAY! How to enter

From 28 July until 8 August inclusive, my posts on this blog will be followed by a question about the content. Find the answer, and then either comment on the post or email InvisibleAuthor@outlook.com

Every person who answers correctly will be entered into a prize draw. The competition closes at midnight UK time on Friday 3 August. The winners will be chosen at random and announced on Friday 10 August.

** Today’s question is: How old are Alex and Carrie, the characters in THE PERFECT FRIEND? Let me know! **

What am I giving away?

ONE lucky winner will receive a SIGNED COPY of The Perfect Friend.

TWO lucky winners will receive a SIGNED COPY of Her Last Secret.

ONE lucky winner will receive a SIGNED COPY of Flowers For The Dead.

ONE very lucky winner will have a CHARACTER NAMED AFTER THEM in my next book. *

WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

As well as this competition, check out Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, for more ways to enter over the next seven days. You can enter as many times as you want!

* Please note that the character will have your name but will not be based in any way upon you or any person living or dead. Any similarities are coincidence. They may be a good person or a bad person – they could even be a killer. So be prepared! The part they play may be large or small. Entry into the competition is taken as agreement to these conditions. Thank you.

About THE PERFECT FRIEND

TPF-YELLOWHR

My name is Alex, and my world has been shattered.

My husband has left me.

My children won’t speak to me.

My friend Carrie is the only person I have.

She’s the only one I can trust to keep all my secrets.

She’d never do anything to let me down.

Would she?

This dark, gripping psychological thriller will have you holding your breath until the very last page.

THE PERFECT FRIEND is available on: AmazoniBookstore; KoboGoogleplay

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