Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Have you met THOSE PEOPLE?

--> HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I know you can’t see me (luckily) but I am jumping up and down. One of my very favorite authors is visiting today—the brilliant Louise Candlish, whose amazing blockbuster OUR HOUSE made everyone terrified about what they’d find when they returned home.

 In OUR HOUSE, our heroine comes home to find a new family moving in! She’s told—your house has been sold, didn’t you know that?

When I read that premise I thought: fabulous! Then I thought: no way she can pull that off.

But she did.

Now I am equally enthralled—and completely freaked out—by her newest and equally sinister thriller THOSE PEOPLE. Where –imagine this—the new neighbors seems to be, well, not quite the people you’d welcome to the neighborhood. 

And here's Louise herself to tell us all about it!
HANK: The people who live next-door are always fascinating, but I love how you also reveal we don’t always know what’s going on under our own roof, either. It’s no surprise that shelter is so elemental, but what drew you to—what should we call it—real estate noir?

LOUISE CANDLISH: I love that label - here in the UK, my books have been called property porn lit! Well, we’ve been reading unsettling stories with domestic settings for centuries – as you say, it’s one of those elemental fears, to be under threat in the very place you are entitled to feel safe. What drew me particularly was the 21st-century power of property, especially in affluent cities and suburbs, where values have soared and the home has taken centre stage, earning more that the humans and dictating key life decisions. I also love neighbourhood stories because they’re all about status – all the hierarchies that exist in the working world also exist in our communities, they’re just differently coded.

HANK: Yes, neighborhood codes—driveways, and lawn decorations, and grass mowing and weeds. Lawn signs. Trash. Loud music. Ah. It can be so clear! Now, I know you’ve been asked this a million times, but your plotting is so intricate, and there is a surprise around every corner. Dare I ask whether you outline? Whether you know the ending?

LOUISE: The central idea comes first, then I plot the story, loosely at first, and, yes, always knowing the ending. Then I gradually add layers. I keep timelines and live lists of scenes. I have to say each book is a slightly different process for me because I like to try something new each time and a lot of it is instinct and experimentation. I am lucky to have excellent editors in the US and UK who help tighten the plotting with each draft. Those People got quite bloated and I was advised to lose 15,000 words in the middle, so inevitably that had an impact (I always say, if readers saw our books before editors got involved, it would make their hair curl!)

HANK: Lose 15,000 words in the middle! Ah! You are brave. But wow, whatever you did, all good. We promise we will never reveal any names, but just theoretically, did any of these experiences in THOSE PEOPLE come from real life? We just had a new neighbor move in, then to threaten to cut down much of our beloved 250-year-old sugar maple! It made us feel almost helpless.

LOUISE: That’s awful. I’m afraid cutting down trees without consultation is very common. Just a couple of days ago, someone else told me this happened to them and they were completely bereft. Often, it’s done when the disputing neighbour is away, which is very cowardly.

HANK: Exactly! For days I held my breath every time we turned on to our street, for fear he’d chopped it while we were gone. So far, so good .Anyway. Back to your book.

LOUISE: No single incident in the book is directly lifted from my experience, but I am confident this or something similar will have happened somewhere near all of us, including the deaths. To be honest, my research has shocked me. People will get violent over trivial infractions like parking and fence-building. When I considered ways in which my character might be murdered by a neighbour, I was spoiled for choice. (Here, we don’t have guns, so there’s that, at least!)

HANK: Hear, hear. As you were talking about this book before publication, did you hear other stories of possibly-terrifying neighbors? Because so much of the apprehension is of what someone might do, someone close by so you don’t really know, and whose actions you can only imagine.

LOUISE: Yes, I’ve heard many first-hand accounts of just this, the fear of the unknown, the low-level menace. And, of course, now we know how accessible and affordable spyware is – your neighbour could be watching or listening more closely than you think! To be honest, the party animals and power tool-wielding DIY fanatics are preferable because at least you know what you’re dealing with.

HANK: True! Is the neighborhood where this takes place a real neighborhood? Or based on one?

LOUISE: Lowland Gardens is not a real neighborhood, it’s a composite of several neighborhoods in South London, where I live. It’s not an established ‘posh’ area, but an up-and-coming one, with lots of aspirational families. The residents see themselves as early settlers, setting the tone, laying down the law. But just as they’ve landscaped their paradise and established its social hierarchy, along come intruders with no intention whatsoever of playing ball.

I didn't know the exact ending, as in the final scene, the last line, but I know who is doomed and who might have a chance at resuming normal life!

HANK: And along those same doomed/normal lines—do you ever have bad writing days? (Ha.) What do you say to yourself when that happens?

LOUISE: I think all writers have bad writing days, don’t they? There are more of those than good ones! I have a policy of planning work on a weekly basis, not daily, so if I’m having an off day or simply get distracted by other duties (or pleasures), I can catch up. The key is to never beat yourself up about it. The moment you panic, you risk seizing up.

HANK: Oh, that is such good advice! And it’s certainly working out for you—you and OUR HOUSE just won the British Book Award! (Was it a surprise?) Lee Child won an award as well, and he said: “Half my brain is saying how crazy it is to get a prize for having the best time ever.” Do you feel that way?

And they’re called—Nibbies?

LOUISE: They are – the award is a big golden nib! Though Lee Child and I both won, that’s probably where the parallel ends. He has been living the dream for a long time; he is one of our gods. I think if OUR HOUSE had been my first novel, I’d be thinking ‘Hey, this is pretty easy. Instant recognition.’ But it was my twelfth and so more a case of, ‘Finally!’ I’m a bit of a poster girl for perseverance. I really didn’t expect to win the Nibbie, it was a crazy, wonderful experience.

HANK: THOSE PEOPLE is just out now in the US—hurray! It’s chilling and clever and unsettling and gorgeously structured. What do you want people to know about it?

LOUISE: Thank you so much! I want people to know that when they feel murderous impulses towards a neighbor, they are not alone. These feelings are natural. But please, please don’t act on them.

HANK: More good advice!  Thank you, Louise, and congratulations!

Reds and readers, I know we’ve talked about neighbors before (::cough:: tree man ::cough::). But Louise talked about neighborhood codes—have you ever dealt with those? Had someone tell you to take down your plastic flamingos? (Actually, someone did that around here a few years ago—insisted a neighbor take down the flamingos from her front yard. We are all so appalled we all put them in our yards, too. There were hundreds of them. It was pretty hilarious.)

What are the codes in our neighborhood? Stoop sitting—yes or no? Lawn parties? Fireworks? Laundry on lines? Lawn signs?

And a copy of THOSE PEOPLE to one lucky commenter!

(US Only please! I know, it’s awful, but the international postage is more expensive than the book itself!)

Sunday Times bestselling author ​Louise Candlish was born in Hexham, Northumberland, and grew up in the Midlands town of Northampton. She studied English at University College London and worked as an illustrated books editor and copywriter before writing fiction. She is the author of twelve novels, including the thriller Our House, winner of the British Book Awards 2019 Crime & Thriller Book of the Year and a #1 bestseller in paperback, ebook and audiobook.

Those People will follow in hardback in June 2019.

Louise lives in Herne Hill in South London with her husband and teenage daughter. Besides books, the things she likes best are: coffee; TV; cats and dogs (equally); salted caramel; France (especially the Ile de Re); Italy (especially Sicily); tennis; Vanity Fair magazine; 'Book at Bedtime'; lasagne; heavy metal; 'The Archers'; driving towards the sea (but not into it); anything at the Royal Opera House; white wine; Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (or, failing that, a Starbar); using parentheses, semi-colons, and Oxford commas.

Find out more online at www.louisecandlish.com, and on Facebook at LouiseCandlishAuthor, and on Twitter at @louise_candlish.


Monday, June 24, 2019

Can You Solve this Real Life Mystery?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: What a mystery! Have you all been riveted and horrified by what’s going on in the Dominican Republic? 

I will admit, many many years ago, I did a story pitch for a Charlotte McNally book where the murders were caused by poisoned food from hotel mini bars. It was such a dumb idea, I finally decided, so far-fetched  and outrageous, that I discarded it.

And now they’re wondering if that’s what happened! It's so terrifying, and so incredibly sad.

So what do you think happened? Any ideas? 

(From Wikipedia, I learned: Christopher Columbus landed on the island on December 5, 1492, which the native Taíno people had inhabited since the 7th century. The colony of Santo Domingo became the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas, the oldest continuously inhabited city, and the first seat of the Spanish colonial rule in the New World.) 

And  equally terrifying, who would want to kill Big Papi ?  And now there is a groundswell of disbelief in the reports that it was not David Ortiz that was targeted to be shot in the bar. I mean, first of all, who would want to kill him? He's an internationally beloved hero.  And though the authorities there are  now saying it was a mistaken identity, there’s a lot of cynicism about that here in Boston.

So what are your theories, reds? 

HALLIE EPHRON: All the DR tourist deaths — 11 in the past year — certainly sound suspicious. I wonder what an actuary would say the odds are. Is this a spike, or just something that we usually don’t bother to count?

And the David Ortiz shooting... If I were writing a book about a beloved and super-wealthy baseball icon being targeted in a Caribbean nation, I know I’d give him a secret. Something that he’s covering up. But in the real world that sounds like ‘blame the victim.’ Still, I have trouble imagining that it was a case of mistaken identity.  Everyone knows Big Papi.

RHYS BOWEN: I know one thing; I wouldn’t be planning a trip to the DR right now. Eleven in one year does seem a lot, but without knowing whether they were all the same kind of people I couldn’t come up with a theory. If they were tainted drugs or alcohol then that might be a good explanation. But someone with a grudge against tourists—spiking drinks? Surely pathology would reveal that. And didn’t they say that Big Papi was a case of mistaken identity? I doubt we’ll ever know. The authorities there will keep things hushed up

JENN McKINLAY: Ah, Big Papi! We took that pretty hard in this house. I'm glad he's going to be okay, although his recovery looks to be a long one. Yes, 11 mysterious deaths in an exotic location is definitely a plot in the making. I'll just speculate from my armchair in the desert, thanks.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: David Ortiz - i got nothin'. I can't imagine anyone who would want him dead, although it looks now like it was a (botched) paid hit, so who knows - maybe someone stands to benefit financially if he dies.

As for the tourist deaths, I did a little sleuthing, checking out the ages and pictures of the decedents. The majority of them were in their fifties and sixties, and had the typical American build. (Not shaming - I'm a good thirty pounds over where my doctor wants me to be.) But I can easily imagine a number of tourists, overweight and perhaps usually sedentary, going on vacation where they're eating more than they're used to, drinking more than they're used to, exerting themselves more than they're used to, in an environment where the average June temperature is 87 degrees and it's "oppressively muggy" almost every day, according to Weather Spark.

It's certainly thrilling in that can't look-away-from-an-accident way to speculate there might be infectious diseases or poisoners, but my bet is on a lot of undiagnosed cardiac disease and hypertension.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Maybe because I've been reading a lot about infectious disease lately, I'm wondering if the deaths in the DR could be caused by something viral or bacterial, or maybe something as yet unidentified--remember Legionnaire's Disease? 11 deaths out of the 2.7 million tourists who visit every year is probably not statistically significant, but I would be uneasy just the same.

And David Ortiz--that is certainly a plot for a mystery. I'm just glad he will recover.

HANK: Yeah, I keep wondering if it's statistically significant, but SOMETHING is going on--are there deaths at other resorts that we don't hear about?   But these are people who were seemingly otherwise healthy--and of all ages. 

What are you thinking about this, Reds and readers? (Or is it even in the news where you live?) Have you ever heard of such a thing? What crossed your mind when you heard about it?

Thanks to Toasterb at the English language Wikipedia project, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2264058 . for the David Ortiz photo.