Tuesday, May 14, 2019

#40 Inside the Emotion of Fiction's SHE LIES IN WAIT by Gytha Lodge

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****Gytha Lodge’s She Lies In Wait is the fortieth in a never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific excerpt from a fiction genre and how that fiction writer wrote that specific excerpt.  All INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION links are at the end of this piece. 

Name of fiction work? And were there other names you considered that you would like to share with us? My debut crime novel is called She Lies in Wait. I wrote it under the working title 1983, but that was clearly confusing. It sounds like the year before George Orwell's sci-fi classic, so it was never going to end up being called that in the end. I had a great brainstorm with my agent, and She Lies in Wait was the result!

Fiction genre?  Ex science fiction, short story, fantasy novella, romance, drama, crime, plays, flash fiction, historical, comedy, movie script, screenplay, etc.  And how many pages long? The book is crime, and specifically it's a police procedural with a literary element to it. It's 391 pages long in the fully printed edition I have

Has this been published? And it is totally fine if the answer is no.   If yes, what publisher and what publication date? This is published on 8th January in the US by Random House, and on March 21st in the UK by Penguin's Michael Joseph imprint. It's also coming out in 10 other languages and countries across 2019.



What is the date you began writing this piece of fiction and the date when you completely finished the piece of fiction? I began writing in March of 2015, had a bit of a gap when I took on a more-than-full-time job, and finished it in May of 2018 (the final draft!)

Where did you do most of your writing for this fiction work?  And please describe in detail.  And can you please include a photo? I write a lot in cafes, and I have a few particular favourites around Cambridge. The first is the very cool and hipster Stir coffee shop, which I've attached a photo of. The second is the cafe in the city's Waterstones. The third, where I go when I want to spend a long time and only drink one cup of tea (ha!) is Starbucks. They never mind if I occupy a chair all afternoon. I have a favourite one down a passage near to Christ's Pieces in Cambridge.

What were your writing habits while writing this work- did you drink something as you wrote, listen to music, write in pen and paper, directly on laptop; specific time of day? For a long time, writing has been a job that I love, so I approached writing this book the way you'd approach any great job. I'd start early in the morning at a coffee shop (usually after the school run) and have a good long stint, though unlike with an office job, I was free to move around, so I did. I'd switch venues, and sometimes write a little at home. It got a lot harder once the crazy over-full-time-job started. Fitting writing in around that and single parenting was tough, and my lovely agent ended up having to say "Right, I need this book NOW." That forced me to take holiday and finished it, most of which I did in the Brecon Beacons in Wales. (Above Right) I'd cycle from my parents' isolated house to the tiny and lovely town of Brecon and work in the Coffee Number One that had newly opened there, then cycle home. Fresh air, exercise and great coffee are a winning combo.

What is the summary of this specific fiction work? She Lies in Wait is the story of a girl who went missing 30 years ago. Back in 1983, a group of teenagers went camping in the beautiful New Forest on a hot summer's night. They drank, they danced, some of them took drugs and coupled off. In the morning, Aurora, the younger sister of popular Topaz who had tagged along, was gone. Thirty years later, her body is found in a place only those teenagers knew about, and DCI Jonah Sheens has to unpick all the lies they told to find out what really happened. Along the way, he has to navigate a lot of his own memories of that group, who were a few years below him at school, and some uncomfortable events that he doesn't want his team to know about.

Can you give the reader just enough information for them to understand what is going on in the excerpt? This excerpt comes from early in the book, when Jonah, who is now a DCI, is first told that a body has been found. He knows, from its location, that it is Aurora Jackson, found at long last. The girl he never really stopped looking for is dead, as he had long suspected, and it is an intensely emotional moment for him.

Please include the excerpt and include page numbers as reference.  The excerpt can be as short or as long as you prefer. Friday, July 22, 1983, 11:30 P.M. Aurora It was somehow the loneliest she had ever felt, despite the music and the laughter and the occasional cajoling. They wanted her to dance, to drink, to enjoy herself. She knew why. She was a constant irritation. A nagging sense of non-fun. But the more they pressed, the more she could feel herself retreating inward. The more she became rigid and isolated. She'd rarely had anyone to talk to at school parties, either. Her closest friend, Becky, was never allowed to go to any of them. Her mother, who looked after her alone and generally seemed to confuse love with feeding up, wanted her home safely as soon as school was done, in spite of Becky's desperation to join in. Earlier in the year, it had seemed like her loneliness had been solved. Kind, lovable Zofia had arrived like a ray of sunshine into Aurora's life. She'd come with Aurora whenever she was going to be dumped somewhere with Topaz, and she'd chattered away to her in her strange English and made her feel like she was liked. And then Zofia had been snatched away again. All because of one stupid night. The thought of all that was still too fresh and too painful. She closed her eyes against it briefly, and against finding herself alone again, and feeling like she was separated from these friends of Topaz's by hundreds of miles. When she opened them again, it was all still the same. She was still here. She found herself watching Jojo after that, reassured by the difference between her and the other girls. Jojo chose to dance on her own, and to lose herself in the rhythm without ever worrying how she looked. Once or twice, Aurora found herself envying her. She wondered if she could be like her if she tried: capable, and wild. Aurora thought Jojo was quite beautiful in her wildness. Perhaps that was the only way to be, when she could never be like her sister and her hip-grinding sexuality. Even Benners was dancing: head back, bouncing on his heels, one hand tucked into his chest so that he could hold his hip flask. He'd stopped looking like the Benners she knew. But it was Benners who eventually tired of the movement and came to sit with her. He dropped down next to her heavily and then had to use a hand to steady himself. He laughed, and swigged from the hip flask. Aurora could smell the alcohol on him. She wondered if she smelled of the lemonade she was making her way through. "I've felt like that before," he said with a grin. "Like what?" "Like I wasn't part of anything. Like I was totally alone and unnoticed, and the more I thought about it, the more alone I became. Actually, it happens to me quite often." He nodded at her obvious surprise. "Too much thinking. If you think and think and think, then it becomes like a barrier between you and everything else. You can't enjoy anything, and all you're focused on is how wrong it all feels. How much you wish you were somewhere else." "I suppose so." Aurora nodded. "But I'll tell you something," Benners went on, leaning toward her to speak earnestly. Puffing fumes into her face. "And it's important, Aurora. Because you're this smart person and you've got a lot to give. A lot more than most of these." He paused, waiting, and Aurora dutifully asked, "What?" "You should never wish you were somewhere else," he said, picking up her hand and squeezing it for emphasis. "Never. No matter what you're doing, embrace it. Being away in your world and your head is important sometimes, but so is living. You need to let real life into your experiences. You need to feel all this and let yourself get caught up in it. And that's about making a decision. A decision to enjoy it." Aurora shook her head slightly. "It's just not really my thing." "That's not what you should be saying," he said, for a moment almost aggressive. "You should never say that. You haven't tried it. How the fuck do you know if it's your thing? You need to tell yourself that everything is your thing. And if you want to get joy out of your life, you should launch yourself into everything that happens. Because once you've done that, and . . . committed to it, and embraced it, it will be your thing. There's nothing out there that isn't for you. You just need to give the world a chance." She studied his fierce expression. She had a strange sensation of being poised on the edge of something. She wondered whether he was right, and she had a choice. Whether she could be more things than she believed. Whether she was losing out on some part of herself. Benners swigged again from his polished silver hip flask, and then paused. He looked at it, and then held it out toward her. "It's your choice," he said with a level gaze. And then Aurora took a breath in and held out her disposable plastic cup. She let him fill up her cup with whatever it was he was drinking. It went into the lemonade like oil into water. Benners smiled at her. A real, warm smile. He held up the hip flask. "To giving everything a chance," he said, and she drank as he did, almost appreciating the burning tang in her drink after so much sickly sweetness.

Why is this excerpt so emotional for you?  And can you describe your own emotional experience of writing this specific excerpt? Like every writer, I live a lot in my characters' minds whilst I'm writing, so I felt this along with Jonah. But there's more to it, too. As a parent, it's impossible not to feel a sense of horror and heartache over a kid's death, whether they're a teenager or a toddler. Aurora represents a lot of things to me, too. She is quite like me in some ways, the younger sister of a much cooler older sibling. She's also a little like the younger sister I then had nine years later, who I helped to bring up. It's hard to untangle all the threads in this, but it was unquestionably an emotional work throughout.
Were there any deletions from this excerpt that you can share with us? And can you please include a photo of your marked up rough drafts of this excerpt. I think this section remained much as it first was! Which is unusual. Perhaps these brief, key moments tend to be easier to write.  

Other works you have published? She Lies in Wait is my debut novel, but I have long been a committed Wattpad writer. I have the first book of two different series on there, one a 9-12 fantasy title, and the other a YA fantasy romance. I read kids' and YA titles a lot, too, so it feels extremely natural to write in both. I would strongly recommend Wattpad as a platform, not only for exposure (it's HUGE) but also because it was key to keeping my writing confidence while I was going through the lengthy process of finding a publisher. At a point when my very first submitted book didn't sell, Wattpad really saved me. I've now had over 6 million reads on the site in total, and have loved the feedback and support.

Anything you would like to add? I know a lot of writers out there who have struggled or are struggling to get to the next stage. Publication itself can be super tough and is only the beginning. I think it's worth knowing that overnight success stories are rare, and mine certainly isn't one. I've been working towards this for 20 years, and my first book that my agents put out to publishers didn't sell to any of them. I thought my career was over, but it turns out that this is a common occurrence amongst writers. I wish I'd known that back then. So whatever you do, don't stop. Don't lose heart. Keep writing, and keep taking every opportunity you can until it pays off.

     I was born in Aldershot, but grew up in and around Cambridge and Ely (all in the UK). Having written a first, truly terrible novel at fourteen (Left at age 15 in 1999), I became fixed on the idea of being an author. 
     Whilst at Cambridge University, I started writing for the stage, and I learned a huge amount from the feedback at every stage. Some four years later, I became a full time writer, writing and touring plays (Right in 2008) and adding extra funds by writing content for businesses. During this time, I became a much more established playwright, winning several national awards, including a Fringe award for Best New Play. 
     In 2013 (Left With Son Rufus), with a young child, I went to UEA to take the renowned Creative Writing Course, and midway through I signed with Curtis Brown for my very first novel, which was shortlisted for the Yeovil Literary Prize. (Gytha below in 2014)

     In the interval between then and achieving a contract for She Lies in Wait and the next two books in the series, I joined a large international translation firm to write their content, and ended up setting up a whole copywriting department within it. I still work 10 hours each week there, and love the human interaction and getting to write video games. (Above Right Gytha in May of 2019 at a book reading for She Lies In Wait


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