Lorna Dounaeva - People Aren't Always Who They Seem To Be
Lorna Dounaeva is a quirky British crime writer who once challenged a Flamenco troupe to a dance-off. She worked for the Home Office before turning to crime fiction. She loves books and films with strong female characters and her influences include Single White Female and Sleeping with the Enemy. She lives in Surrey with her husband and three children, who keep her busy wiping food off the ceiling and removing mints from USB sockets. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, The Girl in the Woods.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Girl in the Woods is about.
The Girl in the Woods is about a young couple, Suzannah and Noel who adopt a young girl called Orchid. From the beginning, Suzannah struggles to bond with the child, whilst Noel takes to fatherhood naturally, leaving Suzannah feeling isolated in her own home. Then strange things start happening, the bathroom floods and mirrors smash, and Orchid claims to know nothing about any of it. Suzannah is increasingly frightened, and frustrated that Noel does not take her concerns seriously.
What inspired you to write about a couple who adopts a child?
It's a recipe for disaster. Suzannah and Noel are already on rocky ground, so adding a child, adopted or otherwise was always going to put an added strain on their relationship. And they seem ill-prepared for it, despite the attempts of social workers to ease the process. Suzannah has already suffered a lot of heartache, losing both her parents as a young adult, so she finds it particularly difficult to let down her guard, whilst Noel is more open.
Tell us more about Suzannah. What makes her tick?
Suzannah is very hard on herself, and on other people. She is a born pessimist and she struggles to see the bright side of life. She is most at home in nature, watching the birds or taking a walk in the woods. She wants deeper connections with people, but doesn't really know what to do to get them. In many ways, she is a classic introvert.
Why, would you say, are thrillers/mysteries featuring children often extra creepy?
We feel protective of children. They are small and vulnerable, but also highly imaginative and difficult to fathom. They come out with amazing pearls of wisdom. They can also say things that plain freak you out, like my eldest son who used to insist there was a space rocket in the garden, and would point to the same spot, wondering why I couldn't see it.
Did you plan out all the twists and turns in the book before you started writing, or did some of it just "happen" along the way?
No matter how much I plan, my best ideas always come to me while I'm writing. In one of the early chapters, Orchid stumbles upon a grave with Suzannah's name on it and that sent me off in a completely different direction from what I'd originally intended.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I have a degree in politics and a masters in European Studies. I have always been very good at opening jars and I can hang a teaspoon on my nose and swing it back and forth like a pendulum.
The book poses the question of how well we really know the people in our lives. Why did you find this an important theme to explore?
This is a theme that crops up time and again in my books. The nagging fear that people might not be who they seem to be, because we really don't know. Most of the people you meet are genuine, but those bad eggs are out there, and they are invisible to us, blending in with all the good people, pretending to be like us, even as they plot to take us down.
Why did you title this The Girl in the Woods?
Suzannah and Noel live in a cottage in the middle of the woods and the setting plays an important part in the book. The girl, obviously refers to Orchid. Or does it?
When you start on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
I dive right in. I like exploratory writing, so I sit and write for a while, and then read through it and see where I want to go with it. No matter how much I plan, there are always twists and turns that take me completely by surprise. That is part of the joy of writing.
What are you working on right now?
Currently, I'm writing The Girl who Caught Fire. This is the fourth book in my McBride Vendetta series. It comes out in October.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
You can sign up for my Readers' Club at www.lornadounaeva.com.
I am also on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/LornaDounaevaAuthor