Today I’m welcoming debut author June Taylor who is talking about writing her psychological page turner Losing Juliet.
Tell us about the book in one sentence.
It’s a twisty psychological page-turner about a friendship gone bad.
What inspired you to write it?
A road trip to France in the late eighties. It was full of ‘What if?’ moments, the significance of which I only realised as I got older. I was carrying ideas around in my head for a lot of years until eventually I felt I had a story and was able to write it.
The “mother/daughter/best friend” relationship forms an interesting triangle. Was this always your angle?
Well I like strong female characters. And if I can just veer off into scriptwriting for a moment, my favourite film is Thelma and Louise. I also love Sally Wainwright’s Happy Valley; her lead protagonist is such a force of nature with a personal score to settle. So anyway, I had the basic story for Losing Juliet, and my two female characters were always at its core. Then gradually, over time, the other elements came together. The daughter arrived much later actually, but she became the one driving the narrative and then it really started to get interesting as the characters found themselves locked into this triangle. It’s pretty unyielding and there’s always a sense that something’s got to give.
You come from a scriptwriting background, so was it difficult to make the transition from script to novel?
The first book I ever wrote was in effect a script laid out as a novel. Lots of dialogue and very little description. It was very short! But it’s a good discipline to transfer across, I think, once you work out what the differences are. With a script, you hand it over to a director and your work is pretty much done. With a novel you have to do everything yourself, from directing right through to hair and make-up. I still work in scenes, though, and think in terms of camera angles, lighting, sound F/X. I find dialogue and plotting easier than scene-setting. I usually go back to that.
The best thing about writing a novel is that you have an unlimited budget, so you can do anything, send your characters anywhere. It’s really quite liberating because you don’t have to pretend or compromise. And you can have as many characters and extras as you like because you don’t have to pay them!
Who are your literary influences?
I like a slow-burn, ‘gets-under-your-skin’ type suspense novel. To me, Rebecca is the perfect psychological thriller because it’s so well written and so awfully creepy.
When I was in my early teens I discovered Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. I loved that cat-and-mouse relationship, fascinated by the criminal mind. It’s probably no surprise that I’m a fan of Patricia Highsmith too.
What makes you want to write?
I suppose, like with any serious writer it’s just in me, I have to do it.
Plot or character?
Both. You definitely have to have a good story, but in a psychological thriller it’s all about the mental torture you put your characters through in the run-up to, or in the aftermath of, something terrible. Human beings are at their most interesting when they’re on the edge of themselves, backed into corners. Perhaps there’s a criminal in all of us when pushed far enough.
I love this quote from Paul Beatty, Man Booker winner: “When nothing is going on, something is always going on. I like awkward silence.”
The structure is quite complex in Losing Juliet, the past and the present interweaving, and all the characters have an agenda, so was it hard to write?
There were times when I thought I’d given myself too great a task, this being my first Adult novel. The biggest challenge was getting specific moments in the past to coincide with ones in the present. I had to do a lot of drafts to get it right. Inevitably, that meant I had to keep unravelling it, again and again. But I had two great editors along the way who gave me sound feedback and encouraged me to keep going until, eventually, it fell into place. I have a lot to thank Shelley Instone for in particular. She was my agent for a while and my “you can do this” voice. A really brilliant editor. Also Lucy Dauman, whilst she was still at HarperCollins, helped me tremendously. Having a good editor behind you is so important. Ultimately, though, no one can write it for you … so that means mental torture for the writer too!
How important are the locations in your writing?
I love to travel so I suppose I like to reflect that in my writing and use different locations. A sense of place is very important I think.
Is there a follow-up to Losing Juliet?
Yes, that difficult second album! Well I’m on with the next book. It’s another psychological thriller/suspense but I’d better not say much more than that as I’m sworn to secrecy.
Tips for any writers out there?
Keep going, be patient. Make the most of your apprenticeship, however long it is. No experience is ever wasted. And just get out there, meet other writers, connect face-to-face as well as online. Join a local writing group. Share your work with those you trust, get feedback but filter it.
About this book…
You can’t escape the past…
Juliet and Chrissy were best friends until one fateful summer forced them apart. Now, nearly twenty years later, Juliet wants to be back in Chrissy’s life.
But Chrissy doesn’t want Juliet anywhere near her, or her teenage daughter Eloise. After all, Juliet is the only person who knows what happened that night – and her return threatens to destroy the life that Chrissy has so carefully built.
Because when the past is reawakened, it can prove difficult to bury. And soon all three of them will realize how dangerous it can get once the truth is out there…
As soon as I saw this book description up on Amazon, I knew I HAD to read it. As a fan of psychological thrillers featuring strong women characters and the relationships they have formed, I thought that Losing Juliet sounded just my cup of tea so settled down to lose myself in its twisty tale of lost friendships and divided loyalties.
I have to start by saying I loved the format of how the story passed from present to past. Chrissy is forced to reminisce about her friendship with Juliet, an old friend from university who has made contact with her daughter, Eloise. Eloise doesn’t understand why her mother seems so shell shocked by the communication and the offer of a renewed friendship. What happened to those two young women to ruin such a close relationship between them?
Losing Juliet is a slow burner which means it takes its time to build up the suspense and tension to whatever it was that destroyed the trust between Chrissy and Juliet. Chrissy is obviously hiding secrets in her past from Eloise but why doesn’t she want Juliet back in her life? Eloise, with the optimism and tunnel vision of her youth is seduced by Juliet’s glamour and status, ultimately forcing a reunion that Chrissy doesn’t want.
The first part of the book was probably my favourite as we are introduced to the characters and are drip fed the background information of how the girls meet at university. The atmosphere was full of tension between everyone and I found myself not sure who I liked or believed as Chrissy seemed to be that old favourite-the unreliable narrator. She was nervous and guarded, living a quiet and unassuming life as opposed to the openness and vitality of Juliet. But by the time we reach part two and the action moves to Italy the pace started to quicken as it built up to a shocking denouement.
June Taylor has a wonderfully self assured style of writing that spins a twisty tale into a page turning living nightmare. She stirs the pot of shadows from the past and then sits back to watch how the fallout affects both the characters and us, as the reader. And the ending was as unexpected as it was shocking. Losing Juliet is well worth a look if you’re after a slowly developed, creepy psychological suspense to give you goosebumps and I’m certainly going to keep an eye out for any future books by June Taylor.
Losing Juliet: A gripping psychological drama with twists you won’t see coming is published by HarperCollins in e-book on 25th November and in paperback on 12th January.
Meet the author…
June Taylor is from Leeds and very proud of her Yorkshire heritage. For many years she was a TV promotions writer/producer before turning to writing plays and fiction. She was runner-up in the 2011 Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction competition with her YA novel Lovely me, Lovely You. Losing Juliet is her debut novel for Adults. June is active in the Yorkshire writing scene, including serving on the board of Script Yorkshire and taking part in Leeds Big bookend.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
Via Twitter @joonLT or my website: http://www.junetaylor.co.uk