Monday 14 September 2015

Q&A with Anouska Knight, author of Letting You Go

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest novel, Letting You Go?

Letting You Go is about the less straightforward side of unconditional love. The story centres on family bonds, the need some people feel to protect those bonds and the ways in which the same people unintentionally do damage to them. Main character Alex’s journey through the novel also looks at the weighty emotional baggage created by one terrible mistake and how that kind of guilt can become almost as destructive as the mistake itself.

I loved the different family relationships explored in Letting You Go - did you have a personal favourite to write?

Ah, thank you! And that’s a really good question. I thought I did! I have two younger sisters, so I really felt a connection to the sisterhood between Alex and Jem, the way they balance the sisterly acts of challenging and protecting each other. But as the novel progressed, in many ways Ted became the character I most felt for. His love for ailing wife Blythe is a critical part of who he is, but it’s his relationship with daughter Alex that is most at risk. He comes across as bullish, rash and inflexible, and extremely judgemental of Alex’s childhood sweetheart, Finn, not only on account of Finn’s own background but the fact that Finn was the distraction that had stolen Alex’s attention away at the time her little brother needed her. But Ted is also misjudged by Alex. The father and daughter are poles apart but so similar at the same time. They both have their family at heart, are uncertain of each other, both awkward and regretful. Their need to navigate a path back to one another was interesting, I found.

Did you have any particular inspiration for your latest novel?

I think Letting You Go is probably the book most influenced by the relationships I have around me. Naturally, my sons are very precious to me (along with Jaffa cakes and peanut butter) and the thought of somebody taking their eye off the ball one day and there being an irrevocable consequence to that is a terrifying thought for any parent. So Dill was sort of borne from a what-would-be-the-worst-thing line of thinking. From both a parent and a sibling perspective.

But largely, the book is inspired by way our perceptions change as we get older. Nobody is as perfect as you wish them to be and very few situations are clean cut. We all build ideas of people, particularly in childhood, and learning that we don’t know it all can be hard.

On a brighter note though, I’m inspired by good old fashioned love and the idea that it can conquer all. I believe wholeheartedly in Finn and Alex, because I think there are pairs of people out there who just click in such a way that no matter what comes between them, they can never really ever be… un-clicked.

Was there a message you were trying to convey in Letting You Go?

I don’t think I set out to, but there probably is one in there. We’re only human, we all come undone. Maybe we shouldn’t do so much of the legwork ourselves though! Relationships are funny things, families too. Maybe we over-complicate them for ourselves.

I found Letting You Go to be very emotional and moving. Did you feel emotional whilst you were writing it?

Oh my gosh, I was a complete wreck throughout! I’d love to attribute that to the standard of my storytelling but I’m afraid it was most likely hormonal. I was about five months pregnant when I started writing it. I had a two month break when Jesse was born, then somehow cracked on around a manic cycle of nappy changes, breast feeds and besotted gooey-eyed baby gazing! I’m sure you can imagine, tears all over the place. There is a scene with Alex and her dad though that makes my throat tighten a bit.

I’ve heard a little bit about how you achieved your first ever publishing deal and think it’s such a brilliant story. Can you tell us about how it all happened?

In a nutshell, I had a go and was extremely lucky. I happened to see ITV’s Lorraine Kelly outlining a writing competition on her show one morning, so I thought I’d have a bash! I scrambled my 1k word entry together that day and emailed it off. This was no ordinary competition though, Jackie Collins and Victoria Fox were judging, the prize up for grabs was a first class trip to LA for two, lunch in Beverly Hills with Ms Collins herself and, get this, only a book deal. An actual book deal! With publishing giants Harlequin Mills & Boon. Lucky is putting it mildly, I could so easily have missed that opportunity, makes me a bit panicky when I think about it. Three books later, two more on the horizon, I’m a fully-fledged believer in ‘having a go’.

How much attention do you pay to reviews of your books?

Ah. The reviews.

Loads of attention to the great ones, zero attention to the dodgy ones? Yeah right.

I am getting better at being objective about my reviews, these days it really depends on the flavour of the reviewer and you can get an idea of that pretty quickly. I did struggle at first with getting my head around the fact that after all the effort, the sleepless nights and neglecting the children to hit deadlines, some person I don’t know could come along and rip all that to bits… that they would even want to. They don’t like the book, okay! Thank you… sorry! But those individuals are par for the course. If they couldn’t have a face-to-face chat with me and use the same tone without sounding like an unpleasant plank, I don’t give it any time.

The constructive critiques though are something else. Good or bad, these can really help a writer hone their skills. I’ve read a few reviews which have said Letting You Go can be a little slow to start. So I’m going to take it on board. I’m an idiot if I don’t!

And then the nice reviews, ah the nice ones. The folks who remind you what all the hard slog was about. Well they’re pretty darned wonderful. They’re the reward.

Not that I’m impatient but can you tell us anything about what you’re working on at the moment?

Oh, yay! I’m really excited about a new plotline I’ve been playing with. I haven’t even pitched it to my agent yet, so I can’t say too much. If the publishers go for it (I’ve just accepted a two book deal with Harlequin/Harper Collins! *softly hyperventilates*) the book’s going to deal with a few fairly heavy themes such as spite, bullying, the uglier side of social media. But it’s the characters that I’m most excited about. There are one or two unpleasant elements in there, so the three women the plot revolves around have their work cut out. I like them immensely already.

What books have you read recently that you’d recommend?

Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies was bloody marvellous. That and The Husband’s Secret, actually. Read them if you haven’t already. You’ll be glad you did.

I have a stack of books though that I’m desperate to get through - Nathan Filer’s The Shock Of The Fall, Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee, all of Robert Galbraith’s. Argh… the list is a bigg’n. But reading’s on the back-burner at the moment unfortunately. Since finishing LYG, aside from having a new baby and the school holidays to survive, my younger sister’s cancer has made a return, so evenings indulging in a great book are on hold for a while.

If you could swap places with any book character for the day, who would you pick and what would you get up to?

Ooh, I’d pick someone like Katniss Everdeen, or Anita Blake. I really dig strong, resilient ass-kicking women. I’d like to be one, but I’m a total wuss I’m afraid. I’d be a lean, mean, wrong-righting machine for the day, work out my frustrations with a bit of light weaponry. Maybe go see those few meanies about unnecessarily waspish reviews, offer them a thumb-wrestle.

If you woke up one day, Freaky Friday style, and found yourself living the life of one other author – who would you want that author to be and why?

JK Rowling. Working mother. Multi-faceted writer. Humanitarian. Inspiration to children (and adults) the world over. I’d very much like to see what her life looks like from the inside these days.


Anouska's latest novel, Letting You Go, was published on September 10, 2015. Find a copy on Amazon here.

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