Friday 10 March 2017

Lie in Wait by G.J. Minett

Published by Zaffre on March 9, 2017

The Inspiration Behind Lie In Wait

I remember doing a similar blog for the release of The Hidden Legacy and finding it really easy to write because the awful story of Mary Bell provided a context to the novel which a whole generation of people could immediately understand. With Lie In Wait the influences on the book are not so immediately apparent but I can think of three reasons why the novel turned out the way it has done.

First and foremost, there’s Owen. The central character is, to everyone else’s way of thinking, different. As a result of a difficult birth which almost cost him his life, his communication and verbal reasoning skills are extremely limited but, by way of compensation, he has a facility with numbers which is almost off the scale. Because this is the one area where he feels most comfortable, he tends to put his trust in the absolute certainties they provide rather than in people who are unfailingly unreliable.

I have taught for more years than I’d like to admit and have seen more than my fair share of youngsters who for one reason or another have genuine difficulties when it comes to socialising with their peers. We seem to forget that everyone is different – it’s just that as a society we decide that some differences are more worthy of ridicule than others. We don’t ostracise people who are outstanding at sport but we are quick to seize on the ways some others stand out and we reinforce our safe position in the herd by pointing the finger at them. And in highlighting this, I’m not in any way seeking the high moral ground because I remember with great embarrassment my own role in the school playground in making life difficult for one lad in particular. If challenged, I’d have been horrified that anyone should think there was anything malicious in it. It was all a bit of fun. The reality is that I knew what we were all doing.

I wanted to create a character who might challenge a few assumptions. There is a tendency in society to adopt a slightly patronising attitude towards people who are different. Owen is more different than he might have been because those differences have been highlighted at every turn throughout his childhood and reinforced by a campaign of sustained bullying. There will be a feeling of immense sympathy for him from most readers or at least I hope there will be but I would urge everyone to watch him carefully throughout the novel and judge him not with a protective arm around his shoulder but a critical eye that sees exactly what he is doing. Owen is not different – he is like the rest of us. We are kind and cruel, instinctive and calculating, loyal and ruthless – it all depends on the situation in which we find ourselves and the extent to which we feel we are in a position of control.

The other two influences were location and challenge. For The Hidden Legacy I set the novel mainly in Cheltenham and the Cotswolds because that was where I was brought up and I know the area well. For Lie In Wait, I wanted to write about the area where I’ve lived for the past 40 years so the action all takes place in the South Coast area between Littlehampton and Bosham. It is a bit of a gamble because too strong a sense location can be distracting for some readers but I’ve been pleased to receive comments from many who found this to be part of the attraction for them.

As for the challenge, I’ll confess I was inspired to some extent by the first series of Broadchurch. I think it was ten episodes in length and I remember being quite taken aback when the identity of the murderer was revealed with a whole episode to go. How were they going to maintain the same levels of suspense and intrigue for a whole hour? (They managed very successfully, by the way!) I wanted to try something similar so one third of the way through the novel the reader knows who has died, at the two-thirds point we all know who was responsible. That leaves over 100 pages devoted to the issue of whether or not the guilty party can be trapped and brought to justice. I had to work so hard on that to make sure the pace and intrigue were maintained and was delighted with the result. More importantly reviews for the eBook version have been very complimentary.

I’m hoping a new wave of paperback devotees will feel the same way about it.

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