About the author
Tell us your story? What made you start writing?
As a kid I loved puppet shows, and plots, and cheesy historical sets. Every story inspires me to write my own. I had very supportive parents, who would no doubt have dialed their support back a little if they had known how close I came to quitting school to try to write full time. Thankfully I dodged that bullet/certain bankruptcy, but I still can’t stop writing. I love cheesy genre fiction, and that’s often what inspires me, even though what I write tends to be more pretentious, I mean literary.
Have you always been into mysteries? Where do you think it started from?
I love genres too much to pick just one. I love whodunits for the way they include the reader in their puzzles. I love fantasy for the escapism. I love science fiction for the thought-provoking what-ifs. At the same time, I wouldn’t be mad to be type-cast as a mystery writer, since the things I can say the things I want to say in any genre. I always start with a character or a feeling and work from there.
What’s your favorite family tradition?
Is it too cheesy to say “reading?” Something that became a tradition was my mother and I jumping into the car for a couple of days without a clear idea of where we were going. Well, she probably knew, but small child that I was it might as well have been a magic carpet ride.
What celebrity would you like to meet at Starbucks for a cup of coffee? Describe the encounter.
I am a horrible person, so all of my celebrity encounter fantasies involve me throwing scalding espresso in the eyes of some loathsome famous person. I know it sounds terrible, but anyone who knows me will confirm that I would never, ever, in a million years waste coffee like that.
If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?
I have an MA in world history, and this is the first question people always ask at parties. I got so sick of it I came up with a stock answer: France. It worked beautifully, as I am no longer invited to parties. My best attempt at a serious answer would be that I am especially interested in the late Joseon Dynasty of Korea and the Japanese occupation.
What is one thing you will never do again?
A big mistake I once made was trying to write to market. It’s frustrating to feel that you’re shouting into the void, and tempting to cobble together a story based on what’s trending at the moment. But I’ve read books like that (I won’t mention any names), and they are always hollow and uninspiring. A good story has to start from a feeling. And if nobody is listening, at least at first, that’s OK.
If you had a warning label, what would yours say?
It would probably be something like:
Warning: may make no sense to anyone but herself, then look at you expectantly as if you’re supposed to know what in the world she’s thinking.
Another possibility is :
Warning: may experience a minor breakdown when she realizes she’s not interesting enough to have a really interesting warning label.
If you were ruler of your own country what would be the first law you would introduce?
I would decree that when you see a coworker in the hallway, do not give them an update on how many days until the weekend. My life is not a countdown to something else. If you can’t think of anything meaningful to say, try shouting “boy she pops.” Or just don’t say anything and let me get on with it.
If you could hire someone to help you, would it be with cleaning, cooking, or yard work? Anything else?
I think I’m too much of a mess for one human to fix, for any amount of money. But I hope that someday I am enough of a big shot to afford someone who can follow me around and smack me over the head with a rolled up newspaper anytime I stop working on my current work in progress because I’ve just been struck by an insane idea that won’t go anywhere or accomplish anything other than wasting the rest of my afternoon.
About No Stone Tells Where I Lie
Blurb from the author:
Misanthropic cop Emma Cambourne has never been more alone than she is on the remote island of South Alderney. So why does she feel that someone is watching her? This island has a secret it’s not telling.
Mysterious forgotten island. People with secrets. An eeriness that pulls you in and confines you until the very last word. That is how I would describe No Stone Tells Where I Lie.
I think the setting of the story is built up incredibly and I had a sense of watching an horror movie unfold on the pages of the book. A feeling that everything can go wrong just about any time. Nobody is ever safe, but nobody knows what lurks in the shadows, or seems to remember. Or even cares!
Tell us a little about the book. How did you come up with the idea for No Stone Tells Where I Lie?
It started when I saw the 1997 Japanese film Cure. The end result is obviously very different, but the initial inspiration is still visible in the psychological breakdown of the main character, the failure of polite society, and the dark commentary on human nature.
What was the hardest part throughout the writing process?
Besides the usual problem of quieting my own internal demons, I struggled to decide how thoroughly I could commit to some of my ideas without pushing audiences away. This isn’t an episode of Scooby Doo, where they unmask the groundskeeper at the end. There are parts that I wanted to be abstract and disturbing. But at the same time, I know a lot of readers come to a mystery story looking for a more traditional narrative.
I loved Emma and David’s relationship. Did you at any point regret how it ended?
It was always going to turn out the way it did. If anyone regrets what happened in the story, then I’ve done my job. When I’m writing I try to create characters that I want to cheer for, and then force myself to watch while I torment them. Sometimes there’s a redemption on the other side, but it has to be a long way to get there.
If, by whatever reason, you’d need to go to South Alderney, how would you prepare for it?
Bring snacks; the food is terrible. Also, leave your demons at home, or the island will be too crowded. In real life South Alderney would just be another island outpost of the British Empire, with a school and a clinic and a few modern conveniences. Nothing like the dismal place in the book. But she’s still a fool who doesn’t check under her bed at night, just in case.
Do you do any research during writing? What is the most interesting thing you’ve learnt?
I am constantly researching when I write. A lot of it goes into world building (South Alderney has a flag. Maybe the world will see it someday), and a lot of it goes into the little details that people will pick apart if I get them wrong. God help you if you put a character in period-inappropriate shoes. South Alderney has an accent that is a mix of Australian, British, and other dialects, and I tried to mix and match language features to act as themes for the different characters. So some of them use a lot of Australian slang, and others not. I had to keep things accurate while also deliberately playing around with a fake dialect for which the reader has no reference.
How did you feel when your first book was released? Is there anything particular about the journey to the publishing you’d like to share
This is my first publication, so it’s been a pretty short journey so far. Marketing is one of my biggest weaknesses, and the whole effort of getting exposure for the novella has taught me just how much a traditional publisher can do for you. But if, fingers crossed, I one day have the choice between self-publishing and trad publishing, I might still opt for the former. I enjoy having total control, and working directly with editors and artists. You can keep more of your royalties as well, although 100% of nothing is still, technically speaking, nothing.
Do you have a writing schedule or is it a spontaneous process?
I’m more of a plotter than a pantser, but I’m also very bad at making myself write when the inspiration hasn’t hit me. I tend to have “on” months and “off” months, sort of an alternating NaNoWriMo throughout the year. This lets me ruminate over ideas without forcing a word count on myself. Instead I just end up with overflowing notebooks and ideas hastily typed into my phone in the middle of the night. I actually try to write as little actual prose as possible during those times so that when it’s time to write I am dying to get started.
Is No Stone Tells Where I Lie going to have a sequel? What are some of the other stories you are working on?
It’s definitely a one-off, but the themes of personal guilt playing out alongside destructive, unknown supernatural forces show up in some of my other WIPs. I have toyed with the idea of connecting them within the same broad story arc, with character backstories tying into one another, but we’ll have to wait and see. In the near future, I’ll be focusing on some projects that take me far away from South Alderney. I have a more horror-focused novel set in late Joseon Korea, and a science fiction story about unexpected visitors on a generation ship, that will hopefully be available in the next year or so.