The Hidden Girl is a psychological thriller that asks how far you’d go to betray your principles if your only chance of becoming a mother lay in someone else’s hands.
Please tell us about the characters of Hannah and Will.
Hannah, a human rights campaigner, and Will, a studio producer, have been living together happily for eight years, building their careers in London. When they discover they can’t have kids, Hannah starts to change. She becomes so obsessed with improving their chances to become parents, that she forces Will to rip up their lives and move to the countryside. Instead, her actions send their lives spiralling out of control, and thrust her into danger.
What made you set the book in London and Suffolk?
I wanted Will and Hannah to be the type of people who are so passionate about their careers, that they’d already uprooted once from their home-towns, to move to London to pursue them. That way, we understand what they’re both giving up for Hannah’s obsession. For their new rural home, I needed a location that was within commutable distance of London for Will, but was also so remote, it was plausible that a major crime could take place there unnoticed. The story is not a comment on the character of Suffolk. It could equally have been Kent or Oxfordshire.
Why do people often think moving to the country will solve all of their problems?
We often have an idealistic view of the countryside. It seems to offer peace and quiet compared to the city, and therefore also peace of mind. Of course, the two things are different. Within a week of arriving in the countryside, Hannah finds she has a nightmare neighbour and becomes the victim of a crime.
What made you want to explore the theme of infertility?
Hannah is someone who’s had total control over her life, so she is completely thrown when she discovers she can’t get pregnant. I wondered how far her principles would stretch to achieve what she wanted.
Why is there so much pressure to become a parent for many couples now?
Probably because there is so much confusing reporting around the subject. We hear repeatedly that new graduates are faced with the prospect of huge student debt and rocketing house prices, alongside endless panic-inducing statistics about women’s age and fertility. On paper, it must appear as if there’s a very small window to start a career, find a partner, earn enough to set up a home for a child, and then become pregnant. That’s a pressure.
What is next for you?
I’m writing my fourth psychological thriller about a young Scottish photojournalist who tries to track down the identity of a dead body found in her building, only to be thrust into a world that leaves her questioning everything she’s ever known.
The Hidden Girl is out tomorrow.