What can you tell us about your new book The Loving Husband?
My new book is about a woman who - thinking she is loved, wanting a family, leaves work and everything familiar to be at home with her children, but finds herself out of her depth and in danger, when the man she has married turns out to be something very different from the loving husband she believed him to be
Where did your inspiration come from for the novel?
Principally from the Fenland landscape very near where I live, its bleak otherworldiness and strange beauty, which struck me as a deeply atmospheric - and a place where bad things might happen. Combined with my own experience of the unsettling nature of those first new years confined with small children, when all the old certainties - professional and personal - find themselves challenged. It is a lonely, intense time in any woman's life, although also fantastically interesting.
What appeals to you most when writing psychological thrillers?
I love to create the kind of tension that will drag the reader through the narrative: the cliffhanger ending, the urgency to find out what is going to happen next. It is hugely exhilarating.
Who do you most like to read in the genre?
I love Patricia Highsmith, perhaps because her books are so very weird and unsettling I could certainly never find myself imitating her style. Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell's alter ego) is a total heroine, for breaking out of the strict whodunnit model to write something broader but still deeply suspenseful and thrilling, and that often dealt with the darker side of female consciousness.
You have been compared to Gillian Flynn and SJ Watson, so how does this make you feel?
Very honoured, they're terrific writers. I thought Gone Girl was completely brilliant, and Before I Go To Sleep is so cleverly constructed.
Do you think you can ever truly know and trust your spouse in a marriage?
Some people are absolutely trustworthy in and out of marriage: my husband, for one. Plenty of course are not, and no real relationship can work long-term in the absence of trust, along with kindness - although the way we define this will vary from individual to individual . I don't believe we can ever know each other inside out, nor should we expect to: I believe every individual needs quiet private spaces, emotionally and imaginatively.
Why is a characterful house a great device for story-telling?
A house always feels to me like a marvellous mirror to a narrator's subconscious, dark corners, cluttered attics, labyrinthine corridors all echo the dark places and fears in the mind of reader and author alike. We're all scared of going down into the cellar. In The Loving Husband, though, they key to the tension is that we don't know if the danger lies outside, in the wide bleak landscape, or inside the house and stalking our heroine from room to room.
Please tell us about your writing process- is it different every time or have you developed certain habits now?
Largely my methods are as they were when I began to write thirteen years ago. That is, I write in the mornings, as early as I can, usually once the last child has left the house. I write for about three hours then I do home and family stuff: this way it takes me around six months to write a novel. I wake very early though - 5.30 or so - and that's when I lie there tussling with plot. For my Italian novels I never wrote any kind of plan beforehand - for these English thrillers I have done in each case. It is laborious but I think does pay off in terms of economy of plot and structure.
What are your surroundings like when you write?
I sit at my desk in my bedroom facing the wall. I couldn't be anywhere near a window or I might get distracted. There is a row of postcards and photos above my desk - they vary but at the moment there is John Updike, Anna Akhmatova, Lee Miller, my husband, my second son Hamish when he was two and the most beautiful child you ever saw.
What is next for you?
I've just finished the working plan for a new novel, provisionally entitled Party Girl, about a young woman searching for her friend who has disappeared abruptly under unsettling circumstances.