The Girl Before You

The Girl Before You

  • The question I get asked the most by readers is: do you have a sister? I think it’s because the relationship between the two sisters in my novel, The Girl Before You, is such an important one. The answer is yes. I actually have two sisters and a brother. I didn’t know how much they would affect my writing until I started – my second novel is also about siblings. It’s such a rich relationship: they’re your first and dearest friends in the world, but, of course, they’re your first rivals too.


  • I’m one of those writers, who’s always, always wanted to write. The sort of child who had to have her books confiscated to stop her reading long after bedtime. Just before The Girl Before You came out, my mother unearthed a self-portrait from my childhood of me working hard at the kitchen table. It’s captioned, “Me doing my book,” and I must have drawn it when I was about four or five. Telling stories and writing books always struck me – and continues to do so – as just about the most exciting thing you could do with your time.


  • The only other thing I ever wanted to be was a vet because I was “animal mad” as a child – I still am, really – but the choice between science A levels and English literature wasn’t a hard one.


  • That said, it’s been a long old process to publication. As my day job, I’m a dance journalist. I remember watching the ballerina Daria Klimentová receive a National Dance Award in 2012. Jumping for joy, she said: “It’s only taken me 30 years of doing ballet every day to get here.” It reminded me that writing shares a lot in common with dance: it’s about practice and incremental progress.


  • I love a mystery. All my favourite books have a puzzle at their heart – something to be solved or unpicked. Kate Atkinson, Maggie O’Farrell, Alice Munro, Julie Myerson, Donna Tartt and Sarah Waters are among my favourite contemporary writers and, while most of these authors write suspense novels of one sort or another, they’re also writers who have a wonderful way with language too. Those were the sorts of books I always aspired to writing.


  • My best friend is a small Jack Russell. They say pets choose you and that’s very much the case with my dog, Chota, who turned up on the log pile at my mum’s house in south Wales one cold November night in 2005. I was living at home at the time, recovering from a harrowing brush with my own mortality, and Chota was lucky, too, to have survived that frosty night. That shared scrappiness has bound us closely through the years. She is a wonderful writer’s companion and very prompt at reminding me when it’s time to take a break for a walk.


  • I’m a huge fan of Strictly Come Dancing. For many years I edited Dance Today, a ballroom, Latin and social dancing magazine. It might seem strange for a thriller writer to enjoy all things sequinned and glittery but I adore Strictly and have interviewed most of the professional dancers at one time or another.


  • Pembrokeshire, in west Wales, is a very important place to me. We used to holiday there as a family and once a whole gang of us, as children, got up before the adults were awake and ran down to the beach for an early-morning swim. The tide was going out and, rather frighteningly, we were pulled out with it – some walkers on the beach had to rescue us. It was an experience that left me with a very healthy respect for the sea, which comes through in The Girl Before You, though I still love west Wales.


  • I’m half-English, half-Welsh, but, as I was born in Abergavenny and grew up in south Wales, I’d always support Wales in the rugby!


  • The creation of a novel is not something you do on your own. I’m so grateful to the team of hugely talented people who support me – from my fantastic agent and editor to Avon’s brilliant publicist and marketing team, as well as cover designers, copy editors and proof readers, not to mention my incredible husband, family and friends, who have been there for me throughout the process. It might be one person’s name on the cover, but it’s very much a team effort.