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Thursday, March 3, 2022

Author interview - Liz Treacher / Book review - The Unravelling

Author interview:

I met Liz many moons ago, when we talked of being writers (one day!) and I’m delighted that Liz achieved her dream in 2017. The author of three books to date, she delights readers in the genres of Speculative, Dystopian and Women’s fiction and Romantic Comedies.

Of herself, she says, ‘I am a writer and an art photographer. I am married with two children and live in the Highlands of Scotland. I came to writing later in life having followed several different paths. I’ve been a researcher, a teacher and even a reflexologist! I believe it’s never too late to start writing and that everyone has a story to tell.’

Luckily for me, Liz agreed to be the guinea pig for my first author interview/ book review, for which I’m extremely grateful and she produced a tweetable quote to introduce herself to new readers: Click here for the tweetable link (if you need guidance on this, please see the Guide tab)

I’m a writer and art photographer, the love of images inspires my writing. I think in pictures! I live in the Scottish Highlands beside heather-covered hills and a sea loch full of seals.

A sea loch, seals, hills… talk about idyllic! Liz kindly sent a photo of the view from her writing window and I suspect I won’t be the only one feeling a little jealous😊 But from this inspirational view, Liz has written three novels. 

She says, The Wrong Envelope and The Wrong Direction are romantic comedies set in 1920. The Unravelling is a contemporary novel and this is the one I would like to focus on today. It straddles different genres. It has a dystopian and speculative feel but crosses over into women’s fiction. The novel would appeal to readers who enjoy dark humour, like to think about things and wonder why life isn’t fun any more. It is also an exploration of family life and how easy it is to live completely alienated from what really matters.’

I found The Unravelling markedly different from her other books, but in a powerful and thought-provoking way. She says, ‘I was inspired by a mixture of things: the joys and frustrations of being a teacher and a mother, a search for my younger self and also the refugee crisis. (You’ll have to read the book to find out how these different threads intertwine!)’ What a tease she is!

I asked Liz what she enjoys the most about writing and she says, ‘I love creating a world that I can escape into. And I love the fact that once the world is created, it quickly becomes independent from me! For example the characters start to tell me what they think about the plot and sometimes it’s difficult to get them to behave in the way I want! So I have to compromise which hopefully makes the story more interesting. Before I started writing I used to hear other writers saying this, but I never believed them! Now I know it’s true!’

So if characters take on their own lives, how does she go about naming them? She says, ‘There are certain names that I hear and that I immediately like. So when I come across them, I jot them down for future use. For example, Bernard, the hero of my first novel, The Wrong Envelope was inspired by a Frenchman that my grandmother had to stay on exchange about eighty years ago! When he was first mentioned in a family anecdote, I thought what a lovely sound the name had. Sometimes I think that a name can evoke a character. I imagined that someone called Bernard might be exuberant and enthusiastic, perhaps over-enthusiastic! And that suited my irrepressible artist to a tee!’

I asked Liz what she finds challenging about writing and she says, ‘I think finding a publisher is the hardest thing. When I wrote my first novel, The Wrong Envelope, I was lucky to find an agent and that was a massive help. They gave me a lot of advice on writing and editing. Eventually, when they couldn’t place the novel with a publisher, we parted company, but I felt as if I had served an apprenticeship which gave me the skills and confidence to plough on and publish independently. Once I had decided to do that, everything was easier than I thought it would be. There is a massive amount of publishing help and advice available and I discovered that I could go at my own pace and take one step at a time.’

So this lends itself to asking, if Liz could go back in time, what would she tell her younger writing self? She responds, ‘I wanted to write when I was four years old, but it took another forty years before I dared to put pen to paper. So I would tell my younger self to be brave, but also not to worry about not feeling brave! I think the writing process is something that can’t be forced. We write when we are ready. I probably needed a lot of different life experiences before I was ready to write.’

It's a good point and I’ve certainly learnt all sorts from novels I’ve read, so I asked Liz which novel she loves and why. She says, ‘I have a few favourites but I think the one I have reread the most is The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. It’s set in New York and I absolutely love the main character who is both a grumpy old man and a wonderful romantic. It’s one of those books that is a story within a story and there are plot intrigues that hook me in every time.’

It's not a book I’ve read, so that’s another joining my ever-growing TBR (to be read) list! I love personal recommendations but reviews are another way of finding great books (please see my featured post about this), but how many of us leave bad reviews? And how does it make the author feel?

I asked Liz whether she reads reviews left on her books, and how she handles both good and bad ones. She says, ‘I always read my book reviews! I can learn a lot about my readers that way, and what they like/don’t like about my work. I think that everyone finds bad reviews difficult at the beginning. It’s a matter of getting used to it. I’m sure most writers would agree that their good reviews outweigh the bad, so one useful approach to a bad review is to consider it as the review that tempers the good reviews and makes them believable. Before I buy a book these days, I always read one good and one bad review about it. If there are no bad reviews, I feel a bit suspicious! So as a writer, I try and remember this.’

So reviews are a great opportunity to feedback to the writer as well as the reader, but I wondered if Liz would like the opportunity to say anything to her readers. She jumped at the chance and says, ‘I’m so delighted when people buy and read my books. A book is only alive when it is being read and so readers have a really important part to play in the creativity of writing – they are the other half of the process, and the most important half. So I would like to thank my readers for bringing the stories to life!’

How lovely! My final question was to ask if there was anything else she’d like to share and she replied, ‘I think that everyone has a story inside them and I would encourage anyone who enjoys writing to keep going no matter what. It’s a matter of getting down a few words every day. It’s like knitting a scarf – a few rows at time and the scarf is suddenly finished!’

Great advice indeed, thank you so much Liz! 

 

Book review

And now onto my book review of The Unravelling. I asked Liz for a tweet-sized quote from the book, tweet here

‘A cappuccino.’ He spoke clearly but slowly, as if he was a stranger here.
‘One shot or two?’ He looked like a two-shot kind of guy.
He gazed at me with thinly veiled contempt. ‘Oh, you only get one shot.’

This is one of the opening lines and, for me, set the scene, as I had no idea what was going on, and I do love that in a book 😍 The questions started buzzing around my head but were forgotten as the next chapter launches us into the everyday existence of our protagonist, Ella.

I had a lot of sympathy for this middle-aged lady, stuck in a failing marriage and a job she hates, with a lot of regrets about the choices she’s made. She accepts her lot though, until a sinister encounter at the railway station on a Monday morning forces her to reassess her life and things become decidedly strange from that moment on πŸ˜–

Liz has a wonderful way of observing the ordinary, things I realised, somewhat guiltily, that I do too, like double-checking she’s locked the car, making sure nothing’s on the backseat to attract thieves, even the delight in finding an unspent parking ticket so she doesn’t have to pay – it was brilliantly observed. These light touches happened throughout the book and I thought her use of descriptive passages, such as the lino at work, or using the photocopier, not only set scenes but added to the dreariness she experienced day-to-day, which really resonated with me! This contrasts beautifully with the nightmare encounters she’s forced to face every day for this pivotal week in her life (and I’m so relieved I was reading them and didn’t have to experience them first-hand😱).

Ella, and all the characters around her, are struggling with their own issues but the way Ella’s life unravels is unnerving. Initially I thought she might be experiencing a nervous breakdown (and me along with her😧) but the book moves through several characters’ points-of-view, so you realise it’s not only Ella experiencing strange things. There are lovely scenes with her granddaughter, juxtaposed with jarring scenes with the weird ‘Life coach’ who knows too much about her, including her own private thoughts. I particularly disliked one of her neighbours – he put my hackles up and it wouldn’t be polite for me to say what I wanted to do to him!

It’s a snapshot of suburban life and whether we’re willing to accept the compromises we make. I loved how the book changed from everyday normality into a dark, almost gothic, atmosphere and I found myself wondering what I would do in similar circumstances.

I liked the short chapters too, so you could stop at any time, but the hook kept me reading well into the night. I was puzzled and spooked, then laughing and empathising, and this continued throughout the story. But I finished the book cheering for the characters’ choices, relieved the story lines tied up nicely, although I do still have questions about the dodgy ticket inspector!

Liz has created a dark, psychological story that makes you think, and the questions raised will stay with me for a long time to come. I highly recommended The Unravelling to anyone who enjoys eerie tales, plotted so well that they unnerve you. But beware, it might be a little uncomfortable if you’re close to your own midlife crisis… don’t tell me I didn’t warn you πŸ˜‚

Website: https://www.liztreacher.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/liztreacher

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LizTreacherAuthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/liztreacher/

I'd love your feedback, so please leave me a comment (some browsers might not work, Google Chrome works best!) Thank you πŸ˜ƒ 

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14 comments:

  1. This sounds interesting, thanks for sharing.

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  2. Congratulations on your first author interview/book review! It was great learning more about Liz and you asked such thoughtful questions. Thank you for sharing, I’ll have to check out the book!

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  3. Love the sound of this book, I will be buying, and that view is beautiful.

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    1. Thanks Penny, I'm delighted to hear that!

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  4. I love πŸ’• this article. Will add to my TBR πŸ˜€

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    1. Thanks so much Helen, I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

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  5. Thanks so much for hosting me Jane and congratulations on your blog! I love the look and the layout.

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    1. Aww, that's so lovely, thanks Liz.
      And a huge thanks to you too, for being such a joy to work with and for writing such an exciting book.

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  6. Just bought the book - thanks :)

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  7. Love this. Thanks for sharing.

    Love: Mariann Yip
    https://www.mariannyc.com/celebrating-the-book-launch-of-un-hinged/

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    1. Thank you so much Mariann, and good luck with your book launch!

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