I’m delighted to be welcoming Barbara Copperthwaite to my hot seat today chatting to us about Flowers for the Dead.
The complexity of the humans behind crime, from the perpetrator to the victim and beyond, are what intrigue Barbara Copperthwaite.
She was raised by the sea and in the countryside, where she became a lover of both the written word and the great outdoors. A journalist with twenty years’ experience, who has been editor of a number of national magazines in the UK, her fascination with crime really began during a brief spell working in a men’s prison in her early twenties. When not writing feverishly, she is often found hiding behind a camera, taking wildlife photographs.
To find out more about the novels INVISIBLE and FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD go to www.facebook.com/AuthorBarbaraCopperthwaite or follow @BCopperthwait on Twitter. To find out more about Barbara go to www.barbaracopperthwaite.com
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree!
Please summarise Flowers for the Dead in 20 words or less.
Adam will do anything to make you happy. Even if it kills you.
What was the inspiration for your novel?
I had had the spark of the idea for Flowers For The Dead not long after starting working on my debut novel Invisible. A few weeks before I moved in with my partner, Paul, I thought I needed to buy some milk, but then checked in my fridge and was surprised to find I had a full carton beside the almost empty one. I didn’t remember buying it, but just shrugged to myself: ‘Oh, well, it must have been me because there’s no one else it could be!’ Then I laughed to myself thinking: ‘Unless it’s a crazed stalker breaking in and buying me milk.’
I couldn’t shake the idea of how creepy it would be to have someone breaking into my home doing ‘nice’ things for me. Slowly but surely, Adam was born.
From the start I wanted him to be a complex character, not a straightforward ‘baddie’, so it seemed obvious to tell his back story, his journey from innocent child to serial killer, and weave it in with the terrifying present of him stalking a victim.
Was there anything about your protagonist that surprised you?
I knew I wanted to create a serial killer who had been made bad, rather than born bad. But I was surprised by how much I felt sorry for him in the end. I couldn’t help feeling that if things had gone differently for him, he might actually have been a lovely man.
What scene did you most enjoy writing Barbara? Why?
There is a scene where Adam is dispatching one of his victims on Skegness beach. I grew up in Skegness, and still visit all the time – and always, always go to the beach. I love it there. So writing about it meant a lot to me, and the scene felt very personal.
It was hugely important to me to do the beauty of the place justice, and really bring it to life. Skegness is sometimes the butt of jokes, but anyone who has seen its miles of golden sands, particularly in winter, will know how atmospheric it can be. This is a different side of the town and one I wanted to share with my readers.
Creating the victim was challenging too; I think in some ways, Alex is the one who makes me saddest, because of her back story.
Did you do any research for your novel?
As a journalist, research is second nature to me, and I love learning new things. For Flowers for the Dead, I looked into taxidermy and also the meaning of flowers, which was particularly fascinating. It’s a very genteel language that was great fun to subvert to more sinister use.
What genuinely shocked me during my research, though, was how easy and cheap it is to buy locksmiths equipment and surveillance items. I was also stunned to discover that it is possible to turn a mobile phone or any other device with voice recognition software or a microphone into a ‘bug’. So that includes televisions that you ‘speak’ to, many laptops and tablets, smartphones etc.
Back in 2006 the FBI used a crime family’s devices against them in order to gather evidence, then successfully prosecuted in court. These days anyone can do it by buying the right software on the internet. The programme will allow someone to eavesdrop on phone calls, get details on text messages, remotely control the phone using SMS, track the location of the phone with GPS and log the phone’s activities. It will also allow them to use the phone as a listening device and hear what is happening in the surrounding area. Scary stuff!
How do your characters come into existence? Do they have a bio?
Yes, I wrote bios for all of the characters. Even information that doesn’t necessarily make it into the book helps massively, because it fleshes them out. I also made a list of their key characteristics, summing them up in just a few words. Laura’s key word was ‘stubborn’.
At the time I created the biographies I had already written some sections of the book and was struggling with a couple of plot issues that seemed almost insurmountable. I decided to come at it from a different angle, wrote the background of the characters, and suddenly the problems I had been wrestling with disappeared – because the characters were now rounded and realistic, I knew exactly how they would react in any situation.
If your novel was made into a movie Barbara, who would you cast as your male lead?
That’s such a tough question! The hardest person to cast would be Adam, because he is so incredibly complex. It would have to be someone who has the ability to convey not just a cold-blooded killer but also a certain amount of vulnerability. Benedict Cumberbatch could probably do a great job of it, as he is a fantastic actor, but I’m not sure if he’s right for the role physically. It’s a bit random, but I think my top choice would be Daniel Radcliffe. He has the innocence, we’ve all seen that in his role as Harry Potter, but I’ve watched him in plays and he has the range to have a more evil side. Playing a serial killer would definitely be a different direction for him!
Do you have a theme for your book covers? Who designs them?
My partner is a professional 3D animator and artist who creates my covers for me, so I’m very spoiled as it means I can get exactly what I want. We work really well together; we brainstorm ideas, do little sketches, and talk in-depth about the sort of atmosphere we want the image to create.
My first book, Invisible, was very easy. The idea just came to me: I wanted a mirror with no reflection, because that was the theme for the entire book. The lead character (who is never named) feels she is disappearing in her marriage and friendships, then she becomes the one victim of crime that no one thinks about or cares for. When she looks in the mirror she sees no one, so I wanted that to be portrayed on the cover. I think Paul did an incredible job.
We both found Flowers For The Dead much harder. Anything too flowery and people might think it was a romance novel! I’m very proud of what we came up with. The words look as if they are carved from stone, like weathered tombstones, while the petals blowing across them add a delicate movement. The climbing flowers wrapping around the ‘F’ seem to be clinging and choking it.
Finally Barbara, can you share with us the best part of your writing journey so far?
The fact that other people actually enjoy what I write. I didn’t expect my first novel to become a bestseller, and the first time I saw my book on a bestseller list I honestly thought I was seeing things. Then I started jumping up and down and shouting!
I hoped Flowers For The Dead would match Invisible’s success – but I didn’t expect it to go straight onto three of Amazon’s bestsellers lists on its first day of publication.
Being a bestseller means people have liked what they see enough to actually part with money to read more. That is such a massive compliment, because they are willing to take a gamble on my book being a good read. If they then leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads, etc, it is the biggest compliment in the world as it means they have been moved enough to bother taking the time to write. Connecting with people is definitely the best part of my writing journey.
Thank you for an interesting chat Barbara.
Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
Adam Bourne is a serial killer who thinks he is a saviour. When he murders young women and cuts off their lips, he believes he has done it to make them happy.
How did he become warped from the sensitive four-year-old who adored his gran and the fairy tales she read to him? What turned him into a monster who stalks his victims? And what is he trying to say with the bouquets he sends?
When he meets Laura Weir, Adam weaves a fairy tale romance around them. A tale she has no idea she is part of. As he hatches his twisted plan for their fairy tale ending, can anyone stop him before he creates the ultimate sacrifice to love?
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