Competition published on March 10, 2017.
One day changes Jody’s life forever.
She has shut herself down, haunted by her memories and unable to trust anyone. But then she meets Abe, the perfect stranger next door and suddenly life seems full of possibility and hope.
One day changes Mags’s life forever.
After years of estrangement from her family, Mags receives a shocking phone call. Her brother Abe is in hospital and no-one knows what happened to him. She meets his fiancé Jody, and gradually pieces together the ruins of the life she left behind. But the pieces don’t quite seem to fit…
**We have 5 copies of Tattletale to give away – scroll down for your chance to win!**
nb and nudge reviewer Nicola Smith reviewed Tattletale for her own blog and has kindly allowed us to reproduce here to help spread the word about the psychological thriller you will want to talk about…
No one believes a liar, even when they’re telling the truth. That’s the tagline of Tattletale. Mags is a lawyer in Las Vegas, although originally from Scotland. When her estranged brother, Abe, has an accident she, as his named next of kin, comes home to deal with the aftermath and meets Jody, his fiancée. Jody is a damaged person and as Mags discovers more about her brother’s relationship she starts to think things don’t quite ring true.
This is a fast-paced psychological thriller, told by Jody, Mags and Mira, who is Jody and Abe’s neighbour at St Jerome’s, a block of flats in a former church. The flats themselves form a sinister backdrop to the story and provide an atmospheric setting for the events to play out against. Mags is a strong woman and for the most part I liked her. Jody took quite a bit of warming to for me. I have to say that none of the characters are particularly endearing but I was compelled by their stories.
There are some truly shocking parts to the story and some very graphic scenes. I did find it disturbing and unsettling but they’re integral to the plot and certainly make it a hard-hitting book.
There’s some very clever and tight plotting going on here, and a lot of twists and turns that I didn’t manage to second guess. Tattletale is a superb title as there is lie upon lie being told. Perhaps the really clever part is the element of doubt the author creates in not telling us sometimes who is narrating and leaving it open for the reader to try and come to their own conclusions.
I know that Sarah J Naughton is already an established thriller writer for children and Costa nominated too, but with Tattletale she is setting herself up nicely as an writer for adults too. It sits well amongst others in the genre.
Find this and many other reviews on Nicola’s blog Short Book and Scribes
And here’s an Author meets Reviewer between Sarah and Nicola –
Nicola Smith: You were already an established children’s writer before you wrote Tattletale. What made you make the change and are you planning to write more children’s books?
Sarah J Naughton: It was my agent who suggested I might like to have a go at a psychological thriller after another of her authors, Ruth Ware (In a Dark Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10), made the successful transition from children’s writing. I must admit I do miss it. One particular fantasy novel I’ve been working on for a couple of years now and never seem to get the chance to finish it. That said, I wouldn’t want to give up on thrillers now I’ve started: they’re as much fun to write as they are to read. I think the ideal for all writers would be a Neil Gaiman kind of career, just writing whatever you want and never becoming pigeonholed. You have to earn those stripes though.
NS: Was it hard to change your writing style from a child to adult audience?
SJN: My young adult books are fairly dark thrillers anyway, and I’ve certainly never written down to children. In my experience teenage readers are easily as sophisticated as adult ones, so the only difference from my point of view was the age of the protagonist and the inclusion of sexual content and swearing. I was chatting with one of my son’s friends at the weekend and she complained about writers who use the easy gimmick of a visual cue prompting an important plot revelation – a raven hopped past and suddenly she remembered that day in Ravenscourt Park when… That brought me up rather sharp, I can tell you.
NS: Psychological thrillers are hugely popular at the moment and Tattletale is an excellent addition to the genre (I loved it!). Did you worry at all about slotting into such a popular genre?
SJN: I did worry that the market was rather saturated, especially when so many of the books I read were so excellent – tightly plotted and beautifully written – and yet the authors weren’t particularly famous. But there always seems to be room, and an appetite, for more. Every month it’s thrillers that top the bestseller lists.
NS: Where did your inspiration for Tattletale come from? And are the characters based on anybody you know?
SJN: Jody came first and the idea of a character so damaged she genuinely believes in her own fantasy. She’s based on a childhood friend of mine who was savagely bullied. I got back in touch with her a few years ago and whilst her first marriage was abusive, her second one is very happy and she has three lovely children. Mags is an expression of all the selfish, ambitious and ruthless aspects of my own nature. Most adults, certainly when they have families of their own, suppress these parts of themselves, so it was a great pleasure temporarily to inhabit someone who, because of the baggage she carries, entirely ignores the needs of others and makes her choices entirely for herself. Tabitha is based on one of the mums at my son’s school and I think we’ve all met slightly less odious versions of Rob.
NS: The setting of a block of flats in a former church really helped to create tension and eeriness. How important was that setting and did you consider any alternatives?
SJN: The reaction I’ve had to the church in Tattletale has shown me just how important setting is. I think up until now it’s always been incidental to my plots but with the book I’m currently working on it was the setting that triggered the plot. I have Sam Eades, my editor at Trapeze, to thank for really pushing me to think about a powerful setting: at first Abe and Jody just lived in a bog-standard run-down London high rise. St Mary’s is based on a converted church in Stockwell where one of my son’s friends lives with his family. It’s actually a wonderful, warm and friendly community: St Mary’s is its evil twin.
NS: The tagline is “Nobody believes a liar, even when they’re telling the truth”. What’s the naughtiest lie you have ever told?
SJN: I’m an absolutely dreadful liar. I hate doing it, it makes me tense and anxious and unable to sleep. This has made me a serial over-sharer, so beware if we ever meet. As a child people kept things from me, at first no doubt for my own good, but as I got older, to prevent a teenage meltdown, at which I excelled: consequently I detest being lied to. I once dumped a boyfriend for lying (for reasons I’ve never quite understood) about what he’d had for lunch. My naughtiest lie has probably been of the ‘I love you too,’ variety. Actually that’s a bit beyond naughty.
NS: There are a lot of twists and turns in the book. How hard is it to plot a story like Tattletale where you don’t want to reveal too much to the reader too early on?
SJN: I’m sure I should have plotted it to the nth degree, with mind-maps and rotary filing wheels and post-its, but I didn’t. I just went with the flow and then adjusted any obvious giveaways in the first edit. Once you’re in psychological-thriller mindset every plot point has to flip the reader’s expectation, so you’re really writing to the twist and filling in a backstory to disguise it, if that makes sense.
NS: Do plots come to you fully formed or do you go with the flow and let it lead you as you write?
SJN: They never come fully formed, but I don’t start writing until I know the plot outline, and I show my editor before I begin to make sure she’s happy with the direction too. That’s not to say that things don’t change as I write and the characters emerge. The ending of the one I’m currently working on has changed since I began it, after the characters became more devious than I’d envisaged them.
NS: Tattletale was the first in a two book deal. How is the second book coming along and is it another psychological thriller for all of us fans of the genre to look forward to? Can you give us a taster of the plot?
SJN: It’s another psychological thriller, and I’m very much hoping they make it into a film so that I can visit the set. As I said, with this one Sam and I discussed what would be a really evocative setting and that led directly to the plot. It’s about a woman out of her comfort zone socially but otherwise leading an absolutely idyllic life with her perfect husband (think Tom Hiddleston – I was). Then the flies take over the ointment. I’ve almost finished the first draft, which is the easy bit. Then it has to be offered up for its first structural edit. When the notes come back I usually throw them in the air and huff, ‘Might as well forget the whole thing then.’ But given time and honeyed words I can be persuaded to pick up my pen again.
NS: What kind of books do you like to read? What’s your all time favourite book and which just published or soon to be published book are you most looking forward to?
SJN: As I child my favourite book (‘in the world’ according to my 10 year old inscription) was The Wind Eye by Robert Westall. It’s a time slip supernatural thriller, and I’m not sure my tastes have changed that much over the years. I now read a lot of David Mitchell and Neil Gaiman and await new Margaret Atwoods and Lionel Shrivers with fevered excitement. When it comes to all time favourites, Beloved made a great impression on me when I studied it at university and I thought The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage was a similar work of genius. Though it shaped my adolescence I’m too scared to read Wuthering Heights again in case it’s dreadful. I’m looking forward to The Essex Serpent and one my sister recommended called A Visit From the Goon Squad.
Many thanks to Sarah and Nicola.
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About the author
Sarah J Naughton grew up in Dorset, on a diet of tales of imperiled heroines and wolves in disguise. As an adult her reading matter changed but those dark fairytales had deep roots. Her debut children’s thriller, The Hanged Man Rises, featured a fiend from beyond the grave menacing the streets of Victorian London, and was shortlisted for the 2013 Costa award. Tattletale is her first adult novel, and has a monster of a different kind. Sarah lives in Central London with her husband and two sons.
Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahJNaughton and join in the conversation with #tattletalebook
Tattletale by Sarah J Naughton, published on 23 March, 2017 by Trapeze, in hardback
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