Thursday, September 9, 2021

Lexie Elliott Interview - How to Kill Your Best Friend


Photo Credit: Nick James Photography

Lexie Elliott grew up in Scotland, at the foot of the Highlands. She graduated from Oxford University, where she obtained a doctorate in theoretical physics. A keen sportswoman, she works in fund management in London, where she lives with her husband and two sons. The rest of her time is spent writing, or thinking about writing, and juggling family life and sport.
        
  


When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
As soon as I was old enough to understand that books were written by authors, and that writing could actually be your profession, that was what I wanted to do. Even at the age of seven or so, I would take the stories I had written into school to show my teacher; I’m sure they were incredibly awful, but she was wonderfully encouraging. We’re still in touch, so she knows that I’ve achieved my dream of being a published author.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
I have the same answer to both questions: Sheri S. Tepper’s Grass (which falls into the science fiction genre). I return to it every few years. The world-building is spectacular, but it’s the characterisation that draws me back. Good sci-fi only becomes great if the characters are strong enough to take you along for the ride.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Before being publishing, I had thought that the most rewarding experience would have been walking into a bookshop and seeing my book on sale for the first time, but no. Don’t get me wrong, the bookshop thing was cool—very cool, actually!—but in truth the most rewarding thing is receiving emails from readers. It’s always an honor and a privilege that any reader would choose to spend their time on my books, but the emails I’ve received during the pandemic have been particularly poignant: a wonderful point of connection in these difficult times, and a reminder of the power and reach of the written word.

If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?
From an economic standpoint, the answer probably ought to be the first Harry Potter or the first Game of Thrones! But somehow I can’t quite imagine myself having written either—I suppose because they don’t fit with my writing style— and so I have to answer from the heart and choose the beautiful, lyrical masterpiece that is Uprooted, by Naomi Novik. I adore that novel, and I can absolutely imagine it coming from me, which might surprise many readers given that it’s a book that falls into the category of fantasy rather than psychological thriller!

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing your latest book?
My children—no question! I love them dearly, but my goodness, they’re alarmingly effective at derailing productivity… As with many families across the world, they’ve been home rather more in the last year or so due to covid lockdowns and home schooling and so on, which has been absolutely lovely and absolutely impossible in roughly equal measures. I am looking forward to the time when I can once again escape the house and become an anonymous soul tapping away in a cafĂ©, without anybody interrupting to ask me to sort out the printer, find their headphones or conjugate a French verb.

Tell us about HOW TO KILL YOUR BEST FRIEND, and why you wrote it!
HOW TO KILL YOUR BEST FRIEND is a psychological thriller, told through the eyes of Georgie and Bronwyn, who, together with Lissa, have been inseparable since dominating their college swim team. But Lissa, the strongest swimmer they know, has somehow drowned off the coast of the fabulous island resort she owned with her husband. Gathering together with Lissa’s closest friends on the island for her funeral, the two women find more questions than answers, and as the weather turns ominous, trapping them on the island, nobody knows who they can trust…

The idea came to me whilst on holiday; we were fortunate enough to be staying in a beautiful eco-resort, which was just heavenly, but it occurred to me that, despite the sunshine and the luxury, it could actually be quite terrifying if you were somehow stuck there, with the staff gradually melting away… I also really liked the juxtaposition of the beautiful, sun-drenched setting with the inner darkness within the friendship group.

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from HOW TO KILL YOUR BEST FRIEND
One of my favorite scenes occurs very early in the book. The gang of friends go for a night swim in memory of Lissa, who recently drowned. I’m really happy with it as it was an important scene to get right; it needed to bring the reader on board with what swimming signifies to this circle of friends and to Georgie (who is narrating in this chapter) in particular, and to show the impact Lissa’s absence is having on this activity that glues them all together:
My eyes are adjusting to the dim light: I watch the trail of silvery bubbles from Duncan’s feet; I watch my arms cut rhythmically through the darkness beneath me. I feel the cool water slipping past my limbs, the swell of it beneath me when a bigger set rolls in. Three strokes and look for Bron. Three more strokes, don’t look for Lissa. Bron, no Lissa. Bron, no Lissa. Slowly I am being cracked open. You can’t hide from yourself in the water; it doesn’t allow it. It seeps into even the finest of hairline fissures and soaks off the shell.
Another favorite is literally the first page of the book—these “Method” sections were so much fun to write!
How to kill your best friend

Method 1: Accident

Yes, but what kind of accident? It’s so easy in the movies: a pleasant walk along a cliff top, then—bam!—a sudden shove . . . In real life, there’s no handily accessible cliff, and if there was, nobody in their right mind would walk so close to the edge of it. And supposing, just supposing, those two obstacles were somehow resolved, there’s always the chance that somebody would see you. A dog walker, probably. There’s always a bloody dog walker around.
It’s just like they say: it’s not the murder that’s the problem; it’s getting away with it.
No, wait. The murder is a problem too.
TEN RANDOM FACTS ABOUT HOW TO KILL YOUR BEST FRIEND
  • 1. I had the title in mind before I knew what the story was. It was such an intriguing thread to pull on: why on earth would anyone want to kill their best friend? What can have happened to cause such a drastic reaction? And if you did want to do that, how would you go about it? I’m actually rather worried that I may never come up with a title as good as this one again.
  • 2. The main characters all like to go on swimming holidays together. This is a real thing; check out www.swimtrek.co.uk if it appeals to you.
  • 3. The resort in the book is (loosely) based on a real resort. I’m not telling which one or even roughly where it’s located, but nobody died when I was there. At least, not that I’m aware of…
  • 4. How To Kill Your Best Friend is my third novel, and probably the one I’ve most enjoyed writing. I think I had a bit more confidence in myself than with the previous two books, and I’d also put myself in a better position by creating a really detailed outline before I got stuck in.
  • 5. It’s not a covid-19 novel—most of it was written before the pandemic struck—but the majority of the editing and the publishing work took place under the cloud of the pandemic. I’ve been so impressed by how the Berkley and Penguin Random House team, in the face of a seemingly endless stream of obstacles, continued to work tirelessly with the same commitment, dedication and professionalism as ever, and (even more impressively) with no loss of enthusiasm.
  • 6. Look out for the “method” sections: my children had a whale of a time dreaming up creative murder methods for those, one or two of which made it into the book. Not your average after-school conversation topic, but so far they don’t seem in need of therapy!
  • 7. In case you’re wondering how I did my research on the swimming aspects, I was a competitive swimmer from the age of ten until my mid-twenties, and in 2007 I swam solo across the English Channel. It’s a topic I feel pretty qualified to write on!
  • 8. I really regret not filming my best friend’s reaction when I answered her question as to the title of the new novel I was working on. It was utterly priceless.
  • 9. I struggled initially with how to structure the novel: how to incorporate information from the past, and which character was the most natural narrator, amongst other issues. When I figured out that the story needed a dual narrative, everything else seemed to fall into place. And then I found that I really enjoyed switching narratives; it made it a more stimulating writing experience for me.
  • 10. My swimming friends will all assume I’ve based certain characters on real people from our little swimming gang. That’s wrong—my characters are always truly fictional—but it’s going to be fun seeing to whom they allocate each character!
Meet the Characters
Georgie and Bronwyn share the narration. Together with Lissa, they were the heart of their swim team at a UK university but their paths have since scattered. Now Georgie lives in New York; Bronwyn imagines her donning designer clothes for work, drinking cocktails in Manhattan bars and going home with whoever she feels like, but perhaps the truth doesn’t quite match Bronwyn’s assumptions… Bronwyn lives in the suburbs of London and is married with two children; she has recently given up her high profile career and is trying to convince herself that she doesn’t regret it. And Lissa? Well, before she drowned she was running a high-end eco resort on a secluded paradise island with her second husband, but you’ll have to read the book to find out more about Lissa!

Writing Behind the Scenes
I tend to research as I write – if I find something I need to know more about, then I look it up right there and then. The internet is such an amazing resource for a writer; I can’t imagine how anyone wrote anything at all before it was invented.

I listen to movie soundtracks as I write – though I shy away from those with words. My favorites are the soundtracks for The Last of the Mohicans and The Piano. I think movie soundtracks work so well because they’re designed to allow you to experience another medium at the same time; they give you space to work in.

Inspiration is not a problem for me. I have dozens and dozens of book ideas rattling around in my brain. The trick is to pick the one that truly has enough legs to carry a 300-page book, and that also excites the publishing team; it can take time to hone in on the right concept.

I pore over the entry lists for my sons’ sporting events. Each one is a treasure trove of potential character names, just waiting to be stolen. I would never take a full name, but I’m very happy to pilfer a first name or a surname. There’s a feeling you get when you finally land on the right name for a character; it feels like the tumbler in a lock clicking into place.

At around the 20,000 word point, I become incredibly neurotic about each manuscript and suffer a huge crisis of confidence. It’s happened with every single book so I can only assume that, unfortunately, it’s always going to be part of my process. My wonderful agent Marcy drags me out of it and keeps me going.


If you suspected your best friend, the person you were closest to in the whole world, was a murderer, what would you do? Would you confront her? Would you help keep her secret? Or would you begin to feel afraid? Most importantly, why don't you feel safe now that she's dead? From the author of The French Girl comes a novel full of secrets, suspense, and deadly twists.

Georgie, Lissa, and Bronwyn have been inseparable since dominating their college swim team; swimming has always been an escape from their own problems, but now their shared passion has turned deadly. How can it be true that Lissa, the strongest swimmer they know, drowned? Granted, there is something strange about Kanu Cove, where Lissa was last seen, swimming off the coast of the fabulous island resort she owned with her husband.

Lissa's closest friends gather at the resort to honor her life, but Georgie and Bron can't seem to stop looking over their shoulders. Danger lurks beneath the surface of the crystal-clear water, and even their luxurious private villas can't help them feel safe. As the weather turns ominous, trapping the funeral guests together on the island, nobody knows who they can trust. Lissa's death was only the beginning....

You can purchase How to Kill Your Best Friend at the following Retailers:
        

1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.
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18 comments:

  1. I would love to live in Scotland.

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  2. I would love to live in New York City for a year.

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  3. Lots of places. Thailand would be great!

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  4. I would love to live in London for a year.

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  5. I would love to spend a year in Germany near the small town where my ancestors lived before they immigrated.

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  6. "If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, where would it be?" Paris! The museums! The foods! Etc!

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  7. I would like to spend a year in Italy.

    abfantom at yahoo dot com

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  8. I would live in Germany for a year.

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  9. I would love to live in Kauai for a year.

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