I am delighted to welcome Rachel Sargeant to Chat About Books today! 🙂
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
Thank you, Kerry, for hosting me at your blog and for asking me these fun questions. (My pleasure!)
I was born in Lincolnshire and studied German and Librarianship at Aberystwyth University. I worked in libraries management in the south east and later as an English teacher at a university in Germany. I now live in Gloucestershire and work as a school librarian, promoting books and reading to young children. I’ve had two previous novels published (a police procedural and a world war one novel) and I’m thrilled to be joining the HarperCollins Killer Reads list with my new psychological thriller, The Perfect Neighbours.
Main character Helen has left her life in England to join her husband Gary who teaches at an international school in Germany. At first everyone seems friendly but she senses something menacing beneath their polite veneer. Is she paranoid or are the neighbours as dangerous as she fears?
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
This novel came from two different ideas. I used to live in a small expat community in Germany and always intended to feature this type of setting in one of my books. When I read about a major crime committed in plain sight in a British city, I wondered if a similar crime could happen in a much smaller place where everyone knows each other’s business. The new novel places a similar crime in an expat setting.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
I don’t think real people could be moulded into book characters. The only way I’m inspired by real people is if I overhear someone talking in a shop or on the bus. Just one line of their conversation can set me off creating a story or a character. The end result will be nothing like the real person, and their words will have been used in a different context.
How do you pick your characters’ names?
Their names usually occur to me as I’m writing. Sometimes I look on the internet at lists of popular baby names for particular years to ensure names are appropriate to the age of the character and the era of the story. I change names if I notice I’ve chosen some that look too similar on the page and might confuse readers.
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
Because I work in a school, I am able to write my first drafts in the long holidays. If the weather’s nice, I’ll write longhand in the garden even though it takes longer to type everything up afterwards. The rest of the year I edit the draft and share it with my trusted writing buddies. We give feedback on each other’s work.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
Whenever I look at what I’ve written here, I know I’m going to regret leaving someone out. So these are the favourite five just for today: Agatha Christie – I haven’t liked all her books but there are plenty I do like, and I’ve got several still to read. I admire her output and how she pioneered the genre. Kate Atkinson – for her superb Jackson Brodie detective novels, not so keen on her literary titles. Friedrich Dürrenmatt – Post-war Swiss playwright. I like his plays and his unusual crime stories. Maeve Binchy – I love her charming, gently humorous Irish settings. Mark Haysom – I’m eagerly awaiting the third part of his nostalgic, heart-warming trilogy.
Were you a big reader as a child?
No, I hated reading. I wasn’t able to read until I was eight because my infants school taught us something called I.T.A. which was based on a phonics alphabet instead of normal English letters and words. Apart from the reading scheme books, there was nothing else available for me to read. I still blame I.T.A. for my poor spelling today. It wasn’t until I was eleven that I really enjoyed a book. My parents bought me a Jackie pony story by Judith M. Beresford. I was horse mad and read several in the series.
When did you start to write?
In the year 2001, eighteen months after a palm reader at a party told me I should. I’m sure it was only said as a bit of fun, but it’s led to a great hobby.
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I would like to meet crime writer Priscilla Masters again. Before I’d started writing but after meeting the palm reader, I went to a talk by her in Shrewsbury. She gave the audience one piece of advice: “If you want to write a book, write a book.” And that’s it really. Just do it. I’d like to thank her.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
I wouldn’t change the ending of anyone else’s book. Advice on technique can be welcome, but plot is personal.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
There are lots of writers I admire for their use of language and ingenuity of plot, but I’ve just got to be me when I write and hope for the best.
If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?
Thankfully I’m too ordinary to warrant an autobiography.
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
Probably Captain Hastings (Poirot’s famous chum). We’d go to a cosy coffee shop. He’d make charming company, and as he’s a gentleman, I’m sure he’d insist on paying.
What are you working on right now?
Another psychological thriller, this time set in a university during Freshers’ Week.
Do you have a new release due?
The Perfect Neighbours is out this week. My police procedural Long Time Waiting has been updated and will be released as an eBook in March.
What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?
I’m too nervous to celebrate.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
The Perfect Neighbours is out now in eBook, and the paperback follows in January. Available from Amazon:
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Rachel 🙂
Thank you, Kerry.
About the book
Published: 15th December 2017 (HarperCollins Killer Reads)
‘Builds from a creeping sense of unease to a jaw-dropping climax and a denouement I defy anyone to see coming.’ Chris Curran, author of Her Deadly Secret
The perfect neighbours tell the perfect lies… When Helen moves to Germany with her loving husband Gary, she can’t wait to join the ex-pat community of teachers from the local International School. But her new start is about to become her worst nightmare. Behind the shutters lies a devastating secret… As soon as the charming family across the way welcome Helen into their home, she begins to suspect that all is not as it seems. Then Gary starts to behave strangely and a child goes missing, vanished without a trace. When violence and tragedy strike, cracks appear in the neighbourhood, and Helen realises her perfect neighbours are capable of almost anything.
About the author
Rachel Sargeant grew up in Lincolnshire. The Perfect Neighbours is her third novel. She is a previous winner of Writing Magazine’s Crime Short Story competition and has been placed or shortlisted in various competitions, including the Bristol Short Story Prize. Her stories have appeared in My Weekly and the Accent Press Saucy Shorts series. Rachel has a degree in German and Librarianship from Aberystwyth University and a Masters in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. She spent several years living in Germany where she taught English and she now lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and children.
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