Oh it’s been a while since we did one of these, hasn’t it? A good old fashioned book post. I love a book post, it’s back to my first cosy days in the world of blogging.
So, this week’s reading material of choice was “Under Your Skin” by Belfast based Rose McClelland. You may recognise Rose’s name from her three previous novels which were all witty romances (“The Break Up Test” is one I remember hearing about LOADS when it first came out). “Under Your Skin” is a complete departure from type for Rose, and gives her a chance to explore a new genre of writing whilst also keeping her signature character focused prose at the centre of her work.
When Kyle’s wife Hannah disappears, the whole town is out in force to try to find her. One person knows where she is. One person is keeping a secret. Detective Inspector Simon Peters and Detective Kerry Lawlor have been brought in to investigate the case, but Hannah has left no traces and Kyle has no clues.
Local Belfast resident Julia Matthews joins the #FindHannah campaign and becomes friendly with Kyle, sympathising with his tragedy. As Julia becomes more involved in the case than she bargained for, she begins to uncover more secrets than the Police ever could. Julia was only trying to help, but has she become drawn into a web of mystery that she cannot escape?
“999, what’s your emergency?”
“It’s my wife…she’s gone missing.”
These are the first lines of the novel, and set you up for the ride you are about to take as we follow Kyle, his missing wife Hannah and the detectives attempting to solve a missing person case that takes turn after turn as we delve into the hidden world of the people we so often just pass by on the street.
By passing the narrative back and forth between characters, McClelland ensures the reader is never left feeling too comfortable and is constantly second guessing each character and their motives. Her descriptive style gives us detailed context of the varying situations throughout the novel, and her dialogue is snappy and realistic. The remarkable thing about “Under Your Skin” to me was how pacey and intense the novel felt, particularly for someone better known for their romance writing. Don’t get me wrong, I am possibly the world’s biggest fan of romantic fiction, but I love a good thriller as a chaser and wow, did “Under Your Skin” deliver!
If you’ve found yourself hooked by the likes of “The Girl on the Train” and “Gone Girl” (extra points to “Under Your Skin” for not falling into the trap of also having ‘girl’ in the tile – Hannah is a woman after all!) then you’ll be absolutely enthralled by the world McClelland creates. Set in Belfast, McClelland’s home, she is able to pepper the book liberally with details adding to the authenticity of every scene. Her experience writing passionate characters in romantic novels means she adds depth and emotion to everyone in Under Your Skin, particularly Kyle and Hannah. We might not all be jetting off to sit by a pool for a week this summer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in a good book to get lost in and I wholly recommend Under Your Skin.
I was lucky enough to be able to speak briefly with Rose McClelland about her writing process, and what life has been like as an author during lockdown!
Under Your Skin is your first foray into the genre of psychological thriller, what inspired you to make this transition?
I found that my tastes in fiction were changing as I was getting older. The books that I was reading and the TV programmes that I was watching were leaning towards psychological thrillers. A friend commented that my third book (“The Year of No Rules” – a romance) could easily have been written as a psychological thriller. He said that if I made several tweaks the main male character could have been really dangerous. The thought intrigued me and I decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did – I must have a dark side!
Do you like to start out with planning the plot, or building the characters when writing a novel?
I start out with the theme first and then work the characters around that. If I wanted to write about the theme of jealousy, then I would choose characters who displayed those character traits from one extreme to the other. Perhaps a character who wasn’t jealous at all and then a character who was so jealous, he/she was unstable.
Once I have the characters in my mind, I’ll work out a general overall plot. I’ll have the beginning, middle and end in place. I’ll look at the middle section and work out what twists and turns I can create along the way.
I then sit down to write chapter one and as I write each chapter, I allow the plot to waiver slightly depending on what feels right.
Do you think your experience writing romantic fiction gives your characters in “Under Your Skin” a different dimension?
I think that my experience of writing romantic fiction means that I definitely have an interest in romantic relationships. These are a great template for writing novels because intense romantic feelings can create deep emotions such as love, jealousy, fear, insecurity and exhilaration. If you write about a romantic relationship but you write from a psychological thriller genre, you can use all those emotions to stir up a dramatic, tense, scary read! You can write about someone who is desperate for a relationship and will go to any length to get what he/ she wants. Or you could write about someone who is obsessed/ addicted to their partner and is full of fear about their future. That obsession could drive someone to do insane acts.
Have you found lockdown a good opportunity to write more?
Absolutely! My publishing contract for my fourth book was signed on the same day that lockdown was announced. I have used the quiet time to edit, market and promote my book. I have also started writing book 5 and I’m about 20,000 words in. It’s a follow on to “Under your Skin” and is also a psychological thriller. It sees the return of Detective Simon Peters and Detective Kerry Lawlor. They are back to solve another mystery!
What are three things you always like to have on your desk when writing?
Looking at my desk at the moment, I have a glass of sparkling water, lip balm and a small bowl of mint aero bubbles – yum!