Please welcome Rebecca James, Author of the stunning new novel, Beautiful Malice!
New Mystery Reader: Tell us a bit about your new novel, Beautiful Malice.
Rebecca James: The back cover blurb really describes it best: Is it possible to love someone too much? Is it possible to love them so much you wish them dead?
Katherine Patterson wishes she could disappear. Instead, she does the next best thing. After the death of her talented younger sister, Katherine leaves her grieving parents to the mediaís merciless scrutiny and moves to a new city and enrolls in a new school. Wary and alone, she seeks nothing more than anonymity. What she finds instead is the last thing she expected: a friend.
Alice Parrie is the most popular and magnetic girl in school. Extroverted, gorgeous, flirtatious, and unpredictable, she is everything that Katherine is not. Her enthusiasm is infectious, her candor sometimes unsettling, and she is impossible to resist. She takes it upon herself to involve Katherine in an entirely different life of parties and trips. She introduces Katherine to Robbie, her soulful on-again, off-again boyfriend. She becomes as close to Katherine as a sister can be, maybe even closer.
But Alice has secrets darker than anyone can imagine, and Katherine will soon discover the darkest of them all.
For Katherine Patterson, there is no escaping her past - only a descent into a trap far more sinister...and infinitely more seductive.
NMR: What many readers will find interesting about your novel is that it not only appeals to the younger adult audience, but to the older one as well. Was this wide appeal your intention from the start?
RB: No, not at all. I wrote the story without thinking about the possible audience all that much. It wasnít until I had finished and was ready to start looking for an agent that I had to start thinking about how/where it might be placed genre and age-wise. My agent originally took it on as a YA book but as we went along in the submission process, and received feedback from different editors, we realised that it also had potential as an adult work.
NMR: Your main character Katherine Patterson seems older than her years at 17, and so one has to wonder, is it her past that has made her mature, or is this the way of the world - are ďkids these daysĒ just growing up faster?
RB: Katherine has endured a lot of tragedy for someone so young and though I wasnít consciously trying to make her seem older than her age I was certainly aware of how such extreme suffering might have altered her. It would be fair to say, I think, that Katherine is traumatised - and Iím quite certain that anyone who has experienced such trauma would be changed significantly. This might make a person seem Ďolderí because it would make them quieter, more serious, more reflective. It would be hard, I imagine, to retain the normal carefree vigour and exuberance of youth once you have seen and experienced the very worst of life.
NMR: You have a background that includes a lot of different experiences. Did any of these help when creating Katherineís background?
RB: I think that everything a writer has done, seen, or experienced informs their work to some extent. I can still remember being a teenager and being so taken up with a moment - a heightened feeling, a giddy rush - that I would happily engage in dangerous or risk-taking behaviour. I used my own experiences as a teen to try and understand why Katherine might make some of the choices she did. Of course, for poor Katherine, her bad choices have some very tragic and long-lasting consequences - fortunately, nothing awful like that ever happened to me.
NMR: How different do you think this story might have been had you written from a point of view where Katherine was much older? Would her years of experience given her a different perspective on how she felt about what eventually happened?
RB: This isnít something Iíve ever thought about but, of course, if the narrator was older she would be wiser - more judgemental of some things, but also maybe more forgiving of others. But then, if the narrator was older it would be an entirely different book...
NMR: Beautiful Malice seems to have created quite the buzz in the publishing world - bidding wars and amazing international sales- did you foresee this happening, or did it come as a complete surprise to you?
RB: It came as a complete surprise! After years of rejections I was absolutely amazed to even get a publishing deal. To have my book (my book?!) involved in bidding wars, and to discover that it was book of the fair at Frankfurt was quite unbelievable. For weeks and weeks last year, while all this publisher buzz was going on, I barely slept a wink. It was an amazing, unbelievable and wonderful time.
NMR: Have you always wanted to be a writer, or did you have a different idea of what you would become while growing up?
RB: No. Iíve wanted to be lots of different things. I studied nursing when I first left school because I thought I wanted to be a nurse. I worked as a waitress for many years and loved it and considered a career in hospitality for a while. I taught English in Asia and thought I might be a teacher...I started studying Law at university and planned to be a lawyer. Whatever I was doing at the time I thought it was the thing I would do forever...
It wasnít until I had four small children that I began to write. I needed the creative outlet, I think, something entirely selfish that I could have all for myself. I enjoyed it, I kept doing it, I got better. Eventually I started submitting stuff. I got rejected. I kept submitting. I kept writing. I got better. I kept submitting. And so it went until I got an agent to represent Beautiful Malice.
Writing has become a compulsion now and I think (and hope) that it will be what I do for the rest of my life.
NMR: Now that you are a writer, and a successfully published one at that, do you find yourself looking at life differently?
RB: No, I canít say I do. In a practical sense my life has changed, in that Iím now paid to write, which is fantastic - an absolute dream come true! But in a larger sense that doesnít mean I have a new perspective on what is important or what I care about or what I want from life. It doesnít mean I donít worry about my kids or the future or my unruly hair or whether I said something stupid and mortally offended the woman at the corner shop...
NMR: Thinking ahead here and going forward, are you going to continue with your successful and unique approach of combining the YA market with the adult?
RB: Ideally, yes, thatís what my publishers are after for book two and Iím going to give it my best.
NMR: What, if anything, would you like to say to struggling authors?
RB: Keep on writing, keep on reading, keep on submitting. Donít despair (too much) when you get rejected.
NMR: And finally, what is your next book about?
RB: My next book is called Cooper Bartholomew Is Dead (for now, anyway) and is another psychological thriller. Itís about lots of things - love, betrayal, secrets, lies, friendship, murder, suicide, love, love and more love ... all the juicy good stuff. :)
Thank you Rebecca, and we wish for you the best on your next novel!
Rebecca James was born in Sydney and spent her twenties teaching English in Indonesia and Japan. She lives in Armidale, Australia, with her partner and their four sons. She is currently at work on her next novel.
Feel free to visit Rebecca's website at www.rebeccajamesbooks.com