After writing the Cat Connolly police procedural trilogy Keep Your Eyes on Me is a total change – it’s a standalone psychological thriller that TM Logan, bestselling author of the Richard and Judy Book Club choice, The Holiday describes as: ‘Revenge is sweet in this deliciously entertaining thriller, as two women scorned aim to settle a few scores – with an ingenious plan that will have you cheering them every step of the way.’
I hope so! Published originally in trade paperback on 2nd January 2020 in print and digital in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand with Corvus Books, the paperback is out on 5th November 2020. I’m still pinching myself, but the audio book is read by Harry Potter star Evanna Lynch (she is really lovely!) and is available on all audio platforms.
To avoid spoilers for anyone who hasn’t yet read No Turning Back, let’s just say that Cat is busy getting super fit and learning a range of new skills for her role in a very exciting Garda unit, one that is suiting her down to the ground (well more up in the air, but there’s lots on the ground too), so, with her occupied, my agent Simon Trewin suggested that I wrote a standalone…
There was only one hitch: when you’re writing a serial character, each new story is a bit like walking into the pub, saying hello to everyone, and finding out what’s going on. Your characters are developed and you know them so well that you can hear them chatting to each other. Each character has their own story arc, as well as contributing to the story arc of each book, and the overall arc of the series. A standalone is a completely different prospect, it’s a whole new cast, a whole new concept and this time, writing a psychological thriller, took a whole different approach.
The biggest questions were: what was the story and whose story was it? Coming up with a new idea took a while – there were lots of concepts sketched out and developed, each one took the story development and characters one step further until I knew I had the start of an idea that might work.
I knew I wanted to write a book that involved airports – I travel a lot and have had some very interesting and strange experiences. I’ve met the most fascinating people and listened to their stories; I’ve ended up transferred to completely different airports that I might not otherwise have visited. I always feel that places where people meet and their stories intertwine are bursting with story – airports, stations, hotels, shops, museums – and Keep Your Eyes on Me has all of these elements. In writing a completely new story, I was able to bring together a lot of places that I love visiting – Bloomsbury in London, Killiney in Dublin and New York. Above is a story board featuring key locations in the book – this focuses on the London elements, with a dash of New York!
I create story boards for all my books; for me, writing is very visual and having the images in front of me helps bring me back to the story if I’ve had a busy day, and also helps hugely when I’m writing location descriptions. I want the world of my characters to be as real as possible so that if you, as a reader, visits the location, you feel like you’re stepping into the world of the book.
Keep Your Eyes on Me features two very strong women: Lily Power and Vittoria Devine. Lily is a recently graduated jewellery designer who has been offered the job of a life time in New York, but the night before she leaves for the interview, she discovers that her brother has lost the family business, his livelihood and his home in a card game. How can Lily take the job and leave Jack on his own?
Vittoria is a former ballerina who had to give up her career after a car accident caused by her husband Marcus, an accident that also left her unable to have children. So when Vittoria discovers Marcus’s latest mistress is pregant she is devastated and needs to get away. He’s a pilot so she is able to use a crew pass and jump on the next flight to New York. When Vittoria and Lily meet quite by accident on the plane, they are both feeling vulnerable and are comforted by talking to a complete stranger – but as the conversation develops, they realise that they can help each other even the score…
In developing each character, I researched their backgrounds and created timelines so I knew exactly what they’d studied and where, as well as how old they were. Understanding them was crucial to understanding how they would interact and cope with the situations they found themselves in. It’s vital that characters change as a result of the story, or there is no story, and this is a book that is driven by the characters and their reactions to events. I’m a detailed plotter (more about the ways I do that here) but once the story starts to take off, I tend to write by instinct. Once I know what needs to happen and what the reader needs to learn in a given chapter, each one follows on naturally. That said, I always manage to make mess of the timeline somewhere, so now I write the date and time at the top of each chapter to try and keep it on track.
Keep Your Eyes on Me was inspired by Strangers on a Train (you guessed right), but also Dial M for Murder – it features stolen art, smuggled antiquities, and some devious scheming. I really enjoyed writing it and I hope readers enjoy it too!
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