Q&A with Renee Knight

Q&A with Renee Knight

We’ve not been kept short of excellent thrillers in 2015, but this week it’s all about Disclaimer, Renee Knight’s tightly wound debut of suburban noir. Having read, and loved, a proof copy of the book back in January, when the chance came up to talk to Renee as part of Disclaimer’s blog tour I grabbed it (even though The Telegraph swiped all my questions before I had a chance to ask them!). I thought of some more, though…

 

Hi Renee, and thanks so much for taking time to chat. You do a great job of juggling the multiple points of view and time frames within the story. Was the structure something that fell into place from the start, or was it through the editing process that smoothness was achieved? And did you always know how the ending would be?

Thank you so much for that. The structure and time frames were in place when I began.  I wrote down a story-plan and pretty much stuck to it.  It always felt that the best way to tell this particular story was with the two narrators: the hunter and the hunted.  I did edit and re-edit but that was more about character and polishing than changing the structure.

I’m not sure whether you mean the very end or the last act, but neither are what I started out with.  I knew when I began writing that I would have to come up with something stronger for the final act but it wasn’t until I was half-way through the first draft that I came up with it. It was like it had been lurking in my head, I just hadn’t been able to grasp hold if it until I was that far in to the writing.

 I’ve read that you came through the Faber Academy. How important to your writing process is the interaction with other writers, and how much did their input affect the writing of Disclaimer?

 It did very much so. It made me more rigorous as I went along – if you know you have to show a group of people what you’ve written then you want it to be as good as it can be at that point.   It teaches you too about what suggestions to act on and what to leave – to follow your gut but also to be open when you hear a good idea.  During the course you only get to show 10,000 words but some of us continued to meet when the course had finished and I found that very supportive.  It imposes a discipline – you don’t want to waste anyone’s time.  So, with my next novel I hope I’ll be able to work, to some extent at least, in the same way.

I’m a 40+ debut author myself, and belong to a loose network of other late starters. Is this a book you could have written in your twenties?

Congratulations. I hope you’re enjoying it.  No – I could not have written Disclaimer in my twenties, I simply didn’t have the life experience.  Having said that, there may well have been a book I could have written in my twenties if I had had the courage and the confidence.  But I didn’t.

To finish up: in the publishing game is it down to luck, judgement or timing? And what’s your best nugget of advice for someone who’s yet to send off their first query to an agent?

It’s all those things. But I think you could add stamina to that too.  It takes stamina to get a book finished.  The best advice I was given – and I believe it was that advice which made the difference between my first novel not getting published and my second one succeeding – was don’t rush to send it out.  Get the first draft down then sit on it for a bit – leave it for as long as you dare before picking it up again and re-writing.  And then do that again.  Don’t be too eager to get it out there – you only get one chance and you need to feel sure that you have made it as good as it can possibly be before you let anyone else see it.  When I had been through that process I then showed my manuscript to three trusted friends.  And then I made changes again, and only after that did I send it to my agent.

 

Disclaimer was launched last week. The blog tour is running for the next two weeks, so do pop back on. My own review is here, and you can track them all by using #DisclaimerBook. Oh yes, and put the whole afternoon aside when you start reading the book, because you’re not going to want to put it down!

 

 

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