The Destructiveness of Love: MysteryPeople Q&A with Sarah Pinborough

Sarah Pinborough comes to BookPeople this Saturday, February 18th, at 3 PM to speak and sign her new genre-bending tale of psychological suspense, Behind Her Eyesa novel already internationally renowned for its insane twist ending. Pinborough was kind enough to answer a few questions before the event. 

  • Interview by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

“I think the main theme is the destructiveness of love. I wanted to write about how it’s not always the positive force we hope for and it can do as much harm as good if the wrong people fall in love.”

Molly Odintz:  You’ve worked in multiple genres, and without giving anything away, Behind Her Eyes is a genre-bender as well as a mind-bender of a read. What’s your most-preferred genre to work in, and what advice would you give writers interested in telling stories across genres?

Sarah Pinborough: I don’t really think of story in terms of genre, but I like writing stories that are puzzles, and most of my books have been mysteries of on sort or another. I like making the reader have to put a jigsaw together, whether that crime with sci-fi or horror or fantasy or straight thriller. As for advising writers who like to cross-genres, I’d probably say that the important thing – for me, at least – is to have a dominant genre. So, it might be crime with a hint of sci-fi, but it adheres to the rules of crime. Or horror with romance – then it would be primarily horror, but with gothic romance elements. I think where it is most likely to fail – not always, but most likely – is if it’s a 50/50 split between genres. I prefer just adding hints of other genres rather than over-loading. But that’s just me!

MO: Behind Her Eyes can be read cover-to-cover, and then reread with a completely different lens. Did you know how the book was going to end when you started it? Was it difficult to adhere to a primary narrative, while also embedding a complete reversal of the reader’s expectations?

SP: I definitely had the ending there before I started writing. I can’t imagine writing a book like this without the ending in place! I always know what I’m aiming at when I write, even if I don’t know what happens in the middle, I invariably have the beginning and ending fixed in place. When my UK editor read the outline, she said, ‘Oh my god, I love this but it’s going to be so hard to write.’ I was very ‘yeah right’ at the time, but only when I started writing it, did I realise how careful I had to be, and how hard it was to be true to the characters and the story and yet still hoodwink everyone.

“I like writing stories that are puzzles, and most of my books have been mysteries of on sort or another. I like making the reader have to put a jigsaw together, whether that crime with sci-fi or horror or fantasy or straight thriller.”

MO: You’re an incredibly prolific writer, yet you’re poised to reach more markets than ever before with Behind Her Eyes. What’s the country you’re most excited to see your work translated and marketed to?

SP: Ha, all of them! Gosh, I don’t know. But my mother is hugely excited about China for some reason. She’s told all her friends. It’s as if all the other deals were just froth! I think it will be interesting to see it in Russian and Chinese and Korean simply because the language looks so different.

MO: As a follow-up, if you could pick any (preferably small) country or linguistic group to worship you as their favorite English-language writer, who would it be?

SP: Hmm.. I’m not sure. Maybe the Inuits. I’m not sure there’s a massive translation market for the eskimos but that would be cool. Literally;-)

MO: Behind Her Eyes seems to me to brings together the classic themes of mental illness, status anxiety, and fear of the subconscious, mixing a gothic tale right at home in the 19th century with mid-20th century fears of suburban imprisonment and betrayal by our own minds. Would you agree, or are these fears too timely to relegate to a distinct historical era?

SP: I wouldn’t really say the book had a theme of mental illness. Addiction perhaps, but not mental illness. I think the characters are disturbed people, and filled with secrets, but I think the main theme is the destructiveness of love. I wanted to write about how it’s not always the positive force we hope for and it can do as much harm as good if the wrong people fall in love.

“What I wanted to explore in the novel was actually the dynamics of women when embroiled in an affair. It’s always struck me how fascinated women are with each other – wives become fascinated with mistresses and vice versa in a way that doesn’t happen with men – from what I’ve observed anyway.”

MO: Who are some of the writers who’ve inspired you in your crime fiction?

Oh my gosh, so many! John Connolly, Daphne Du Maurier, Gillian Flynn, Donna Tartt to name a few.. but there are so many, often newer writers who I’ve just read one book by thus far and really enjoyed.

MO: Behind Her Eyes got me thinking about the transformative aspects of female friendship, and the difficulty in distinguishing a friend trying to help from a friend trying to create a mini-me. What did you want to explore about female friendship, versus competition, in the novel?

What I wanted to explore in the novel was actually the dynamics of women when embroiled in an affair. It’s always struck me how fascinated women are with each other – wives become fascinated with mistresses and vice versa in a way that doesn’t happen with men – from what I’ve observed anyway. The man almost becomes a pawn in that dynamic and it becomes all about what does she have that I don’t have and I won’t let her win. I wanted to take that slightly further by having them become friends and add another layer of deceit to all the relationships. I think that part of the problem women face – especially young women – is that competition and friendship go hand in had to a certain extent. When you get older, you realise what a waste of time all that is and that women should be supporting each other, but when you’re young there’s a conditioning that seems to kick in. It did back in the 90s.. maybe it’s changed for young women today. I hope so, but I think there is still competition within friendships.

MO: Your works have been praised by many of the most prominent authors in the horror, scifi, and crime fiction world, including Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Harlan Coben and Joe Hill – how does it feel to have support from so many folks at the pinnacle of their genres?

I may let them all out of my basement now that they’ve said nice things;-) No, on a serious note it’s very overwhelming, and I want to print them all out and frame them and hang them on the wall. It’s very easy to get caught up with the ‘business’ of writing – because after all, we all need to make a living – but those moments are real touchstone moments. As much as I love all these people, the Stephen King blurb was just a brilliant brilliant moment. I was actually shaking when they sent that through to me, and the link to what he’d said in the NYT. I actually got a bit teary!

You can find copies of Behind Her Eyes on our shelves and via bookpeople.comSarah Pinborough comes to BookPeople this Saturday, February 18th, at 3 PM to speak and sign her latest. 

MysteryPeople Review: BEHIND HER EYES by Sarah Pinborough

  • Review by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

Sarah Pinborough comes to BookPeople this Saturday, February 18th, at 3 PM to speak and sign her new genre-bending psychological thriller of suspense, Behind Her Eyesreviewed below. 

9781250111173When given an opportunity to read master-of-all-genre-fiction Sarah Pinborough’s shocking new thriller, Behind Her EyesI had no idea what to expect – aside from the cover’s promise of a twist at the end. After finishing the book, staring at nothing for a good half hour thinking “wtf just happened?!?!!!,” and rereading various parts of the book to reinterpret the meaning of significant passages in the light of new information, I felt grateful that I came into the book with no expectations. The reader who thinks they know what to expect should just toss that idea out the window right now. You cannot possibly predict that wonderful horrorshow of an ending.

Pinborough’s latest appears, at first, to tell the story of a love triangle. As the tale continues, sinister agendas arise and reshape our perceptions of characters, plotlines, and reality itself. In the elaborate, many layered nature of its twist, Behind Her Eyes conjures the specter of the films The Sixth SenseThe Spanish Prisoner, or any other tale that can be finished and reconsidered in an entirely new light based on the end.

Behind Her Eyes begins with a moral dilemma. A divorcee wakes up with a hangover and a memory of nearly going home with a married man. She heads to work only to discover that her new boss is her almost-lover from the night before, and their desire for each other stretches into the harsh light of sobriety, although their shared workplace gives them an additional reason to deny their baser urges.

Meanwhile, the boss’s wife waits at home, rethinking their arguments and plotting her own escape (or revenge) from what appears to be a loveless marriage.She befriends her husband’s new coworker (and potential love interest), and turns the other woman into a project, ostensibly hoping to restore the young divorcee’s self-confidence, oblivious that there might be any attraction between her husband and his colleague. The two women work out together, shop together, and talk endlessly about the degenerating marriage of the boss and his wife. They begin to mirror each other in their looks and their desires, but to what end?

The imagery of merging and competing with other women in Behind Her Eyes harkens back to the instability of identity in the desired woman. In crime fiction, and film noir, a woman is desired frequently because of her resemblance to or difference from another woman. In order to earn her place in a relationship, she must distinguish herself from the Woman Before by destroying that woman’s reputation, or the woman herself. The Woman Before must meanwhile fight her usurper and keep her man by denigrating her replacement or reestablishing her own primacy as desirable.

Variations on this theme include some classic works of suspense and psychological thrills. The tension between a first wife’s memory and a second wife’s living power in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, the uncertainty of identity in the face of odd behavior in Pierre Boileau’s Vertigothe substitution of a murder victim for her lookalike in the homicide squad in Tana French’s The Likeness, and a woman’s search for another, nearly identical woman’s murderer in Megan Miranda’s The Perfect Stranger (coming out April 11th 2017)…All these works, and more, established the tropes honored and exploded by Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes. Of particular interest to the fan of Behind Her Eyes may be Pierre Boileau’s She Who Was No Moreadapted to film under the title Diaboliques, in which a love triangle between a teacher, his wife, and his mistress devolves into an adulterous murder plot with several twists.

After allowing myself to indulge in this brief moment of analysis, I must take a step back and allow you, dear reader, to find out this novel’s twists and turns for yourself. Use the examples above as a guide to further your reading, if you so choose – and as for the rest of the plot, I’m keeping mum. Suffice to say that Behind Her Eyes is beyond entertaining – and into the far beyond of disturbing.

You can find copies of Behind Her Eyes on our shelves and via bookpeople.comSarah Pinborough comes to BookPeople this Saturday, February 18th, at 3 PM to speak and sign her latest. 

 

Feb Fatales: a Full Crime Fiction Schedule this February

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

Glancing at our list of upcoming events, our newsletter, or BookPeople’s February events schedule, you may have noticed we’ve booked quite a few visitors to please the crime fiction crowd. Here’s the low-down on what’s happening when, all in one place.

On Friday, February 10th, at 7 PM, we welcome two MysteryPeople favorites! Fresh from his Edgar nomination for Where it Hurts, Reed Farrel Coleman joins us with his second Gus Murphy book, What It Breaksanother lyrical tale of Long Island misery, while Robert Knott, two volumes in to his transition from actor to Rennaissance Man, joins us with his fourth continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Hitch & Cole seriesRevelation

Wednesday, February 15th brings a 7 PM visit from K. J. Howe, director of Thrillerfest, and here to speak and sign her debut, The Freedom Brokera tale of kidnapping, privilege and intrigue. On Thursday, February 16th, at 7 PM (the very next evening) come by the store for a return visit from Scottish superstar Ian Rankin, here with his new Inspector Remus novelRather Be The DevilThen that same week, on Saturday, Feburary 18th, at 3 PM come by the store for Sarah Pinborough, presenting her latest work, Behind Her Eyes. We can’t tell you much about this one – we don’t want to ruin the insanely mind-blowing ending.

Then Tuesday, February 21st, at 7 PM, MysteryPeople welcomes a visit from Alexandra Burt, here with her latest crime novel and our MysteryPeople Pick of the Month, The Good Daughterset in Aurora, Texas. Burt’s previous crime novel, Remember Miahas been a national bestseller and we’re happy to say that The Good Daughter is just as compelling a tale! Two days later, on Thursday, February 23rd, at 7 PM, we welcome legendary Texas writer Joe R. Lansdale in conversation with rising Texas star Kathleen Kent. Lansdale joins us to speak and sign his new Hap & Leonard novel, Rusty Puppy, while Kent joins us with her latest work, The Dimefollowing a tough city cop’s trials and tribulations after she moves down to Dallas from the Big Apple.

The fun doesn’t end in February – on March 5th, come by the store to meet the King of Florida Capers, Tim Dorsey, here to speak and sign his latest, Clownfish Blues.  In April, we’re joined by MysteryPeople favorite Phillip Kerr, here to speak and sign his latest Bernie Gunther novel, Prussian BlueWe’ll announce plenty more March and April events coming up, so keep an eye on BookPeople’s events calendar, MysteryPeople’s upcoming events page, or sign up for our MysteryPeople newsletter to be the first to know!

50 Mystery Novels by Women Crime Writers, Read in a Year

  • Post by Molly Odintz

The list below is the tip of the cold, murderous iceberg when it comes to works by women crime novelists, but like any other list, it’s a good place to start.

With my yearly New Year’s Resolutions, most of which I will never revisit, I usually come up some kind of reading project, based around genres, authors, or settings I’ve neglected. 2015’s goal? Best not mentioned, as I miserably failed in my efforts to complete it. 2016’s reading goal? Read fifty books by women, and if possible, fifty works of crime fiction by women; not just new releases, but also classic noir and domestic suspense. With the release of Women Crime Writers of the 1940s and 50s, we’ve entered a new era of publisher and reader support for crime fiction classics by women.

Many of the books below are part of the zeitgeist – you’ll see a lot of girls in the title. I’ve also tried to focus on reading some of their antecedents, and you’ll see works on the list from Dorothy Hughes, Daphne Du Maurier, Margaret Millar, Patricia Highsmith, and other classic women crime writers of mid-century America, plus a couple of golden age works from Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie. You won’t find many representatives of the tough second-wave protagonists of the 80s and 90s, or many works in translation – both areas, I’m sorry to admit, I neglected in the past year.

You will find quite a few books set in Texas, and some that have yet to be released; both quirks of a bookseller’s reading habits, as we tend to dive deep into the literature of our areas, and often receive early copies of upcoming releases.

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