Is your reading group looking for a gripping thriller? When They Find Her combines a dark, emotional plot with a white-knuckled pace for an incredibly intense read that could be the perfect next pick for your book club. We spoke to author (and barrister) Lia Middleton to find out more about how she came to write the book.
When They Find Her is your debut novel. How have you found the process of being published for the first time? Is there anything about the process that has surprised you?
Being published is a dream for so many writers and it has been a joy to see a story that once only existed in my head take physical form and a life of its own as it reaches readers. One part of the process that truly surprised me is the vast number of people who work on bringing your novel into the world – from your editor, copy editor, marketing, publicity, sales and many more – so many hands touch the book on its journey. Much like with children, it takes a village.
You’re a barrister by trade, is it this experience that made you want to write crime fiction? Do you find it easy to separate the two?
I’ve always been drawn to darker stories, whether in fiction or on screen. So ,when I decided to pursue my writing ambitions, I knew crime fiction was where I needed to be. I’ve always been interested in crime, ever since I was a little girl and I used to go to court to watch my Dad work as a magistrate and my work as a barrister in criminal justice and offender management has helped me truly understand the intricacies of the system and the people who exist within it. I find it easy to compartmentalise the two – writing allows me to truly explore the people at the heart of cases, their emotions and their psychology, in a way that I’m unable to within my work as a barrister.
Naomi is haunted by her own guilt after the accident that happens at the beginning of When They Find Her. What did you hope to convey about mother/daughter relationships in this novel?
It was important to me to explore the complexities of motherhood in a way that feels authentic and raw to the reader. So many new mothers are plagued with similar feelings of anxiety to what Naomi experiences in the book and I wanted to explore that and the judgement that is faced by women during what can be the most vulnerable and fragile time of their lives. Naomi truIy loves her daughter, but the pressure to be a “good mother” becomes too much of a burden for her to bear.
I also wanted to explore, not just the relationship between mothers and daughters, but parents and children in general. Through the characters of Naomi, Aiden and Helen, I hope that I have conveyed the lengths that parents will go to for their children, and the way our instinct to protect our children can sometimes override every other part of us, every thought and emotion, every ounce of logic.
Naomi and Helen’s relationship is also an important one in this novel, was there anything about female friendships that you were particularly interested in exploring in this novel?
I think that female friendships are one of the most complex and layered relationships that exist, and it was important for me to explore that in When They Find Her. Their friendship is one that has existed since childhood, they were more like sisters than anything else, but through their new connection to each other, Naomi is forced to face the betrayal that she feels and explore her part in the collapse of their friendship. Like any relationship, more often than not there is more than one side to what went wrong, and I think Naomi and Helen’s friendship really allowed me to explore how close and intense friendships can suddenly fracture.
Finally, is there any advice you would like to pass on to aspiring writers? Is there anything you think would have been useful for you to know before you got your book deal?
At every point in the writing journey, whether just starting out or multiple published books down the line, resilience is the most important trait that writers have to cultivate. The worries about achieving your dream do not end upon being published, they simply change. But you should always keep pushing because as long as you love writing, have a story to tell and a voice, there will always be readers who want to listen – and hearing from readers is an absolute joy and makes every hour spent in front of your laptop, fretting about your plot and your characters, worth it.
Reading Group Competition
Enter our reading group competition to win copies of When They Find Her to review. Competition closes on Tuesday 12 October.