Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing debut novelist N.S. Ford. Her novel, “We Watch You” is to be published in just two days time – on October 1, 2021
- “We Watch You” is your debut novel. Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?
When my novel was finally ready for the outside world, I queried some agents and publishers, with no luck. I really wanted to get my novel into readers’ hands this year, so I decided to self-publish through Amazon in Kindle eBook and paperback formats. I have learnt a lot in the process and found that fellow authors are very helpful too.
- When did you make the life-changing decision to actually sit down and write a novel?
A long time ago! I always knew I wanted to write a novel. Over the decades I began a few and finished a couple of them but We Watch You is the first that I know is of good enough quality to be published.
- What inspired “We Watch You”? How long did the writing process take?
I had been getting into psychological thrillers while on maternity leave and was impressed by the pace, twists and unreliable narrators found in the genre. I said to myself, ‘I can do that! Or at least I’ll have a go.’ I set out to write the kind of book I’d want to read. It took perhaps a month or two to plot it first. I started writing in early 2018 – just before I started my blog and joined social media! – and completed it this year, so I was working on it for 3 years, on and off.
- Are re-writes part of your personal writing process?
They certainly are! I re-wrote substantial parts of my novel as it was a bit too ordinary and I wanted it to be extraordinary. After reading some books which had suggestions of science fiction or the paranormal but were still in the psychological thriller genre, I decided to apply this concept to my novel. This meant a lot of re-writes, including a new ending It was worth the effort though as I ended up with a book that I’m proud of.
- Sometimes setting is a crucial factor in a novel – sometimes not. Does setting have any impact on “We Watch You”?
The setting in the novel is Becksley, a small town in the Midlands in England. It’s an average kind of place where you wouldn’t expect anything to happen, so when someone goes missing – among other unusual events – it’s all the more shocking. I would say that the setting is very important.
- Have you ever ‘people-watched’ to gain inspiration for any of your characters? Did you find it challenging to name your characters?
Strangely enough, I don’t think I’ve consciously people-watched for this purpose! The characters just appear in my head but no doubt they reflect different aspects of my personality and of people I’ve known, or perhaps characters from books or films which have made an impression on me. One of the protagonists, Lauren, is autistic so this is reflected in the parts of the narrative that are from her point of view. I’m autistic too but wasn’t diagnosed until after I’d written the book. Naming characters can be difficult as you don’t want them to stand out too much in a book that’s more plot-driven than character-driven. I just went with names that seemed to fit the characters and which seemed ordinary enough not to be distracting.
- Was the ending of “We Watch You” difficult to write? Did you know how the book would end from the beginning of the writing process, or did the story evolve as you went along?
The first ending to the novel was an anti-climax – this ending was what I’d planned from the start, but it was too safe. So I made it into a false ending! I added a few more chapters as part of the major re-write. I would say it was difficult to write, but exciting too.
- Your book’s tag line is “a dark psychological thriller with a speculative twist”. Do you think the speculative aspect will deter some thriller fans?
It will not be everyone’s cup of tea – some readers prefer the conventions of genre and they have certain expectations regarding thrillers in domestic settings. For those who like thrillers that are a little unusual and are open-minded about their reading, I hope that the premise of We Watch You will intrigue them. I added the ‘speculative twist’ to the book’s description as both a warning for readers who don’t like that sort of thing and as an enticement for those who do!
- I have to ask…. What does N.S. stand for? Why did you decide to go with your initials instead of your name?
I decided to go with initials because my first and middle names are very feminine and are more suggestive of chick lit than of edgy thrillers! Initials also seem popular for thriller authors – such as T M Logan, B A Paris, C L Taylor and S J Watson. My full name is not a big secret but my online pals generally know me as NS, which is how I presented myself when I first started my blog and Twitter more than years ago, so that’s my public name now.
- Writers are also avid readers. What type of book do you like to read for pleasure?
I am a book fanatic and read more than 100 every year! I like to read classics, thrillers, science fiction, memoirs, non-fiction (art, travel, science, history, music…) and contemporary fiction. I read both eBooks and print, library books, advance copies and books that I’ve bought. I review them on my blog, NetGalley and Goodreads.
- What current novelist do you feel is underrated or deserves to be more well known?
I think Sonia Velton should be even better known than she is already. Her debut novel Blackberry & Wild Rose was wonderful historical fiction. The next novel, The Image of Her (recently published), is contemporary fiction and very different. I admired the change of genre, which is quite unusual for a traditionally published author’s second book. I look forward to whatever she writes next, in any genre!
I enjoyed “Blackberry & Wild Rose” as well. You can read my review here.
- If you could sit and enjoy a chat and a glass of wine with another thriller novelist – who would it be?
I would like to chat with Lesley Kara, author of The Rumour, Who Did You Tell? and The Dare. I enjoy her writing style and I’d say she’s one of my influences. She seems friendly and has even retweeted my reviews of her books on Twitter.
- Are there some books that you find yourself recommending to all your friends? Tell us two titles that you recommend. One thriller and one other.
The Sick Rose by Erin Kelly is one of the best thrillers I’ve read. It’s so well-crafted and is my favourite of her novels (I’ve read all but one of them).
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin is a dystopian novel and a forerunner of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Huxley’s Brave New World. It deserves to be more widely read.
- Do you watch crime drama on television? If so, what are some of your favourite shows?
No, I don’t watch crime drama, or much current TV. I tend to work my way through older comedy and science fiction box-sets on Netflix.
- Are you working on another novel? If so, is it a stand-alone novel? Can you tell us anything about it?
I’m at the planning stage of my next novel and will soon be writing it. I had the idea for it the summer before last, but completing and publishing We Watch You has taken priority! The next novel will be another standalone thriller and as far as I know (it could change!) will include a dangerous obsession for tracking down reclusive former popstars.
- Would you ever write a series? Do you find the prospect of maintaining a series daunting?
I wouldn’t rule out writing a series, but as the majority of books that I read are standalone, it would feel weird to write a series when I don’t usually read them. There’s also the problem of maintaining the quality throughout the series. I can think of a few I’ve read where my interest petered out and I never wanted to complete the series.
- I am a huge fan of cover art and have been working on a blog series called “Cover Love”. How much input did you have in choosing the cover?
I worked with a cover designer, Dave Berens, who specializes in thrillers and is an author himself. I would highly recommend him to any authors reading this who are looking for a cover designer. I put together a collage of designs from recent thrillers which had elements, colour schemes or text design that I liked, plus a description of the ideas I had in my head. He did a great job, merging my ideas with his own, with the particularly nice touch of having a figure inside the ‘O’. We only needed a few adjustments, such as reducing the brightness of the light in the window, darkening the figure to a silhouette and sorting out the spaces in my name.
- The cover has a gothic vibe, what with the old buildings, foreboding sky, and birds. I personally really love the cover of “We Watch You” and would have chosen to read it on cover alone. Do you think the cover relates well to your plot?
I’m glad you love the cover! I have had so many positive comments about it. The story itself is not gothic as such but it is dark and sinister at times, with touches of paranoia. I’m a fan of what everyone who’s studied English Literature knows as ‘pathetic fallacy’ – in this case, it’s when the weather matches the mood! So the foreboding sky with the disturbed birds is very suitable. The lone female figure in the street can represent one or more of the characters in the book – in the same way that the title We Watch You has more than one meaning (if you read the book, you’ll know).
- I’m retired from a career in a public library and have known for some time that mysteries/crime thrillers are some of the most read genres of fiction. Why do you think crime fiction is so popular?
I used to work in public libraries too and I remember how often I had to tidy the crime fiction shelves! I think the genre is so popular because human curiosity means that we can’t resist mysteries – we always want to find out why, how, who, when. We are also strongly interested in justice, which crime thrillers address. Then I think there is also a glamour to the genre, with its cool, tough characters and suggestions of noir. Finally, there is the thrill (or the chill) that we get from being so close to the events and motivations in this fiction, while at the same time we’re safe and comfortable, sitting in a cosy armchair with a hot drink and a biscuit, our pulses racing as we turn those pages.
- How do you wish to be contacted by ‘fans’? Facebook? Twitter? Your own blog?
Please see my bio link for my various platforms. Twitter and my WordPress blog are where I’m the most active, so anyone wishing to contact me can do so through those.