Q&A with Alice Feeney, Author of Rock Paper Scissors
By Crime HQSeptember 7, 2021
Q: Your new novel, Rock Paper Scissors, follows Adam and Amelia, who win a weekend away to the snowy Scottish Highlands and figure it might just be the make-or-break trip their marriage needs. But they soon discover that their winning the trip wasn’t random after all, and one of them might not be going home… What can you tease readers about this novel and the secrets that Adam and Amelia might be hiding from each other?
A: Marriage can be murder! Rock Paper Scissors is a twisty marriage thriller set in the beautiful Scottish Highlands. I’m very fond of the twists in this book, and I love the bespoke illustrations at the start of each chapter. I think dark stories can also be beautiful, and I hope readers will enjoy the artwork as much as I do. The journey that Adam and Amelia take, through the storm, chasing the chance of happiness despite the obvious danger is something I think we can all relate to. When you really think about it, everything we do, we do for love. Everything. This is a story about what we will do to and for the people we love. It’s also a bit of a rollercoaster, and I hope readers will enjoy all the twists and turns!
Q: Rock Paper Scissors is a perfect, twisty domestic thriller that explores how 10 years of marriage and 10 years of secrets will lead to an anniversary that this husband and wife will never forget. Why do you think domestic drama, and marriage in particular, makes for such fertile narrative ground for mysteries and thrillers?
A: I like to write stories which we can all relate to. Most people have experienced the heartbreak that happens when love gets lost. The conflict that exists within relationships is something I often write about, because I think it’s something we all wish we could learn to live without. Life and death issues always matter, but matter the most when they concern those we love.
I think a lot of writers, and readers, enjoy stories about unravelling relationships because it is something we fear. We all long to love and be loved. We all know the joy of real love, the fear of rejection and the pain of true heartbreak. The enduring appeal of the marriage thriller is a result of the potential conflict which exists in all relationships, and our desire to know what goes on behind closed doors. Humans are a nosy and voyeuristic species.
Q: Adam and Amelia find themselves staying in an incredibly creepy church in a remote part of Scotland (in the middle of a snowstorm, no less!). How did you come up with this setting, and was it inspired by any particularly bad AirBnbs you’ve stayed in?
A: I first had the idea for Rock paper Scissors during a trip to Scotland in 2018. I am in love with Scotland, and all of my books have been partly written or edited there. In 2018 we drove to a remote property in a terrible storm, which they called the Beast from the East. When we finally arrived it was dark, there was no power and our phones didn’t work.
The place was beautiful – albeit a little spooky – next to a loch, in the middle of a vast valley surrounded by mountains. We were completely isolated with no neighbours, except for a small herd of sheep. Thanks to the snow, we were trapped. Then, late that night, just as we were about to go to bed, a ghostly face appeared in the window. Someone was outside. Watching us.
It turned out to be a very kind caretaker, who drove through the storm to see if we were ok, but the moment definitely sparked an idea! We returned to Scotland the following year and stayed in a converted chapel. I woke up in the middle of the night and scribbled down most of the plot for Rock Paper Scissors between two and five AM. I remember every single thing about the day this story happened inside my head and the book insisted that I write it. It was a very special day for lots of reasons, and one I won’t ever forget.
Q: Every year, Adam’s wife writes him a letter on their anniversary, but she never lets him read them. What can you tell us about these letters and what they reveal about the relationship at the center of this novel?
A: I’ve always found it fascinating, how and why we become the people we do, and what shapes us. A person’s past can often reveal so much about their future. The letters are a way for Adam’s wife to tell him what she really thinks and how she really feels about their marriage once a year. Because she never planned to let him read them, she could be honest with her words and with herself. The anniversary letters tell us so much about the marriage at the heart of the story.
Q: You are known as the Queen of the Killer Twist, and Rock Paper Scissors might be your best yet. What, for you, are the keys to plotting a great thriller twist?
A: Thank you! I’m a planner. I think about a story for a very long time before I commit to writing it, and I plot everything out on a giant board before I write a word. I use different coloured cards for different characters and timelines, and I always know the end before I begin.
I know most twists before I start which, I think, makes them easier to write. For a twist to be good you have to have left enough clues for the reader to have guessed it, but at the same time create obstacles to prevent them from doing so. The game has to be fair or it wouldn’t be right to invite the reader to play. A good twisty thriller is a puzzle, one which most readers don’t want to solve.
There is no right or wrong way to write, but for me, starting a novel without a plan would be like going on a big walk with the dog without a map – I’d spend the entire time worrying about getting lost instead of enjoying the journey.
Q: Rock Paper Scissors has already been optioned for a 6-part Netflix series by producers of The Crown. Is there anything you can tell us about that upcoming series and what readers can expect from an adaptation?
A: I am very excited about the TV series of Rock Paper Scissors for Netflix. I am a little bit more involved in this adaptation than I have been with others, and I can’t wait to see Adam, Amelia and Robin come to life on screen. I can tell you that I have met the producers and they are wonderful human beings. I love everything they have planned and I think readers will too!
Q: What are you working on next – anything you can tease for readers who are already eager for your next book?
A: I’m editing next year’s novel now, and I am so in love with it. I want all of my books to feel different, but I can’t imagine writing a story which didn’t have a twist or two. After having the initial idea, my next book took five years to write, which is the longest it’s ever taken me to write anything! I’m very proud of the end result, and I think readers who have enjoyed my other books will enjoy the next one. Writers are nothing without readers, and I have the best. Forever thank you.