Michelle Adams is a British writer and part-time scientist whose love of writing has produced several science fiction novels (written under a pseudonym) as well as a YA dystopian series. Her latest, If You Knew My Sister, is her first journey into the thriller genre.
Recently, the author generously took time to answer some of CrimeHQ's questions about her latest novel, the transition from scientist to author, and what she's currently reading!
One of your main characters, Elle, is very unstable. How much research went into writing about her actions and behaviors?
Researching Elle was very interesting. It was important to me that she made sense to readers and that she presented as a real person. I did a lot of reading around mental health diagnoses and the spectrum of associated symptoms and behaviors. It's a sensitive issue, and one I was keen to get right.
You have written science fiction novels in the past. What made you decide to write a psychological thriller this time around?
I have a love for so many different genres for many different reasons. Thrillers have been something that I have enjoyed for many years as both a reader of literature and screen fan. And I think the thriller genre—especially the domestic noir category—has been really popular of late, what with several big hits like Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train. But for me, it was really about following a passion of mine. Once I had the idea for My Sister, I felt the story would work well with a dark edge and a hint of Gothic atmosphere. In that way, it was an easy decision to write the story as a thriller.
What is your favorite line from If You Knew My Sister and why?
The last line. We are family. For me, it was the perfect way to end. It's not a happy ending, but neither is it sad. It's a fact. It's one of the reasons I wrote My Sister.
What do you want readers to think or feel after finishing this book?
Well, I really hope they feel entertained! But as a lasting impression, I hope they think about what it means to carry a burden—be it a secret or a decision like the sisters' mother. I think, as people, we often get stuck in our own feelings—a sort of egocentric way of viewing the world. Irini was always wondering why bad things had happened to her and about why her family didn't want her. I hope people consider that, sometimes, what looks to one person like a bad decision might have been made for the best of reasons.
What was the most difficult part about writing this book?
It was probably the editing phase. I removed a lot of words, and it's always hard to know what to take out and what to leave. I'm learning to be steadily more brutal when it comes to the cut.
What was the transition like from scientist to author? What challenges, if any, presented themselves?
Being a scientist was rewarding in a totally different way. Working in healthcare, you work hard every day but go home knowing that you made a difference in peoples' lives. Moving over to writing and leaving my clinical work aside wasn't a challenge from the point of day to day. I enjoy writing a lot more. But it's hard to be alone all day when you are used to a big team. And also, that sense of accomplishment. It takes at least six to nine months before you feel as if you have achieved anything as a writer, whereas in a hospital, you are constantly working to targets or to meet patients' needs. As a writer, you need a lot more optimism to show up at your desk and work to a finish line you can't even see.
What is something readers would be surprised to know about you?
I used to be a bit of a daredevil. I swam with sharks, jumped from a plane, and used to go rock climbing.
What are you currently reading?
The Chalk Man by C.J Tudor and a lot of fairy tales on account of having a new baby. No more parachute jumps for me.
What are you currently binging on Netflix?
I'm actually a massive Game of Thrones fan, so since Season 7 ended, I'm doing a seven-season marathon. I'm up to Season 6, so I'm open to recommendations in about a week's time.
What's your murder weapon of choice?
Let's stick with the theme: Valyrian Steel. You can kill anything with that.
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Michelle Adams is a British writer living abroad in Cyprus. She is a part-time scientist and has published several science fiction novels under a pseudonym, including a YA dystopian series. If You Knew My Sister (published as My Sister in the UK) is her first psychological thriller.