Saturday, 28 November 2015

Crushed by Denise Greenwood: Interview

I was lucky enough to be able to interview Denise Greenwood about her latest novel, Crushed. She was kind enough to let me interrogate her with a heap of questions, so many thanks! Full details of Denise Greenwood and Crushed are available down below. Crushed is already out in Ireland and will be released as an e-Book via Kindle, Nook and Kobo etc. It is due for release in the UK during early 2016.

Denise Greenwood
Can you tell me a little about yourself and your background?

I was born and raised in Blackpool but then lived and worked in Manchester for a number of years where I was drawn to the theatre, comedy clubs and culture scene. I now live with my husband Jerry and son Rees in a hamlet in Littleborough. It is on the fringe of an old Lancashire mill-town at the western slopes of the South Pennines. After a long career as a Policy Development Manager for a major UK retailer I turned my skills from technical material to writing fiction in 2010. I use my unconventional life experiences and love of psychology to create characters and stories to push the boundaries of fiction. My first two books Temptation and Star Keeper are contemporary literature which attracted full page features in Northern Life and Style Magazines but after writing my first two books I was drawn to my darker side and wrote a dark and chilling thriller. Although it was initially an exploration I now find it is where I belong so I am currently working on my next novel.

What were you like at school? Did you always plan on becoming an author?

When we first moved to Manchester I offered to sing a song in front of the class. My Irish roots taught me that bursting into song was second- nature. I later penned and presented a short play and chose two of my friends to act in it with me. I also remember as a small child sitting on a window ledge and reading a book which I became lost in. I still remember my wish - that one day I could write something that would make others feel as I did at that exact moment. When I was an adult I occasionally thought about my wish but it was merely a pipe-dream. Then, in 2009 while sat on a church pew, I was struck with an idea which I couldn’t shake off for weeks. In an effort to get the idea out of my head and onto paper I unleashed a hidden side of me that I’d forgotten about. I became that small child once again and I knew that wishes, no matter how old they are, mustn’t be ignored. I jokingly refer to that year as my “mid-life crisis.”

What types of books do you tend to read?

I have eclectic tastes and it depends on my mood. My first passion is the English Classics. I want to become lost in the world of yesteryear and the lives of characters that face adversity. I also enjoy lighter, more modern reading, particularly the tales of people who move abroad and then become immersed in a new way of life. I have a system – I read something heavy then move onto light.

Which writers inspire you?

Hardy, Dickens and Brontë because they bring together characters whose strengths are often hidden until they are challenged. Their individual stories become part of a bigger picture. Robert M Pirsig because he delves deep into the psyche then entices the reader to join him in his quest to answer life’s big questions. Often, the writer’s life interests me – what made them take up a pen.

What is your favourite quote?

“Tell me what company thou keepest, and I’ll tell thee what thou art” – Don Quixote PY11 Ch23 – Cervantes.

How would you describe your personal writing style?

Visual – I vividly visualise my characters and the scenes they are in. I carry them around in my head for months before I begin to write and it is almost like replaying a film. The words I use are like paint on an artist’s brush and I try to use them to convey the scene I have in my head.

What are your ambitions for Crushed?

I hope that my characters will stay with readers so that they find themselves thinking about them long after they have finished reading. As I visualised my book so strongly I know that Crushed would also make a good TV or film adaptation.

Crushed is unlike any other book that I have read previously, where did you get the inspiration to write it?

I was watching a TV programme, Once Upon a Time, and it was Robert Carlyle, who was playing Rumpelstiltskin, in a unique way. At that moment I remembered running along a street as fast as I could. I was seven years old and returning from my first school play. Rumpel had frightened me. As I watched the TV I wondered what had made Rumpel such a twisted character and although the TV programme tried to explain it, it wasn’t enough for me. What if there didn’t have to be a traumatic event to change a person? What if just the experience of one moment of weird emotion connected the person to unnatural inclinations? I then thought of a boy who had lived near me. He had been my friend briefly before he’d moved away. He was an odd and sometimes scary boy. I wondered what he would have been like if I’d known him as a teen and then an adult. My two memories gave birth to my protagonist.

Are there any true elements within Crushed? Maybe characters that bear similarities to people who you may know or maybe even the setting?

The setting is in Halifax, a short train journey from where I live. All the scenes in my book are based on places I have been to but I make them bigger than life and adapt them for my characters. I’m a keen observer and people-watch so many of my characters contain small elements of something I’ve observed in a person, whether I know them or not. I like small details such as a way of walking or a brief facial expression as they often betray an inner emotion.

Crushed - Denise Greenwood
How long did it take for you to complete Crushed?

I nurtured my ideas and imagined possible outcomes for a long while before putting together an outline based on the images I saw. Often being in a new place triggered something and so I returned to that place and took photos, notes and spoke to people before I began my research. It took roughly six months to get Crushed into my head clearly before I began writing and then it took just three to write it. However, Crushed wasn’t complete until I had gone through it for re-writes and finalised its flow and order. This took another three.

Did you ever feel like giving up whilst writing this book? If so, what pushed you to continue?

I never lost heart. Crushed was a part of me and I was driven to write it. My characters pushed me to continue. Writing Crushed was one of the most pleasurable but disturbing experiences of my life.

Was there a personal reason that you chose the colour red as the hair of the girls? Of course there are many connotations of red with blood and love but did you have a specific reason yourself for choosing it?

In the days of black and white movies female roles were easy to fathom – blondes were good and sweet, brunettes were often the villains or not to be trusted. When colour was introduced, the red-heads were sirens and feisty. On a more personal note, I have natural black hair but sometimes in bright sunshine one copper-red hair stands out. People have plucked one from my head and marvelled. I put it down to my Irish roots. I knew that my female protagonist had to have a hair colour that would make her instantly stand out from a crowd.

I’m strangely drawn towards Barrington. Did you intend for his character to become a Byronic hero of sorts?

It is the moody, weird and sometimes scary people that we remember most. I deliberately didn’t want to explain why Barrington was unique, it was down to the reader to decide but, I also wanted the reader to question what they thought of him. When he meets his perfect victim he is totally unprepared for what he experiences. It is foreign to him. Romance is not a word I would use for what develops as it is too strange for that description. A unique relationship is forged between two unique characters. Barrington appeals to the darker side and the journey into it should be taken lightly. I still question myself about him and his appeal – magnetic or weird?

What inspired the character of Judith, your antagonist?

Judith is an amalgamation of all the people I've met who take up a job or cause then corrupt it. She also has a perspective often seen in attention-seekers. They thrive on drama and twist their interpretations of what they see and hear then interject their opinions or selves with the assumption that they're doing good.

Did you have to conduct a lot of research when writing Crushed?

Research was part of my six-month process before I began writing. Not only did I research places thoroughly, I also asked medical experts about some of the scenes I had planned so that I could confirm the information I’d researched online. Small details also take time to research, such as the simple experiment of freezing Brazil nuts then cracking them so that the sound they make is similar to that of a small bone breaking.

The ending is not something that I would have imagined. How did you decide upon it?

When I’ve created my characters in my head then their story often presents itself to me. I see the ending first then I work backwards. Often when I’ve nearly completed a book I realise that the ending I’d first envisaged is not the true ending at all. As the characters and the story evolved I’m led to an extended conclusion. I always knew how I wanted Crushed to end but I do not like parcels that are neatly tied with a bow at the end. Just as when I watched an actor playing Rumpel on TV, I wanted more than a simple conclusion as life is not like that so I didn’t succumb to simplicity.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write from the heart and forget the fact that someone else will read your work. You began writing for a reason, what was that reason? What part of you does writing reach or expose? Your instincts will tell you when you have finished. Then, go out to meet the professionals who are the gatekeepers to the publishing industry and listen to what they have to say.

Describe your story in one sentence.

A chance encounter with a young woman challenges a killer’s patience, rigid perspective and strict lifestyle as he struggles to maintain his façade but, is his perfect victim all what she seems?

Do you have anything to add about your writing process, Crushed, or anything in general that I have not asked?

At first writing was a personal experiment to see if I could do it but once I began, it released a Kraken. I realised that the “extraordinary” is to be found in every aspect of one’s life. I am constantly amazed by people who live ordinary lives and yet have strange perspectives. During recent years I’ve seen people create drama in their lives as a form of compensation for being so ordinary and as a writer it is manna from heaven.

Contact information for Denise Greenwood:

Twitter: @DeniseGauthor

Yours weekly,
Sadia Parveen.

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