I am thrilled to have Barbara Copperthwaite author of Flowers For The Dead drop by The book Review Cafe, to answer some questions about her very dark and compelling book. I read Flowers for the Dead, and was blown away by it, its one of the best books I’ve read this year, you can see why in my review, further down the page, so with no further ado, I introduce you to Barbara Copperthwaite
Hi Barbara and welcome to The Book Review Cafe, I’m so excited to have you here, can you tell me a bit about yourself?
Despite writing about crime, I’m actually a very cheery person! But I’ve spent over twenty years as a journalist, interviewing people who have been victims of crime, either directly or through the loss of loved ones. As a result of people bravely and generously sharing their experiences with me, I know a lot about the emotional impact of violence and wrongdoing. That’s why my novels are not simply about the criminal act, but the repercussions they have; people are always at the heart of my thrillers.
I also briefly worked in Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow’s category A men’s high security jail, where I met a number of charismatic perpetrators of crime. I realised it really is not possible to judge a book by its cover – or a person by their façade. This is what fascinates me.
When not plotting murder (figuratively speaking, of course) I love to hide behind a camera and take wildlife photographs. It’s incredibly relaxing.
What made you choose the theme for Flowers For The Dead, and where do you find your inspiration from?
Inspiration for Flowers For The Dead came in the form of a pint of milk, believe it or not!
I was living alone at the time, and was working very long hours as a magazine editor. Tiredness was making me a little absent-minded, and I thought I needed to buy some milk, but when I checked my fridge I had a full carton beside the almost empty one. I didn’t remember buying it, but just shrugged.
‘Oh, well, it must have been me because there’s no one else it could be!’ I thought. ‘Unless it’s a crazed stalker breaking in and buying me milk.’
Although I laughed, I couldn’t shake the idea of how creepy it would be to have someone breaking into my home doing ‘nice’ things for me. Slowly but surely, Adam was born.
The themes developed alongside the book. At first, I simply thought of Adam having a sort of garden of remembrance for his victims. Then came the idea of burying trophies beneath the flowers.
One day I was having a conversation with my sister, and she mentioned Yoko Ono’s Box of Smile. That really sparked my imagination…
As Adam developed, and I fleshed out his biography, it made sense that he would be shy and have difficulty communicating. He’s an old-fashioned man, so I decided he would choose an old-fashioned form of communication – flowers.
I am interested in what research you did for Flowers For The Dead prior to writing it? As you certainly present the reader with an in depth and frightening look into the mind of a serial killer and stalking.
I have reams of research on my laptop. As a journalist, research is second nature to me, and so I’ll do a mixture of things:
* Look at real life case studies: for example, Adam dyes his hair a shade darker, in order to look paler when grieving. This is actually something Jeremy Bamber is believed to have done after killing his family. It was so melodramatic yet calculating; I couldn’t resist using it.
* Talk to contacts in the police and legal world.
* Check with therapists, counselors and psychologists I know, to ensure I’m getting the correct motivations and reactions in my characters.
* I also Google like crazy, reading FBI reports and so on.
Learning the meaning of flowers was particularly fascinating. It’s a very genteel language that was great fun to subvert to more sinister use.
What genuinely shocked me during my research, though, was how easy and cheap it is to buy locksmith equipment and surveillance items. I was also stunned to discover that it is possible to turn a mobile phone or any other device with voice recognition software or a microphone into a ‘bug’. So that includes televisions that you ‘speak’ to, many laptops and tablets, smartphones etc.
Back in 2006 the FBI used a crime family’s devices against them, in order to gather evidence then successfully prosecute in court. These days anyone can do it by buying the right software on the internet. The programme will allow someone to eavesdrop on phone calls, get details on text messages, remotely control the phone using SMS, track the location of the phone with GPS and log the phone’s activities. It will also allow them to use the phone as a listening device and hear what is happening in the surrounding area. Scary stuff!
Do you outline your stories before you write them or do you let the plot and characters lead the way?
It’s a mixture of both, really. I have a skeleton plan that I write out, with points along the way that I know will definitely happen, but I don’t know how to get there until I start writing.
I write mini-biographies for every character, so that I totally understand them and know their background. Even if the information doesn’t make it into the book, it gives them a much more realistic and rounded feeling.
Each character is also given a key word that sums up their personality. Laura’s was ‘stubborn’.
As for the ending of the novel, I normally change my mind about that a lot as I write, until an idea arrives that instantly settles and feels exactly right. That generally happens about halfway through the first draft.
How long did it take to get your first book published?
I’m self-published, so it didn’t take long at all! It makes me sad that some self published authors produce work that hasn’t even been spell-checked, let alone edited, as that makes it much harder for the rest of us. And there are some amazing self published authors out there!
I take my writing very seriously, and after I’ve finished drafting my copy, I pay for an editor who is very well respected in the industry to work on it. Once it has gone through that process, it is proof-read for errors. Everything that a publishing house does to a novel happens to my work, too. I want my readers to enjoy a great, professional novel.
The fact that my books have been reviewed by magazines such as Bella, and newspapers such as the Sunday Mirror (beating Lee Child, to be their Choice Read of the Week) hopefully shows what a good job has been done. That, and the lovely reviews readers are giving me.
If you couldn’t write books what would you do for a living?
Writing isn’t just what I do, it’s who I am. I can’t imagine not doing it. If I had to do something else, though, I’d love to be a wildlife photographer. It’s a hobby of mine, and something I’m very passionate about. But honestly, if I couldn’t earn money from writing, I’d do any job and still write in the evenings anyway. Is that cheating?
Describe your books in 5 words?
Dark, gripping, twisted yet touching.
What authors/books do you read in your spare time?
I’ve always been a bookworm. As a child I used to climb a tree so I wouldn’t be disturbed while reading! I’m one of those people who loves to reread favourites: Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens; Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen; Far From The Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy; Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert; The Talented Mr Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith.
I’m also a huge fan of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. In homage to Rebecca, I chose never to name my character in Invisible, which was a fantastic device for showing just how invisible she had become in her own life.
Although I do have these favourites, I also love discovering new authors such as: Clare Mackintosh (I Let You Go), Paula Hawkins (The Girl on the Train), Ben McPherson (A Line of Blood), and Claire Kendal (The Book of You). I recently finished Peter Swanson’s ‘The Kind Worth Killing’, which I thought was brilliant.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently writing my third novel. It’s about a woman coping with the murder of her child, which is threatening to tear her marriage apart. Inevitably, nothing is as it seems. There are a lot of twists and turns in this one – and not all of them I know about yet!
After that, I’ll be writing a book featuring Detective Sergeant Mike Bishop as the lead character. He has proved to be a real hit with readers of Flowers For The Dead, with lots of people asking me if they could see more of him. There’s a great story taking shape in my head right now, with lots of drama in store for him…
Kindle or book?
Both! It depends entirely on what I’m doing and also the type of book I’m reading. I love the convenience of Kindle – who wants to lug heavy books on the commute to work or on holiday? But there are some books I have to own in physical format. My old favourites, the books I revisit, are always hardbacks or paperbacks.
To find out more about the novels INVISIBLE and FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD
or follow @BCopperthwait on Twitter.
To find out more about Barbara http://www.barbaracopperthwaite.com
My thanks to Barbara Copperwaite for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions.
About the author
Barbara Copperthwaite is a bestselling author of psychological crime fiction. Her debut, INVISIBLE, went on sale last year and became an Amazon Top Ten best seller. FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD has been equally successful, charting as soon as it was released.
She was raised in Lincolnshire, beside the sea and in the countryside. There, she became a lover of both the written word and the great outdoors. A journalist with twenty years’ experience, who has been editor of a number of national magazines in the UK, her fascination with crime really began during a brief spell working in a men’s prison many years ago.
When not writing feverishly, she is often found hiding behind a camera, taking wildlife photographs.
Barbara now lives in Birmingham with her partner, and their dog, Scamp.
Adam Bourne is a serial killer who thinks he is a saviour. When he murders young women and cuts off their lips, he believes he has done it to make them happy.
How did he become warped from the sensitive four-year-old who adored his gran and the fairy tales she read to him? What turned him into a monster who stalks his victims? And what is he trying to say with the bouquets he sends?
When he meets Laura Weir, Adam weaves a fairy tale romance around them. A tale she has no idea she is part of. As he hatches his twisted plan for their fairy tale ending, can anyone stop him before he creates the ultimate sacrifice to love?
Flowers For the Dead is very different to most of the crime thrillers I have read, mainly because the reader takes a terrifying and Spine-chilling look into the dark and deviant mind of a serial killer. Through alternating chapters we learn of Adams childhood and the terrible events that have shaped him into the serial killer he is today. I felt a wide spectrum of emotions whilst reading about Adam, he is such a complicated character, in parts I felt over whelming sadness for him and yet at other times I loathed the person he had become. Barbara has managed to capture the essence of a serial killer, which whilst very disturbing kept me gripped to the very last page.
As Flower For the Dead unfolds we meet Laura, Adams next victim. As he stalks her we learn a lot about Laura she is very vulnerable after loosing her whole family in a car crash, the perfect “victim” for Adam. As Laura becomes the victim of Adams affections things take a dark turn and Through Laura’s eyes we can feel her terror as she is stalked by Adam. Laura’s fear is tangible and makes for an uncomfortable read at times, it’s easy to see how the behaviour of a stalker escalates, terrifying their victims and making them feel helpless.
Flowers For the Dead is a very well constructed story, as the reader you are the only one who knows the “real” Adam and that can make for a uncomfortable read,at times I found myself rooting for Adam. How could I feel like this about a monster who also happens to be a serial killer your wondering? Well you are so drawn into Adams story that at times I felt a guilty compassion for him, and all he had been through. The characters are so utterly compelling, as is the story I guarantee you won’t be able to put this book down.
I find it hard to believe this is only Barbara Copperthwaits second book, as it was so well written, it certainly kept me up late into the night as I really didn’t want to put it down, Flowers For The Dead is utterly compelling and original in its content. I found it difficult to believe Barbara hasn’t been signed up by a publisher after writing this book (there loss in my opinion).
5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of 5