Rachel Ward is a best-selling writer for young adults. Her first book, Numbers, was published in 2009 and shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. An avid reader of detective fiction, The Cost of Living is her first book for adults. Rachel lives in Bath with her husband, and has two grown-up children.
1. How did you get started writing?
I just started quietly one day, in my mid-thirties. I used to listen to the afternoon play on Radio 4 when I was driving to pick up my kids from school and I just wondered if I could write one, so I did. It was rubbish, alas, but it did get me started.
2. What drew you to write a novel?
I tried plays and short stories first. A novel seemed a natural progression. I wanted to challenge myself, to see if I could do it. I wrote two novels which were rejected by every agent and publisher I sent them to. It was third time lucky with my YA novel, Numbers. The first publisher I sent it to snapped it up. The Cost of Living is my first novel for adults. I’m not sure why I’ve started something new – I think I’m just lead by the story and the characters that pop into my head. As soon as I started writing this one, I knew it wasn’t YA.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?
Hmm, that’s a very tricky question. I should think everything I’ve ever read has influenced me in one way or another. I don’t ever really think about my writing style. I know I’m not particularly literary and that my books are easy to read, but it’s not a conscious thing – it’s just how the words come out!
4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?
Yes, I didn’t know any other writers, or anyone in publishing. This was pre-Twitter and Facebook, too, so it was more difficult to make contacts. To start with I used the Writers and Artists Yearbook and sent submissions off in the post. It’s quite dispiriting to have a succession of your own self-addressed envelopes plopping back onto your doormat each containing another rejection. In the end, I found my ‘in’ via the Frome Festival which has a strong writing thread. I booked an editorial one-to-one with Imogen Cooper, then the fiction editor at Chicken House, and the rest is history …
5. There are many interesting characters in your Novel, do you have a particular favourite one?
I’m so fond of this set of characters. I absolutely love them and I love spending time with them. When I was writing the book, I had a couple of breaks due to domestic circumstances and it was so nice to pick up where I’d left off – it’s like spending time with friends. It too difficult to pick a favourite, although I love my main characters, Ant and Bea, very much and am very excited to see what might happen to them in the future.
6. What kind of research have you have to undertake for your Novel?
I’m the laziest person in the world when it comes to research. The beautiful thing about writing a book based in and around a supermarket is that every boring food shopping trip becomes research. I try to chat to the checkout workers to get useful bits of information and I like observing the other customers and what’s going on.
7. Are the characters in your books based on any real life?
They are not specifically based on real life people but sometimes they are amalgams of people. I often make notes about people I see in real life or on TV, for future reference.
8. What made you decide to turn to writing crime novels?
I’ve always read a lot of crime, but for the past two years, that’s pretty much all I’ve read. I don’t know why it took me so long to think of writing a crime novel myself, but once I’d found Bea, my main character, it was an absolute joy to write this sort of crime story, which, although contemporary and with a bit of a dark thread running through it, is on the cosy end of the scale.
9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?
I think it’s almost impossible to know how much of yourself you are putting into your characters. I’m quite calm, quite self-contained, which wouldn’t make for very good reading, I think. My characters are more sociable and more fun than me!
10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you might planned.
I’ve started writing a sequel to The Cost of Living. I’m about half way and have a title all ready. I’ve got three or four more Ant and Bea plots in my head, and I would love it if I got the chance to write them. Writing Ant and Bea stories is my current ‘happy place’.
11. If you had the opportunity to write a novel with any crime writer alive or dead, who would it be and why?
I’m a huge Henning Mankell fan and was terribly upset when he died in 2015. I would have liked to have seen him in real life, although I probably would have been too shy to talk to him, let alone write with him. There are lots of living writers that I admire. I love Ann Cleeves’ characters and the worlds she creates, and so it would be a joy to write with, and learn from, her.
12. Do you have words of advice you can share with anyone who is interested in writing a novel?
Write what you would like to read. Write what makes you happy or fulfils some sort of need in you. Make notes of plot ideas, or observations as you go about your daily business. I used to keep a notebook to hand, but now I jot down notes on my phone. Try reading your work out loud (to an empty room, or an obliging cat or dog – I’ve got a long-suffering collie cross). It really helps to locate problem areas in your text and things that need fixing.
When a young woman is attacked walking home from her local supermarket, Bea Jordan, a smart but unfulfilled checkout girl, is determined to investigate. Colleagues and customers become suspects, secrets are uncovered. While fear stalks the town, Bea finds an unlikely ally in Ant, the seemingly gormless new trainee, but risks losing the people she loves most as death comes close to home. The Cost of Living is a warm, contemporary story with likeable leads, an engaging cast of supporting characters and a dark thread running throughout.
Rachel Ward Novels
The Chaos (Numbers #2)
Infinity (Numbers #3)
Water Born (The Drowning #2)
Sandstone Press Website http://sandstonepress.com/books/the-cost-of-living
The Cost of Living Blog Tour