26 Jul 2016

The Unravelling by Thorne Moore

Genre: Domestic noir
Release Date: 21 July 2016
Publisher: Honno Press
From the Top Ten Bestselling Author of A Time for Silence

The Unravelling
When they were ten everybody wanted to be Serena’s friend, to find themselves one of the inner circle. But doing so meant proving your worth, and doing that often had consequences it’s not nice to think about – not even thirty-five years later.
Karen Rothwell is randomly reminded of an incident in her childhood which just as suddenly becomes an obsession. It takes her on a journey into a land of secrets and lies; it means finding that gang of girls from Marsh Green Junior School and most importantly of all finding Serena Whinn.

Praise for Thorne Moore’s novels

‘A true page turner’

‘The most chilling part of Thorne Moore's skill is the way that she represents evil' – Helen Tozer, sideline jelly

Honno Press
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Hi Thorne! Can you tell us a little about your latest book?
The Unravelling is a psychological mystery or, if you prefer, Domestic Noir. It’s narrated by Karen Rothwell, as a random event – an apple rolling into a gutter – resurrects memories of a girl she knew, back in the mid 1960s, when she was ten. Time, or something else, has wiped out all thought of Serena Whinn, whom the young Karen had worshipped, but now, memories start slotting back into place and Karen becomes obsessed. She has to go back, to rediscover the friends and places and events of her childhood. Whatever it was that happened back in 1966, it left Karen damaged, mentally and physically, but it left everyone else damaged too. The unravelling of the truth could put things right – or it could make everything worse. Either way, Karen can’t stop.

What inspired you to write it?
I was vaguely remembering children I’d been at school with (I’m the same age as Karen), and wondering what had become of them – of the boy who emigrated to Australia, or the girl who took me once to her Sunday School in a corrugated iron Gospel Hall. I couldn’t even remember their names in most cases, but I was intrigued to know what seeds had been sown at junior school. Had any paths continued to cross, or had they all headed off over different horizons? From that idle thought came an idea for a story in which paths could not diverge, because something had bound them together for ever. Something sinister, of course.

How did you come up with the idea for the cover?
I didn’t. My publisher is in charge of that.

If it was made into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters?
This is very difficult. Do you choose actors who could convey the right emotion, or just select people who look right? Lesley Sharpe and Suranne Jones are two options and I gather they might have some free time soon. Anyway, I wouldn’t mind if actors looked all wrong, as long as their characters came across as I intended. Although, who am I kidding? If I were offered a film of my book, I wouldn’t mind who played anyone.

Is it part of a series or is it a stand-alone novel?
Very much a stand-alone novel. It has closure, as they say.

Where is the novel set and why did you choose to set it there?
It’s set all around England and Wales as Karen goes in search of her old friends, but the scene of the action in the 1960s is Lyford, which is a fictional town near London. Fictional, except that it’s constructed out of my million and one images of Luton, where I grew up, and most especially the estate where I lived. I used the layout of the estate, with its prefabs being demolished to make way for tower blocks and grids of council houses on land that had been farmland only a decade or two before. There’s a brook still running through it, which disappears into culverts and suddenly reappears a hundred yards away. There are paved lanes that, back in the sixties, were still muddy, shaded farm tracks, even though they no longer led to farm houses. There’s a parade of shops, and allotments by the railway line. All appear in the book, though rearranged.

What is it about this genre that appeals to you so much?
It’s about people shaken out of their comfortable grooves. I’m not really interested in writing about carefully planned murders, committed by clever villains determined to cover up the evidence and outwit the law – traditional whodunits. I’m interested in small domestic murders that were never intended, committed by ordinary people pushed over the brink, and in the consequences for perpetrators, victim’s friends and families. Grief and guilt and panic. Why, rather than how.

What made you want to become an author?
I never wanted to be anything else. I write about consequences, and that’s what history is: a long string of consequences, so I enjoyed studying history, but my headmaster advised me to study law. I absolutely refused, because studying law meant becoming a lawyer, and I was going to be a writer. Nothing else. It only took me forty years.

How do you come up with character names?
I do often use surnames in my family, and first names too, occasionally – in my family tree, that is, working on the assumption that a great-great grandmother can hardly object. I try to avoid using names of acquaintances. In The Unravelling, I avoided using the few first names I can remember from junior school, because I didn’t want to risk anyone mistakenly identifying themselves. The place might be real enough, but the characters are purely fictional, invented to meet the needs of the story. I do use names that are common for the period. There’s a website called FreeBMD which indexes birth registrations since 1837 and I go for names that were popular in the year my characters were born. One exception is Serena Whinn, the girl that Karen is desperate to find. I wanted an uncommon name that couldn’t be found just by checking in a phone directory, so I went for the more unusual. Serena because it suggests serene and Whinn, which has an element of whistling in the wind.

Do you struggle to come up with book titles? Do they come before, during or after you've written your book?
They come towards the end, or after. I start with an idea and use a working title – usually “that book” – until something falls into place. Sometimes it doesn’t fall and I struggle. Sometimes the perfect title comes to me and then I check on Amazon and find that fifty other writers have already used it, which can be annoying.

Name one of your all-time favourite books?
The Bell, by Iris Murdoch. It has it all, hugely memorable and complex characters, agonizing dilemmas, humour, provocative thought, a wonderful setting and evocative descriptions. And it’s riddled with lines that I keep quoting.

Who, or what, inspires you?
Place, mostly. An image of a place, in the flesh (?) or in my mind, sparks off notions of what might happen there. And news stories, little insignificant items that leave me pondering why?

Where is your favourite place to write?
In bed, on my laptop. Probably not a good idea, but my brain works best at 6 am.

What is your favourite movie that was based on a book?
Hm. I was very impressed by the recent film of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, because I thought it impossible to feed such a complicated book into the confines of a 2 hour film, but they did it very well. Whether it made any sense to anyone who hadn’t read the book is another matter.

Name two of your favourite authors.
Jane Austen. Linda Huber.

Tell us a random fact about yourself.
I ran a restaurant for a while, and spent about 18 hours a day making pies.

Who would play you in the movie about your life?

I don’t know. It would have to be someone very charismatic, or the audience would be asleep within 30 seconds.

Tell us an interesting fact about where you live.

It’s a Victorian farm cottage, which was extended and altered in the twentieth century, but I’ve discovered that it’s on the site of a Mediaeval mansion. I’d love to see some proper archaeology – not just the random unearthing of things when I’m digging the garden.

What are your (writing) plans for the future?
To keep on writing till I die. I have one new book with an agent and another being tweaked, and then a couple more ideas. I might bring out a book of short stories, to tie in with my novels.

Tell us one thing that's on your bucket list.
I’d love to visit Skara Brae.

Favourite myth / fairytale?
Dick Whittington, since the real Sir Richard was so fascinating in his own right, and it just goes to show how stories grow like Chinese whispers.

Who/What did you want to be when you were a kid?
A writer. Before that (i.e. when I was about 5), I was conflicted: either a missionary or a tight-rope walker. So hard to choose.

Thorne Moore was born in Luton but has lived in in the back of beyond in north Pembrokeshire for 32 years. She has degrees in History and Law, worked in a library and ran a family restaurant as well as a miniature furniture craft business, which is still in Production, but she now concentrates on writing psychological crime mysteries.
Twitter: @ThorneMoore
Goodreads Author Page


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  1. Great interview, ladies. good luck with your wonderful book, Thorne.


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