The psychological thriller Valentina was the January pick for readers of the Waterstones Teddington Book Club who met with author S. E. Lynes at the Landmark Arts Centre to discuss her debut novel.
After an introduction by Julie from Waterstones, Susie talked a little about how she came to write Valentina and her experiences of getting published for the first time. She read an extract and took Q&As from the floor.
We learned that, on structuring her novel, Susie was less interested in the body count than in mental violence. That her favourite character to write was Valentina. That one of the main themes is loneliness. The unusual structure of the novel, with the reader slightly ahead of Shona in working out what was coming, or nearly working out what was coming , was discussed. Some people got the twists as they were reading. To others they came as a complete shock. Unlike Shona, Susie explained, readers of psychological thrillers are looking for the clues. So why not put the reader ahead? And in new mum Shona's defense, nobody lives their life as if they're in a psychological thriller with everybody out to get you. "You'd have a nervous breakdown". There are many clues hidden within the narrative, which warranted a pleasurable second reading for one reader present. Quite an accolade for a debut novel by an unknown author.
Authors Susie admires include Pat Barker, Alice Munro ("she shines a light on moments we don't stop to think about"), and Elena Ferrante.
We were delighted to discover that Valentina has become a local bestseller in Teddington and that Waterstones are starting to recommend the novel to other branches. Valentina's reputation is also set to grow via Susie's place in the finals of The People's Book Prize and Beryl Bainbridge First Time Author Award, 2017 and on The Waverton Good Read longlist.
More details on Waterstones Teddington's book club at Landmark Arts here. With many thanks to Nick & Julie.