Culture Street

Books

In conversation with Sophie McKenzie

On June 13, 2013

By Sophia Whitfield

Sophie McKenizie is sitting in her north London home enjoying the recent success of her latest book Close My Eyes which has been selected as a Richard and Judy pick for the summer in the UK. It has just been released in Australia, the UK and the US. Each country has selected a slightly different cover. Australia has gone with the white, perhaps indicative of clinical madness, the UK with black depicting dark undertones and the US for a bold type evoking eerie suspense. McKenzie can’t choose which her favourite is. Each one has merit.

A former journalist, McKenzie turned her hand to writing teen fiction five years ago. She is an award-winning author of YA fiction. Her books such as Girl, Missing and the Luke and Eve trilogy have received wide acclaim.  Close My Eyes is McKenzie’s first foray into the world of adult novels.

She follows the many journalists who have turned to novel writing. McKenzie says it wasn’t necessarily an automatic shift from journalistic writing to creative writing, but journalism taught her that she had to sit down a write every day.

“I could hardly turn up to work and tell my editor I didn’t feel inspired to write today.”

It is this discipline that has fuelled her commitment to writing.

McKenzie worked on Close My Eyes over a five-year period picking it up whenever she had a break from writing her teen fiction. It was a slightly different process to the one writing for teenagers. After her first draft McKenzie’s editor suggested that perhaps she didn’t need to explain everything in so much detail, a trait left over from writing for children. She added more layers to her characters and to her plot.

“Instead of heading directly to my destination I looked out of the window and took in the scenery before finally arriving at my destination.”

However it was writing for children that first sparked this story. McKenzie said this book came from a short story she wrote for children, based on the Arthur legend The Sword in the Stone.

The three protagonists names, Geniver, Art and Lorcan, all come from the famous legend. McKenzie references the Grail in Close My Eyes as being a woman craving for a child. The working title of her novel was ‘Grail’ and the final title Close My Eyes, McKenzie admits, was confirmed only at the 11th hour.

McKenzie’s book features Geniver, a mother still distraught some eight years after the loss of her only child. McKenzie concedes that she is not one for research, but she did speak with parents who had lost a child, as she did not want to be “disrespectful”. She needed to capture the sense of losing a child and the devastation it can wreak on a life.

With Close My Eyes McKenzie has launched herself as an adept author of the psychological thriller. The popularity of this genre continues to grow. She joins the ranks of other female authors such as Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) who are discovering that crime does pay. It seems thrillers written by women are extraordinarily popular with women. McKenzie shies away from any such comparisons.

“Women like a good story, the story is king, if you have that right, nothing else matters.  A dark domestic tale with suspense and intrigue will always have an audience.”

Close My Eyes is a page-turner, one that might just keep you up at night. McKenzie is now enjoying the freedom that comes with writing for adults. Her next book Trust in Me will be published next year.

 

 

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