Originally posted on Crime Book Club
PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME HERE BY TANIA CHANDLER INTERVIEW
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy blog tour to answer some questions for Crime Book Club.
1. Can I just start by saying how much I enjoyed reading ‘Please Don’t Leave Me Here’. You had me from the first page until the last, I was left open mouthed at the end of part 1. Can you tell us about it, and where your inspiration came from?
Thank you so much!
PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME HERE is a tale of murder, love and despair. It starts with my protagonist, Brigitte, married with three-year-old twins, but her marriage and her very sanity, is being undermined by the pull of the past. Fourteen years ago Brigitte was left for dead by a hit-and-run driver. She claims to have no memory of events before her accident, including the body found in her apartment.
Whether or not Brigitte really is a killer is the anchor to the story, but the whodunnit element matters less than how Brigitte ends up, how she faces her inner demons and wins or loses.
The inspiration for this story came one day when I was flicking through my old journals and I came across an entry from the day that Kurt Cobain was found dead. I was surprised by how different my memory of the time was compared to what I had written in my journal. It made me think about the memories we hold and how they become skewed over time. I wanted to explore the idea of whether or not people ever really change – with age, circumstances, relationships. What remains constant and what shifts?
I was also inspired by music, art, books, objects, smells, dreams, memories, snippets of conversations overheard on the tram.
2. Did you know you wanted to write in the crime genre or did your characters bring you here?
Initially, I had delusions of writing literary fiction. I was doing a Professional Writing and Editing diploma at the time and was surprised that my classmates thought I was writing a thriller. But my teacher said it lacked tension. I was stuck for a while. Then one day I got frustrated with the feedback, and I thought, ‘What would be the one thing I could do to really increase the tension?’ Answer: I wrote a homicide detective. And that was the key!
I went back to the drawing board, thought a lot about plot and structure, rewrote in third person (it was originally written in first), read a lot of crime fiction and did some research. From there on, the writing got easier, and it became the story it was meant to be.
3. Did you write from an early age?
Yes. I started writing stories when I was about five, and I’ve always kept journals.
4. I was so conflicted about different characters throughout, I found myself loving and hating them for their actions or lack of, was that your intention?
Yes, that was my intention. All my characters are flawed, and none are completely good or completely bad. I hope this makes them more human.
The character I felt most conflicted about was Matt. I don’t think he loved or helped Brigitte enough. Under the charm, he was self-righteous and condescending, and he wanted to change her. Aidan was the only one who knew everything about her and accepted her anyway.
5. When you include a famous person in a fictional book you can open yourself up to the readers. Did you feel any pressure to research Kurt Cobain’s death in depth?
I wasn’t a big Nirvana/Kurt Cobain fan before I started writing PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME HERE, but I was by the end. Researching Kurt’s death, I found myself captivated by his story and his music. So sad. It was more his essence rather than true events surrounding his death that I wanted to capture. Kurt helped set the mood of the book as well as the time, and he symbolised despair and tragedy.
6. What was the last book you read that you would consider a must read?
‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’ by Australian author Richard Flanagan.
I also recently reread ‘The Great Gatsby’ and was blown away by the great story, the portrait of the 1920s, and the elegant prose. Like most people I was made to read this book when I was too young to understand it, but it’s definitely a must read (the second time around).
7. I like that we see Brigitte in many different lights and found myself shouting at her many times through the book, did you enjoy writing her?
Writing Brigitte was up and down, as you can imagine – sometimes it was fun, and sometimes it was distressing. It sounds cruel, but when writing scenes, I would think: What’s the worst thing that could happen here? OK, now rewrite it and make it worse for her.
8. Do you have any rituals for when you are writing? Such as a desk in the basement, with poor lighting and a loud dripping sound……
No rituals really, although it sounds like you’re describing my house! I wrote most of PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME HERE between the hours of 5 and 7a.m. My kids were small, I was studying, and running a small business from home, so the early mornings were the only times I had for writing. I still stick to that routine because it seems to be my most productive time.
9. Your novel includes so much loss and addiction that as a reader I felt Brigitte’s pain and the spiral into her drastic actions. Did you have to research what could take her to that point of not wanting to live and the drugs involved?
I sought advice from psychologists, and GPs about which prescription drugs, or drug combinations, would plausibly cause reactions like nightmares and hallucinations.
Brigitte’s drastic actions were mostly accidental. It’s not hard to imagine how something like this could happen – a patient in pain (physical as well as emotional) being prescribed medications and then abusing them.
10. Can you tell us what is next for Tania Chandler?
I’m putting the finishing touches on my second novel, the sequel to PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME HERE. It’s more crime fiction than psychological thriller, although, like in PDLMH, the characters are more important than the crime. It’s set five years later, on an island in the middle of an inland lakes system where there is no way off after the last ferry leaves for the night. Brigitte and several of the original characters return.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and for such a good read.