Mark Edwards is the author of The Magpies, Because She Loves Me, Follow Me Home, The Devil’s Work and The Lucky Ones. He has also co-written various crime novels with Louise Voss including Killing Cupid andThe Blissfully Dead. His latest novel The Retreat, was published by Thomas and Mercer on 10 May 2018.
Mark kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about The Retreat.
The Retreat is about a missing girl, her desperate mother and creepy goings-on at a writers’ retreat in Wales. It starts when a successful horror writer, Lucas, heads to the retreat to work on his new book. When he gets there he discovers that the daughter of the woman who runs the retreat, Julia, went missing two years ago and supposedly drowned. He sets out to find her…but someone in the nearby town is determined to stop him from discovering the truth. The Retreat is about urban legends and the power of scary stories and is full of intrigue, secrets and things that go bump in the night.
2. What inspired the book?
It started with a vision. I pictured a family walking along a river on a wet, cold day. The child runs ahead and when her parents catch up she is nowhere to be seen. But her favourite cuddly toy is in the water… I wrote the book to find out what had happened to her. That’s often how my books start – with a scene, a puzzle that I don’t know the answer to.
I decided to set it at a writer’s retreat because, as above, this novel is about storytelling and the danger of believing everything you’re told. I also wanted a group of characters with overactive imaginations – and writers fit the bill better than anyone!
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I am what they call a pantser. I don’t plot the book out; I rely on my instincts. I can see the shape of the book in my head, and there are always key scenes which come to me when I’m planning it. But I rarely know how it’s going to end and I certainly don’t know exactly how I’m going to get to that ending. I do, however, figure out the back story before I start. I knew what had happened to Lily, the missing girl. I need to know the motivation of my baddies because that drives so much of what happens.
4. Having been through the publishing process many times is there anything about the process of creating a novel that still surprises you?
I feel like I forget how to write a novel as soon as I finish one, so it’s always a surprise! Including my co-written books with Louise Voss, The Retreat is my thirteenth published novel, and there were several before that, so I ought to have a template by now. I always promise myself that my next book won’t have such a complex plot, because I often have terrible problems making everything fit together – and then I end up with yet another mind-boggling narrative.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I have a house full of children and pets so most of my spare time is spent catering to their every whim and trying to stop them from destroying the house. I don’t get out much so I relax by watching box sets and films, reading, playing Nintendo with my kids and listening to podcasts (I’m a recent convent to the joys of audio). My favourite night out would be spent doing karaoke. I love karaoke. It’s a passion I picked up when I lived in Tokyo. I am a terrible mic hog though…
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
The Secret History by Donna Tartt. It’s the perfect novel: atmospheric, cerebral but easy to read, full of fascinating characters and it depicts a world I’d love to live in. I’ve already read it seven times and am slightly obsessed with it.
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
No one’s ever asked me what songs I’d like played at my funeral and I’m a huge music fan so here goes: Summertime Sadness by Lana Del Rey; Just Like Heaven by The Cure; The Wild Ones by Suede; The Good Will Out by Embrace.
You can read my review of The Retreat here.
About the book
Julia Marsh has spent the last two years grieving the tragic accident that lead to her husband drowning before her eyes in a local river. Her eight-year-old daughter Lily is still missing, presumed dead. Now living alone, Julia finds herself unable to move on, convinced that Lily is still alive. But as money runs out, Julia needs to find a way to keep hold of their beautiful and secluded family home. She decides to open a writer’s retreat.
Lucas is a successful novelist suffering from writer’s block and one of the first guests. He’s no stranger to personal tragedy and forms an instant bond with his host, Julia. The longer he stays, the more a local legend of the Red Widow, a fabled witch who kidnaps young girls, captures his imagination. But as Lucas delves into details of these disappearances, and as locals take more than a passing interest in his investigations, Lucas finds himself at the center of a very real horror story. The retreat is harboring secrets: all Lucas must do is separate the facts from the fiction before the ghosts of this small town.
About the author
Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which terrifying things happen to ordinary people. Mark’s first solo novel, The Magpies (2013), reached the No.1 spot on the Amazon UK Kindle bestseller list, as did his third novel Because She Loves Me (2014), and Follow Me Home (2015). His previous novels, The Devil’s Work (2016) and The Lucky Ones (2017) were also published to great critical acclaim and commercial success. He has also co-written various crime novels with Louise Voss such as Killing Cupid (2011) and The Blissfully Dead (2015). His titles with Amazon Publishing have reached over a million readers.
Mark grew up on the south coast of England and started writing in his twenties while working in a number of dead-end jobs. He lived in Tokyo for a year, and is a great admirer of Japanese writers and horror films. Mark lives near Wolverhamtpon, England, with his wife, their three children and a ginger cat. The Retreat was strongly inspired by local folklore and urban myths from Mark’s childhood and by his daughter Poppy. When walking their dog in the woods, Poppy told Mark a story about her friends arguing about whether a local legend was true or not. Poppy and Mark would brainstorm ideas for the book on their daily walks, and Mark now credits her as his co-writer and a budding author herself. http://www.markedwardsauthor.com