Blog tour: 9 to 24 January 2020
Seven guests. One killer. A holiday to remember …
Not all the guests will survive their stay …
You use an app, called Cloud BNB, to book a room online. And on a cold and windy afternoon you arrive at The Guesthouse, a dramatic old building on a remote stretch of hillside in Ireland.
You are expecting a relaxing break, but you find something very different. Something unimaginable. Because a killer has lured you and six other guests here and now you can’t escape.
One thing’s for certain: not all of you will come back from this holiday alive …
Q&A with Abbie Frost
Today on my blog, I’m bringing you a Q&A with Abbie Frost. It’s a really informative read and gives an interesting insight into the book and Abbie herself!
1. Can you tell us a bit about The Guesthouse and what inspired it?
When a mansion in an isolated area of Ireland is turned into a guest house, with a tempting opening offer, the first rooms are booked by a random mix of people. There’s Hannah, who needs to be alone to come to terms with her boyfriend’s death. Mo, treating his elderly father to a short break. A family of three using the place as temporary accommodation until they move house. And Lucy, a musician hoping for peace and quiet to write some new songs. When the weather closes in, however, their relaxing visit turns terrifying.
The novel was inspired by the closed circle mysteries, which were so popular during the golden age of crime fiction. Last year, I was incredibly lucky to be asked to lecture on the history of English whodunnits aboard the Queen Mary 2. To prepare, I had to reread many of my favourite authors: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, Francis Isles, etc. When I was talking (make that boasting!) about the trip to my editor, he suggested I try writing a contemporary take on the classic format – the country house mystery – but set firmly in the 21st century.
So, The Guesthouse may be a remote mansion, but the characters are not the privileged folk at the centre of most golden age mysteries. Instead, they are a mix of ordinary people who have used an online site to book a short holiday. However, as the hours and days pass, all the guests are revealed to have dark secrets as well as some surprising links to The Guesthouse itself. It turns out that neither they, nor the house, are quite what they seem.
2. Which writers and books have most influenced your writing and why?
Like most authors, I have always been a voracious reader and I’m sure the writers I loved when I was very young, like C.S. Lewis, Phillipa Pearce and Alan Garner, who all created atmospheric worlds with mysterious elements, continue to have an influence. As an adult, it’s probably been Wilkie Collins, Daphne Du Maurier, Barbara Vine and Patricia Highsmith – creators of complex and conflicted characters caught up in crime almost by accident. But I’m sure I gain something from every book that makes an impact on me.
3. What triggered your desire to start writing thriller fiction and what do you enjoy the most and the least about it?
I write the kind of fiction that I most enjoy reading.
The best moment is when the essence of a compelling story seems to have become fully formed. In my mind, at least!
The worst times usually come about halfway through the writing, when I have to accept that some of my brilliant ideas won’t actually work and I must force myself to give up on them.
4. Why did you choose to set The Guesthouse in Ireland?
Ireland is a beautiful place with a history that is fascinating, mystical and also tragic. There are still areas that feel incredibly isolated and the unpredictable weather adds to the sense that mysterious things could happen at any moment.
I have Irish ancestry on both sides and have always felt a great affinity for the place. Like so many others, my ancestors left because of the terrible potato famine and the memory of that nightmare time remains potent.
5. The Guesthouse is quite the dramatic holiday experience. What is the most memorable holiday you’ve been on?
It has to be last year, when I crossed the North Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2. Although it was a working holiday, I loved every minute. The ship was even more glamorous than I had imagined – very art deco with a definite Poirot vibe. Dressing for dinner every night, breakfast in bed each morning, sitting on my stateroom balcony with a glass of bubbly as I watched the Statue of Liberty vanish from view: totally magical.
6. What are you reading at the moment?
Over Christmas, I read books by lots of my favourite writers, including Philip Pullman’s latest, The Secret Commonwealth. Masterful writing and a huge imagination at work. I’ve recently finished Jill Dawson’s The Language of Birds, which is a fictionalisation of the Lord Lucan mystery. Dawson puts the murdered nanny – Sandra Rivett, re-imagined as Mandy – at the centre of the story, where she should be, and brings her to vibrant life. Before that, it was S.K. Tremayne’s The Assistant, a tense and terrifying combination of psychological suspense and science fiction. And I was lucky enough to obtain an advanced copy of Sheila Bugler’s new one, I Could Be You, an enthralling mystery set on the south coast of England, close to where I live. I’m just starting Emma Donoghue’s Akin and am interested to see how she will manage the point of view of an old man after her brilliant take on that of a little boy in Room.
7. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote and what was it about?
I was always writing stories, so I’m not sure what would qualify as the first, but it was likely to be a very bad knock-off of one of Enid Blyton’s tales of a group of daring youngsters foiling the schemes of some dastardly criminals.
8. Is there a particular place you like to write?
I usually stand to write – as apparently did Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway. Straight onto a laptop, which sits on a shelf just above waist height in our dining room. When my legs get tired, or I want to read back what I’ve written, I curl up in a rocking chair beside a gas fire that looks and feels like a real one. So it’s quite cosy.
9. You’ve worked as a teacher, actor and scriptwriter and now author of fiction. Can you give us four top lines of advice for anyone wanting to get into these professions?
Teacher – treat children with the same respect you would give to adults.
Actor – have another job to fall back on. You will need it.
Scriptwriter – act everything out yourself before you submit a script.
Author – read, read, read, write, write, write and never give up.
10. If you had to go on holiday with six characters from fiction, who would you go with?
Du Maurier’s Rebecca, she’d organise some brilliant parties and I could quiz her about what really happened with the deplorable/adorable Maxim.
Elizabeth Bennet, to put down Rebecca if she gets too much.
Mrs Ariadne Oliver, my favourite Christie detective, who I’m sure is Agatha in disguise.
Beatrice Stubbs, J.J. Marsh’s retired police inspector: wherever the holiday takes place she would source the best food and drink.
C.J. Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake – I just love him.
And the late and lamented Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther: witty, conflicted and devilishly attractive.
Buy the book
About the author
Abbie Frost (the pen name of author Chris Curran) was born in London but now lives in St Leonards-on-Sea near Hastings, on the south coast of England, in a house groaning with books.
She left school at 16 to work in the local library – her dream job then and now – and spent an idyllic few months reading her way around the shelves. Reluctantly returning to full-time education, she gained her degree from Sussex University.
Since then, she has worked as an actress, script writer, copy editor and teacher, all the time looking forward to the day when she would see her own books gracing those library shelves.
Thanks to Rebecca Bryant at HarperFiction for my copy of The Guesthouse and for my place on the blog tour and thanks to Abbie Frost for answering questions for this blog post.
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