As mentioned in today’s IFoA update, Stevie Cameron, whose latest non-fiction book, On the Farm, takes readers on a grueling journey through the Robert Pickton trial, will be hosting a round table discussion on the moral issues explored in the various sub-genres of crime fiction. One of those panelists, bestselling author Louise Doughty, spoke to The Excerpt about her latest novel, Whatever You Love, a chilling story of a child’s tragic death and the slow unhinging of the grieving mother left behind.
The Excerpt: Give us your one-sentence pitch for the new book.
LD: Whatever You Love is about a woman whose child is killed in a hit-and-run accident and decides to get revenge on the driver, not by killing him, but by finding out what he loves and taking it away from him.
The Excerpt: How long have you been working on this book?
LD: It took two and a half years to write, although I might have done it a bit more quickly if it wasn’t for a newspaper column, broadcasting, and two children…
The Excerpt: Tell us a little about the writing and editorial process. Did anything surprise you about the process? Was it different from your other books?
LD: This book was quite different for me as it was the first time I had written a whole novel from the point of view of one person, in the first person. I think there is probably quite a lot of me in the character of Laura, which is maybe slightly worrying. I did have a bit of a structural crisis with this one which made me ground to a halt three quarters of the way through but I solved it with some drastic surgery. Every book is different, every one throws up new challenges.
The Excerpt: What do you hope to achieve with this book?
LD: It’s really a book about love and how far a so-called ordinary person will go to hang on to what they love. I hope the reader will find it a gripping plot but also be challenged by the character of Laura. You can’t help but sympathise with her in the beginning but then her behaviour gradually departs from what most people would find acceptable even for someone in deep grief. The driver of the car is quite demonised to start off with, but then you get a sense of his story too. I suppose I am trying to say that things are almost always a bit more complicated than they first appear. There are flashback scenes to when Laura meets and falls for her husband David, and I was also trying to write about romantic love and how hard it is to keep that going once children come along.
The Excerpt: Are you working on anything new yet?
LD: I’m working on a non-fiction idea, a sort of cultural history with some memoir-ish elements. I’m not going to say any more than that at the moment. I have the new novel in my head as well, though, brewing away.
The Excerpt: Do you have any special plans for your stay in Toronto? Any sites you want to take in while you’re here?
LD: I went to the AGO yesterday and thought it was fantastic—I listened to one of their lunchtime concerts and saw the Julian Schnabel expedition. I would love to take a ferry to the islands and go to the Shoe Museum if I have time. And this sounds really obvious, but I can’t believe how big Lake Ontario is. I keep staring at it from my hotel window…