Somewhere to review books I'm reading without giving away any spoilers!
I am delighted to share author Jo Wesley’s answers to my questions today! Read on to discover more about an inspirational meeting, writing processes and, of course, ‘Simon Says’…….
Where did you get the inspiration for the book/series?
During a one-to-one meeting with a commissioning agent at a writing conference, I was advised to find a hook for my next book. Something that ‘hadn’t been done’. An impossible task but I noticed at work that there were growing concerns in social care around the issue of child grooming, although it hadn’t reached the media in any substantial way at that time. When considering this novel, I decided to write one timeline from the perspective of the child to show how easily it is to ensnare a vulnerable person. Simon Says is a thriller, but unusual in the sense that it does have this first-person viewpoint.
What is your writing process?
I don’t have a specific process. If I have free time – which is currently limited due to work being very busy – I’ll grab the laptop and write. This could be for minutes or hours, depending on available time. I don’t tend to plan – I am generally a ‘pantser’ – but I had to stop midway through Simon Says as it became complex, to plan each alternate chapter so they came together at the end.
Who is your favourite character and why?
Cindy’s vulnerability stems from wanting to be loved and to feel special. But she’s also brave, gullible, intelligent, headstrong, stupid, honest and an opportunistic thief (when it comes to her mum’s cigarettes). She was an amalgamation of many of my friends and she also incorporates a bit my childhood self. Thankfully, I never came across Simon as my naïve younger self would have fallen for his ‘spiel’.
If you were a character in your story, which would you like to be?
Of the books I have written, Simon Says is my favourite but I wouldn’t want to be a character in it. Growing up in a benefit-dependent household is challenging and I have no desire to go back to childhood again. While Cindy is my favourite character, I do admire Marion and Troy. Marion is a hard-working and proud lady who does what she can to bring in money and provide Troy with a stable life. And he is a good person – kind and strong – and an amazing friend to Cindy. But I’ll stick with being me.
How and why did you choose the names for your main characters?
The main character’s name is Cynthia but she shortens it to Cindy and later comes to hate even the shortened version of her name, particularly as it has connotations of Sindy, as in the doll. Later she changes her name to Karis but has no choice but to return to her former name when her past catches up.
The antagonist’s name wasn’t a deliberate choice. Cindy’s mum starts out not trusting Simon and calls him Slimeball. Slimeball Sime suited him, so he became Simon, which worked well with the title (chosen after the book had been completed).
Troy was a deliberate choice for Cindy’s best friend. It could suggest a parent’s love of Greek mythology or could have been chosen for any other reason. The important point was that Troy’s name was as out-of-place as him in the social sphere he’d been transported to after his parents’ divorce but – unlike Cindy who thought she would have to look after him – he had the stability of a loving family to enable him to flourish.
Her life may not be perfect but she’s happy. Until she makes a terrible decision – and learns the hard way that home is not a place of refuge.
Not while Simon lurks in every shadow.
He groomed her as a teen: terrorised her into fleeing, leaving her baby behind. Now the man who destroyed her childhood has become the perfect father to her teenage daughter. And her return threatens his future.
A desperate man is a dangerous one.
Simon says she must leave or suffer the consequences. She refuses.
Now it’s his move. Because it’s not enough to face your demons.
Sometimes, you must destroy them.
Author Bio –
SIMON SAYS isn’t my first thriller. Several unpublished novels went before it, but there was something about this story that made me come back to it time-and-time again. Although it was written in 2015, recently a few author friends encouraged me to publish it as they remembered reading it years before.
I used to work in an office where the wider team comprised people working with drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and general community safety. I wrote SIMON SAYS during this period and my team provided information and advice. Also, the Red Watch team at the local fire station read my first chapter during their tea break and advised on a couple of points to make it more accurate (I thought it would be one person, not the whole team reading it!).
Currently, I am completing a novel in another genre but I really enjoy writing thrillers, so I am planning my next one.
Twitter – https://twitter.com/JoWwriter
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Many thanks to Jo Wesley for kindly answering my questions and to
Rachel’s Random Resources for providing materials for this post
and organising the tour it is part of.