This week, Louise Candlish is publishing her latest novel The Other Passenger, the first title in her latest two-book deal with Simon & Schuster UK. She spoke to The Bookseller on Twitter about her new book, her influences and her past successes.
Set aboard the Thames riverbuses and described by Candlish as a "commuter noir", The Other Passenger is a psychological suspense novel following two couples: Jamie and Clare, an older couple in their late forties, and Kit and Melia, two younger millennials.
Narrator Jamie has just started commuting to work by riverboat and has made a group of friends, led by neighbour, Kit. After the group goes for drinks one evening, Kit isn't on the morning boat. When Jamie disembarks, the police are waiting. Kit’s wife, Melia, has reported him missing and other passengers saw the new friends arguing on the last boat home.
Speaking to The Bookseller, Candlish commented: "I am so excited about this book as it came very fluently, the characters are fantastically cynical and double-crossing (my favourite kind!) It's commuter noir, set on the Thames riverbuses (loosely based on the Clippers) and tackling a Gen X/Millennial conflict."
Candlish also takes influence from film noir, particularly "Double Indemnity" which influenced The Other Passenger: "I'm very interested in envy and status and I wanted to create a contemporary femme fatale in Melia." She added: "I have huge sympathy for young people, especially right now - it is not possible to acquire the kinds of lifestyle trappings of my gen."
Candlish's last novel Our House (S&S, 2018) scooped the 2019 British Book Awards Crime & Thriller Book of the Year, just as the author was on the brink of giving up her writing career: "Our House changed everything for me as it was my last attempt - I was all set to give up. I couldn't believe it when it took off" she said to Jones.
Read the full conversation below.
Hello, so this is @philipdsjones talking with @louise_candlish for our inaugural #AuthorFirst conversations with writers on the cusp of publication; in this case #TheOtherPassenger due out on the 25th June: how are you Louise? And how is lockdown for you?— The Bookseller (@thebookseller) June 18, 2020
Hi there and thank you for inviting me! Lockdown began by being the same old writer's lifestyle, but now I'm getting bored with EVERYONE being at home!
I know you are about to publish a **new** book (more on that shortly), but have you also found the time/peace to write during the past few months?
Yes, I've been writing my release for next year and really enjoying it. It's the first time I've really enjoyed writing some of the mundane details like ordering a coffee - and I've just written a scene set at a party, where everyone is crammed into a few rooms...
Your books are very contemporary, so are you having to think about how you handle the lockdown? One thriller writer told me it would be a great time to hide a body (not mine, I hoped)...
A very good question and writers have talked a lot about how to handle 2020 in fiction. I don't tend to reference current affairs in my novels (for instance I ignored the 2012 Olympics!), but this is so huge and all-encompassing I've decided to take the action back to 2019...
Ah, smart move; can't wait to read it. So tell us about The Other Passenger (no spoilers), it's another twisty thriller with a great start, compelling middle, and unexpected ending...
Thank you - I am so excited about this book as it came very fluently, the characters are fantastically cynical and double-crossing (my favourite kind!) It's commuter noir, set on the Thames riverbuses (loosely based on the Clippers) and tackling a Gen X/Millennial conflict.
And with a hint of "Double Indemnity" about it - how did you come up with the two main characters Kit and Melia and their motivations? It's a fascinating combination, inter-generational and all that comes with that...
Yes, "Double Indemnity" was a big influence. I'm very interested in envy and status and I wanted to create a contemporary femme fatale in Melia. I have huge sympathy for young people, especially right now - it is not possible to acquire the kinds of lifestyle trappings of my gen.
Kit is a piece of work. Where Melia uses sexual attractiveness, he uses that fire-starter charisma some men have. Everyone wants to be in his posse.
There's a great question here from @BookMinxSJV about how Melia would have fared during the lockdown, which to your point, has greatly amplified differences in wealth and situation?
Melia would absolutely hate lockdown because attention and admiration are her oxygen. Kit doesn't provide nearly enough. The divisions have really been exposed, haven't they. Claire and Jamie would enjoy lockdown - they have the garden, the coffee machine, the takeout menus...
Yes, though they have their own challenges too . . . In a sense rather like Our House you are putting people (C and J here) who look secure through the mill and turning their lives upside down for them - that basic insecurity at the heart of things is a big theme for you, yes?
I've always had a sense of there but for the grace of God. I've never really trusted that good times will last. I think we're seeing in society at the moment that protest and revolution can rise up with very little warning.
Yes, that's absolutely right. Everyone tends to get punished, one way or another, in my novels, and one of Jamie's (many) sins is complacency. I love the noir mood of a protagonist being in a lose-lose situation. Like Bram in Our House, he makes some truly terrible decisions.
I read it right at the beginning of the lockdown thanks to Polly Osborn (in fact it was the last book I picked up from the office b4 we left), and read it amongst Nibbies judging, which speaks to how compelling it was; at its heart is a commute, which is now interesting timing?
Oh, how brilliant! Yes, there are shades of nostalgia now in a commuter-based thriller. (Or perhaps relief.) I'm wondering if the book may inspire Londoners to look into the river bus option - we've all had a chance to reassess our lifestyles and the tube is not tempting...
I'm looking forward to your cycling-based thriller. One question from the ether; did you do much travelling around the Clipper for research?
Ha! Funnily enough, cyclists are on my radar because they are so divisive - plus that's a very plausible way for someone to find themselves in jeopardy or conflict! I travelled a lot on the Clippers. I really lived Jamie and Kit's route, right down to the G&Ts and Peronis...
I feel very differently about cycling when I'm not cycling that is true; perhaps I should carry a G&T with me. I love your pinnned tweet from the Nibbies - that book, Our House, was a big moment for you in terms of your writing career?
You could have your G&T delivered in one of those tubes... Yes, Our House changed everything for me as it was my last attempt - I was all set to give up. I couldn't believe it when it took off - though I should have known my brilliant publishers, S&S, would succeed!
The Nibbies win was surreal. I truly thought Ian Rankin was going to win - I'd seen him in the room and thought, That's why he's here! I had to say something in my speech about midlist, mid-career authors - we have awards for debuts but not for Book Number Seven or Thirteen...
Understood. It's very important. Of course some debuts are not really debuts at all (naming no names) - did you ever think of a rebrand, or switching what you wrote about?
Yes, that's true - and I have to say I'm in awe of some debuts, to have the talent to present something so accomplished right off the bat. I considered changing my name, but I didn't want to lose the small but dedicated readership I had. I wanted us to stick together.
Ha, and now you are stuck with it! I'm always fascinated by what it is that turns the readers onto a book in such a way (not the only one I'm sure); what did you think it was for Our House, new publisher, great cover, terrific hook? Something else...
I think the stars aligned (for once). I had raised my game with the book - it was much more complex and ambitious than anything I'd written before - and also landed on my feet with S&S. They were brilliantly flexible in reacting to the word of mouth and creating #ThatLastLine
Oh, yes, I remember. What plans do you have for publication day of #TheOtherPassenger next week - it will be like no other publication date you've experienced, I'd imagine?
I'll be visiting Goldsboro Books to sign some copies and then going into as many bookshops as I pass to buy (not necessarily my own) books and support them! The Thames Clippers are running again so I may hop on one and have a drink or two...
And with bookshops reopening it's terrific timing #choosebookshops; readers will be thirsty for something new - do you enjoy it, this moment, as opposed to the quieter life of actually writing?
I always love publication - there is no better feeling that seeing the product in the wild and being able to talk to booksellers and journalists and of course readers about it. Until that moment, it's such a private thing - I love the exhilaration (and fear) of going public!
Well, the smell of burning cupcakes means our hour is up; thank you for your time, and for making this inaugural #AuthorFirst so enjoyable (look out for our next victim soon). And good luck next week, keep the books coming, we need them. Thanks to Simon and Schuster UK too
Thank you so much for having me, the time has flown - as it always does when we talk about books!
The Other Passenger will be available to buy on 25th June 2020. The second book in the deal with S&S will follow in 2021.
#AuthorFirst is new series of promotional interviews with questions curated by The Bookseller; to take part contact Emma.Lowe@theBookseller.com.