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Author Interview: Abbie Greaves

We’re over the moon that the next author in our interview series is debut novelist Abbie Greaves.

The Silent Treatment, Abbie’s stunning debut about a couple who haven’t spoken for six months, despite living under the same roof, is published on Thursday in the UK by Cornerstone / Penguin Random House.

In the run up to publication, this beautiful novel has been included in countless round ups, including the Independent‘s “10 best debut novels that are so good you won’t put them down”, her Magazine’s “30 Debut Novels to Keep an Eye Out For in 2020“, Netgalley‘s “Spring Highlights” and Stylist Magazine‘s “Best new books of 2020 to look out for“.

It has received gorgeous reviews from the likes of Kirkus Reviews: “A sometimes-hopeful, often heartbreaking look at the difficult and beautiful moments of parenting and marriage.”

And has won the hearts of many critically acclaimed authors, including Jojo Moyes: “A remarkable debut”.

Abbie herself was recently chosen as The Media Eye’s Rising Star, who said: “Already attracting praise from best-selling author JoJo Moyes, who branded the novel ‘a remarkably assured debut which doesn’t go where you expect it to go’ and said ‘I very much look forward to seeing what she writes next’, it seems Abbie Greaves is set for some big things after The Silent Treatment’s April release.”

Abbie Greaves studied at Cambridge University before working at a literary agency for a number of years.

She was inspired to write her first novel, The Silent Treatment, after reading a newspaper article about a boy in Japan who had never seen his parents speak to one another before.

The Silent Treatment is due for publication in the US on Tuesday next week, by William Morrow / HarperCollins.

What inspired you to write?

Like many authors, it was my love of reading! I’ve been a bookworm for as long as I remembered. Once I left university, my first job was as an assistant in a literary agency. Seeing ‘behind the curtain’ gave me the confidence to commit to writing my own first novel, as well as a sense of the hard work, commitment and tenacity that would be required to finish it.

What’s your favourite book/piece of literature?

I keep a running tally of my top five favourite books (sad, I know!) and the selection very rarely changes. Currently it goes: The Wife by Meg Wolitzer, Atonement by Ian McEwan, Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller, The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan and Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld.

And if I had to choose my very top? Probably The Wife. It’s so good. If you haven’t read it, please do. You won’t regret it.

Where do most of your good ideas come to you?

Honestly, I wish I knew because then it would feel more like a wellspring than it sometimes does! Usually, it’s just titbits of real life: sentences I overhear in a café; snippets from a documentary; newspaper articles; song lyrics; people behind me in the supermarket queue.

When I find an idea that really speaks to me, it tends to stick to my brain like glue. I’ll get frustrated and try to brainstorm something else, but I’ll inevitably return to the idea that is hounding me!

Where do you write?

I’m not too picky – nor can I afford to be, given that I’ve been pretty itinerant over the last eighteen months! Any table can double up as a desk, I just need complete silence.

Currently – I’m making the most of this sunshine in the back garden.

What is your writing process?

Once I have my idea, I’ll work it up in a ‘blurb’ which helps me focus on the core of my story. Then I’ll let my characters grow in my head for a bit, making sure that I know as much as possible about them – right down to the sort of biscuit they would choose from a selection box!

Then, I’ll map out the rough plot and attempt a chapter by chapter breakdown. Then, at that point, I’ll start to write and inevitably a lot of the plot will go out the window, either because it no longer works or (hopefully) because something better has come to me!

I’ll aim for 1500-2000 words a day on a first draft and I always re-read and edit what I wrote the previous day before I start on the next day’s writing.

Where did the idea come from for The Silent Treatment?

I first had the idea for a novel about a couple who had stopped speaking when I read an article in Metro (the free UK newspaper on our transport systems). It was about man in Japan who hadn’t spoken to his wife for twenty years. Their youngest child had never seen his parents have a conversation and, in desperation, he reached out to a television crew to try and stage a reunion.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea of a silence settling at the heart of a marriage. But I also knew that I wanted to explore the theme in a very different context – what if there were all the same, everyday kindnesses of a long-term relationship, it was just words that had disappeared? And that was how The Silent Treatment was born!

How do you relax after a day of writing?

My friends and family would probably say that I don’t! I’m an awfully unrelaxing person to be around – my brain is always whirring and I’m terrible at just sitting down and doing nothing.

So, if I’m not badgering my nearest and dearest – a bath, some wine and a good book. It’s hard to go wrong with that combination.