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Author Interview: Kathryn Foxfield

We’re thrilled that the next author in our interview series is Kathryn Foxfield, author of the brilliantly creepy YA debut, Good Girls Die First, which is published today by Scholastic.

The novel was chosen by teen readers for the Write Mentor Novel Award shortlist.

Perfect for fans of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, the novel follows ten teenagers…

Mind games. Murder. Mayhem. How far would you go to survive the night?

Blackmail lures sixteen-year-old Ava to the derelict carnival on Portgrave Pier. She is one of ten teenagers, all with secrets they intend to protect whatever the cost. When fog and magic swallow the pier, the group find themselves cut off from the real world and from their morals.

As the teenagers turn on each other, Ava will have to face up to the secret that brought her to the pier and decide how far she’s willing to go to survive.

Kathryn Foxfield is a germ-loving scientist turned writer. She’s the author of a popular science book about tuberculosis but her first love is children’s literature.

She writes young adult and middle grade novels about monsters, magic and mental health. She lives near Oxford with her partner, 4 year old daughter and the world’s clumsiest cat.

What inspired you to write?

Many authors will tell you that they knew they wanted to write from the first moment they picked up a pencil. Not me, although I have always loved to read. My inspiration came in the form of a sudden and short-lived Chuck Palahnuik phase in my twenties. For some reason, his books ignited a desire in me to write my own novel, so I did. It was terrible but, by that point, I’d caught the bug.

What’s your favourite book/piece of literature?

I can’t pick just one, but Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book would come high up on the list, as would many of his other novels. I love China Mieville’s imagination, Margaret Atwood’s social commentary, Angela Carter’s dark feminism, Maggie Stiefvater’s characters and Leigh Bardugo’s world building.

Where do most of your good ideas come to you?

My books usually start with an atmospheric setting. A creepy place I’ve visited, an abandoned place I’ve read about, a photo taken by an urban explorer. From this initial seed, an idea slowly grows until the story finally takes on a life of its own. I never mean to, but I usually end up writing with a teenage version of me in mind as a reader, so my books invariably include a lot of my own experiences of growing up.

Where do you write?

I do most of my writing in my own head. Most of my ideas come to me as I’m falling asleep at night, when I stop thinking and let the ideas talk to me. I work at the kitchen table with my laptop, where I have a view of the garden. Once upon a time, I’d venture out to coffee shops to surround myself with interesting people and caffeine. But the lock down and my new baby have put an end to that.

What is your writing process?

It’s not so much a process as a long fight with words and ideas. For me, a finished novel is built on top of the bones of numerous aborted attempts, deleted chapters and half-imagined characters. I don’t get a handle on a story until I’ve tried to write it, often two or three times. But once I finally have a complete first draft, it all gets a bit easier. I love to edit, so will keep going through a book, adding and removing plot-lines, fleshing out characters and adding in creepy details, until the pieces finally come together. After several completed novels, I have accepted that this is my process and, if it was easy, I wouldn’t enjoy writing.

Where did the idea come from for GOOD GIRLS DIE FIRST?

On a visit to Weston-super-Mare, I spotted the derelict remains of Birnbeck Pier stretching out to sea and fell in love. At the time, I was thinking about writing a mystery inspired by Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None—ten characters with dark secrets and few redeeming qualities, all picking each other off as an unknown blackmailer pulls their strings. As soon as I saw Birnbeck Pier, I knew that my mystery was going to be set on an abandoned carnival pier haunted by more than just ghosts.

How do you relax after a day of writing?

I had a baby 5 weeks ago to add to the 5 year old I already had, so writing is my idea of relaxation as I have so little time for anything I want to do. I used to love long walks but, at the moment, I’m doing a lot of falling asleep in front of Netflix’s Floor is Lava and questioning my life choices.