I was delighted to be invited to take part in the blog tour to celebrate all the finalists in both the Best Novel and Best First Novel categories for the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards. The winners will be announced at WORD Christchurch festival on 1 September.
BEST CRIME NOVEL
• Marlborough Man by Alan Carter (Fremantle Press)
• See You in September by Charity Norman (Allen & Unwin)
• Tess by Kirsten McDougall (VUP)
• The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell (Mary Egan Publishing)
• A Killer Harvest by Paul Cleave (Upstart Press)
• The Hidden Room by Stella Duffy (Virago)
BEST FIRST NOVEL
• The Floating Basin by Carolyn Hawes
• Broken Silence by Helen Vivienne Fletcher (HVF Publishing)
• All Our Secrets by Jennifer Lane (Rosa Mira Books)
• The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell (Mary Egan Publishing)
• Nothing Bad Happens Here by Nikki Crutchley (Oak House Press)
It was therefore with great pleasure to do a short Q & A with author Vivienne Fletcher whose YA novel is one of those finalists but first lets take a look at the book, Broken Silence:
A stranger just put Kelsey’s boyfriend in a coma. The worst part? She asked him to do it. Seventeen-year-old Kelsey is dealing with a lot – an abusive boyfriend, a gravely ill mother, an absent father, and a confusing new love interest. After her boyfriend attacks her in public, a stranger on the end of the phone line offers to help. Kelsey pays little attention to his words, but the caller is deadly serious. Suddenly the people Kelsey loves are in danger, and only Kelsey knows it. Will Kelsey discover the identity of the caller before it’s too late?
• I’ll start with the obvious question: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? Did you write stories as a child?
I made up stories as a child, but I struggled a lot with spelling and learning to write, so getting them down on paper didn’t come until later. I was fortunate enough to have a fantastic teacher when I was around seven or eight, who helped me work through my blocks and learn to love writing. That was the first time I said I wanted to be a writer. I cycled through a few other career ideas as I grew up, ranging from air hostess to child psychologist, but writing was something I always came back to.
• What were your five favourite childhood books?
Oh wow – so many to choose from, but these were the first ones that came to mind, which shows they must have stayed with me. Ranging from picture book to young adult novel:
1) The Choosing Day by Jennifer Beck
2) The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger
3) Under the Mountain by Maurice Gee
4) To the Dark Tower by Victor Kelleher
5) Dare Truth or Promise by Paula Boock
• Tell us a little about your novel, what readers can expect from it?
Broken Silence is a fairly dark and gritty young adult thriller. Seventeen-year-old Kelsey is dealing with a lot – an abusive boyfriend, seriously ill mother, an absent father, and the beginning of an eating disorder. When she moves in with her brother, things are supposed to get better, but instead she begins receiving strange phone calls. The caller is protective of Kelsey, wanting to help her, but plays this out by attacking and sometimes killing anyone he perceives to be a threat to her.
I’ll be honest, this isn’t one for the faint of heart, but I think it’s a book that many people will enjoy for the high stakes and fast pace. The idea first came to me, when I was thirteen and spent an evening watching Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer with my best friend. Obviously the concept evolved and matured over the years, before I eventually wrote it down, but that should hopefully give readers an idea of the type of genre to expect.
• How important is the setting to your book?
I wanted Broken Silence to be set in New Zealand, while also be relatable to readers in other countries. There are little nods to it being set in Wellington, which those familiar with New Zealand will recognise, but it’s not overly important to the story. Kelsey is written as Kiwi, but first and foremost she’s written as a teenage girl just like those in many other places around the world.
• Where do you find the inspiration for your lead character?
There’s a lot of me in Kelsey … or at least teenage me. I have of course changed as I’ve grown up, but I remember the intensity of being a teenager and those memories have inspired her character.
The way I write, the story comes to me first, then I spend some time piecing together who the events happen to. There are bits of many women I’ve met in there. In the past, I worked as a youth support worker and later as a mental health phone counsellor. Kelsey isn’t based on any one person I spoke to during that time, but many of stories I heard from people influenced how I wrote her, and her reactions to the situations she faces during the course of the story.
• How would you introduce them at a party?
This is Kelsey. *subtle whispered aside, behind a cupped hand* She’s been through a hard time recently, so please be gentle with her, and excuse her if she’s a little rude!
• Do you have a writing schedule? Perhaps you have a target of a set number of words per day?
For me it depends from project to project. If I’m working on a first draft, I write from 10am-midday at least three days a week (usually more, but depends on other work commitments.)
Right now, I’m working on editing a second draft, so I’ve been setting a goal of editing one chapter per day, however long that takes to get it to where I want it to be.
• Where do you write?
At the moment, I write sitting on the floor with my dog in my lap. She’s a wonderful helper. She keeps me warm and on track, as I can’t get up from the computer until she wakes up. It’s a great place for editing, though it may not be so comfortable once I’m on to the next project and writing longer blocks of text!
• Are there any more books in the pipeline?
Yes – at the moment I’m working on my third YA novel. This one has paranormal elements, so a bit of a different direction from Broken Silence and Underwater, but it still has dark themes and a mystery running through it which I hope readers will enjoy.
Thank you so much Vivienne, some brilliant answers to my questions, and I particularly love that introduction to Kelsey!
About Helen Vivienne Fletcher
Helen Vivienne Fletcher has been writing for children and young adults for the past ten years. She has won and been shortlisted for several writing competitions, including making the shortlist for the 2008 Joy Cowley Award. In 2015 she was named Outstanding New Playwright at the Wellington Theatre Awards for her play How to Catch a Grim Reaper. Her e-picture books have been sold worldwide, and translated into French, German and Spanish. Helen is the author of three picture books for children, two young adult novels – Broken Silence and Underwater, and a short story collection for adults, Symbolic Death. You can find more about Helen’s books on her personal website: