It is an absolute pleasure to welcome Chris Curran to my blog today. When the Lights Go Out, Chris Curran’s latest novel, will be published on December 2nd with One More Chapter. Chris has written a fascinating post about the inspiration behind her writing. I do hope you enjoy.
‘Living in a small cottage with strangers was never going to be easy, but when you also work and travel together the situation inevitably becomes claustrophobic. Whenever I had time I took long walks, rode out on a rickety old bike I found in the cottage’s garden shed, or caught a bus somewhere’
– Chris Curran
[ Synopsis – When the Lights Go Out ]
A group of new friends. But can she trust them?
For struggling actress Ava, landing a role with the Chimera Theatre Group could lead to her big break. And relocating to a remote country village means stepping out from the shadow of her boyfriend—despite his determination not to let her go.
Everyone in the group seems so welcoming, they’re one big happy family. But, like all families, they each have secrets. And someone in the group doesn’t want certain secrets to get out…
Guest Post – Inspirations
Like most authors, I’ve often been asked where the inspiration for my novels comes from. For me (unfortunately!) it’s never been a single, aha that’s it, flash. I tend to find a slender hook on which I can begin to hang a series of thoughts and ideas that gradually build into a setting, characters and a narrative.
The hooks for my first five novels are very diverse. Mindsight was kickstarted by an article I read about mothers released from prison and trying to reconnect with their children. The autobiography of 1960’s supermodel, Jean Shrimpton, led eventually to Her Turn to Cry. For Her Deadly Secret it was the murder of a young girl (still officially unsolved) that happened close to where I lived. And it was a visit to the Baltic Art Gallery, with its balconies overlooking the River Tyne and amazing mirrored staircase that sparked, All the Little Lies.
My fifth novel, The Guesthouse, (under my pseudonym, Abbie Frost) was inspired by another building: one of the crumbling Anglo-Irish mansions in County Mayo deserted since the Irish War for Independence. The house cried out to become the setting for an updated take on the closed circle mysteries that I love from the Golden Age of Crime.
However my latest book, When the Lights Go Out, had a more substantial hook because it was inspired by an episode from my own past. As a young actress, I joined a theatre company in Gloucestershire. As well as performing together, the actors shared a small cottage deep in the countryside. We performed mostly in remote village halls where sheep sometimes wandered in as we set up our scenery. It was beautiful, but to a city girl it was a shock. I don’t think I’d ever been outside in complete darkness before. And in the countryside the weather feels so much more tangible. Being caught amongst dense trees in a lightning storm was terrifying. And when a mist came down as I biked down miles of empty lanes I felt as if I was in a horror movie.
The rest of the group were welcoming, but they had known each other for years. So, as a newcomer, there were in-jokes I didn’t get and tensions I could sense, but not understand, which meant I sometimes felt isolated. And there was the added strain of knowing I was taking over from a very talented actress – someone loved by the group and their longstanding audiences.
Living in a small cottage with strangers was never going to be easy, but when you also work and travel together the situation inevitably becomes claustrophobic. Whenever I had time I took long walks, rode out on a rickety old bike I found in the cottage’s garden shed, or caught a bus somewhere.
So, unusually for me, when I started to write When the Lights Go Out I already had a setting and a basic situation: a remote cottage and a newcomer arriving amongst a tight knit group of strangers. But, of course, this was going to be fiction not a memoir. So, I had to move as far as possible from the real events and the real people and above all to construct a mystery.
Ava, the protagonist of the book, is also an aspiring actress desperate to succeed in this new job, but apart from that she is nothing like me. (Unless you count our shared fear of the dark!) The other characters only resemble the people I met in their talent and friendliness. And for me, after the initial anxiety, it was a happy and fulfilling time.
Not for poor Ava of course – When the Lights Go Out is a murder mystery after all. Already struggling with her personal life, she is further shaken when disturbing events begin to happen as soon as she joins the group. And it’s not just Ava; the rest of the characters are under immense strain too, because they have been enduring attacks of vandalism and sabotage for some time.
It’s obvious that someone is out to frighten them all. But as the attacks turn more and more threatening, Ava begins to fear that she is being targeted more personally. And when she realises that everyone in the group, and even in her own family, is hiding secrets, some of them very dark indeed, she understands there is no one she can really trust.
And that’s just the start. There are twists and turns aplenty in the book, which you’ll have to read if you want to discover!
In fact, there turned out to be a rather horrifying twist to my own story as well. It certainly isn’t one I would include in any of my novels, where my killers may do evil, but are always recognizably human rather than monsters. Although my time in Gloucestershire was mostly happy, not long after I left the group, the news came out about the terrible murders committed by serial killers, Fred and Rosemary West. For twenty years they had kidnapped their young women victims from bus stops and country roads in the Gloucester area. The very same roads I’d walked along, and bus stops I’d waited at, all alone.
Early praise for When the Lights Go Out
‘When the Lights Go Out is wonderfully mystifying and claustrophobic; and sad and thoughtful to boot. … has everything I love in a crime novel’ Edgar Award winner, Alex Marwood
‘I loved it! It’s such an immersive read…the story hurtles towards its compelling climax. Brilliant stuff!’ Kate Rhodes, bestselling author of The Brutal Tide
‘A wonderful, character-driven thriller where alliances and friendships are put to the test’ Sarah Ward, bestselling author of The Quickening
‘A dark psychological thriller that carefully draws you in as the tension mounts. Utterly fabulous’ Victoria Dowd, winner of The People’s Book Prize
‘A compelling, complex and claustrophobic story that gripped me from the opening chapter and had me racing through the pages’ Sheila Bugler, bestselling author of the Dee Doran series
‘This book had suspense, intrigue, action…kept me glued to my Kindle!’ Debbie, Netgalley Reviewer
‘When you think that you have it all worked out, another twist will come your way’ Just Keep Reading
‘A tense mystery with interwoven story elements that keeps the plot moving’ Katherine, Netgalley Reviewer
‘We have waited patiently for a new book by this author…so addictive’ Tracy, Netgalley Reviewer
‘Brilliant, I couldn’t put it down. The story and characters are captivating’ Heather, Netgalley Reviewer
[ Bio ]
Chris Curran’s sixth psychological suspense novel, When the Lights Go Out, publishes on December 2nd . She also writes short stories and has twice been shortlisted for the CWA Margery Allingham award.
Instagram: Chris Curran (@chriscurranwriter)