By Leslie Lindsay
What if the house you moved into has a story all its own? Simon Lelic talks about the ‘terrifying’ experience of house-hunting, how he wishes he kept more of his childhood books,writing advice & so much more…
Dark, twisted U.K. thriller with undertones of paranormal and horror.
I have such a soft-spot for tales of houses and so when THE NEW NEIGHBORS (Penguin Random House, April 10 2018) came across my desk, I knew I had to read it. Syd and Jack are a twenty-something couple seeking their first home together (they are not married) and when they come across the perfect London home, they make an offer. It’s low, but the owner wanted someone young. It almost seems too good to be true when their offer is accepted.
Once they move in, strange things start happening. For one, the previous owner left all of his furnishings, including taxidermy-ied animals. But the walls seem to permeate an odor and what’s with that stuff in the attic? Jack has been wary all along, but Syd is more nonchalant about the new place.
Told in alternating POVs of Jack and Syd in a written journal-like narrative (the characters refer to it as ‘the manuscript,’), the story can be a little challenging to follow in som regards as different perspectives color the story. But when a murder is committed outside their back door, Syd and Jack become suspects.
One begins to wonder if Syd and Jack are really responsible, is it the house, or something (someone?) else more sinister at work?
THE NEW NEIGHBORS is a tale of duplicity, a ‘he-said,’ ‘she-said’ type of read that will most definitely send shivers through, and perhaps, have you looking over your shoulder (or at least in your attic).
Please join me in welcoming Simon Lelic to the blog couch.
Leslie Lindsay: Simon, it’s a pleasure. I always want to know why this story, why now? Was there a character, event, or line that kept drawing you to the keyboard?
Simon Lelic: The main inspiration for The New Neighbors was the house-hunting process, which we’ve all been through in some form at one point or another, and as it happened my wife and I were going through it around the time the novel was written. It’s such a terrifying process – you are asked to commit a vast sum of money, and indeed your family’s entire future, on a property you only really get to see two or three times. It’s only when you’re committed, and you finally move in, that you get to discover what’s really buried beneath the floorboards…
“A raw, tightly wound thrill ride, a nightmare scenario about a home purchase that goes horribly wrong. And then some. This is a fast-paced, intense, and creepy novel that you won’t be able to put down until you reach the end.”
—David Bell, bestselling author of Bring Her Home
L.L.: I understand this is your first psych thriller, but not your first book. How was this one different? Or, was it?
Simon Lelic: I suppose with psychological thrillers, it’s all a question of degrees. My first novel, A Thousand Cuts, dealt with bullying as a motive for murder, and you could argue that you don’t get much more psychological than that. But The New Neighbors definitely takes this up a notch, in that you are never really sure how much of what is happening is only taking place in the characters’ heads.
L.L.: You’re a former journalist. I’ve found that many former journalists turn to writing thrillers. Any ideas as to why that is? How does your background inform your fiction?
Simon Lelic: I’ve never really thought about this before, but I guess journalism teaches you to write sparely, to make every word count, and this style of writing definitely suits the thriller genre. For a thriller to work well, you need to keep the story moving forwards.
L.L.: In shifting gears a bit, I am anxious to talk about the house as a character. Is that how you saw it, too—as a character—or was it more of a ‘setting?’
Simon Lelic: It started as just a setting, but quickly took on a personality on the page. At least for me – I can only hope that readers will agree! I’ve always loved haunted house stories – from Shirley Jackson to Mark Z. Danielewski – and I wanted the house in my novel to loom just as large in the reader’s mind as it would if they were reading a ghost story.
L.L.: Syd’s character is complex, vulnerable, and secrets of her family origin leak. transforming the narrative a bit into one of violence and perhaps madness. Was that intentional or did it sort of grow organically?
Simon Lelic: Syd was always the key to the story. Without giving too much away, her character, and the reasons for her being the way she is, are fundamental to events in the book. Which isn’t to say Jack’s background doesn’t have significance too…
L.L.: Jack finds a small box filled with childhood treasures in the attic. What item(s) from your childhood do you long for, if only occasionally?
Simon Lelic: Books! For some reason I will never quite forgive myself for, I gave away whole boxloads of books I’d loved as a kid, I think at some point when I figured I was ‘all grown up’. But now I have children of my own (three of them, all turning into avid readers) I would dearly love to be able to pass on some of those books I devoured when I was their age, many of which no longer seem to be in print.
L.L.: What aspects of writing have you struggled with and how did you work to strengthen those areas?
Simon Lelic: Writing is always a struggle, at least in the sense that you can invariably do it better. That’s partly why I love it so. It’s a craft, and like any craft, the key to improvement is practice.
L.L.: What has been the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?
Simon Lelic: I’m not sure about the best piece of writing advice I’ve received, but the best piece I can give is, be wary of what advice you follow. Find what works for you, and do it.
L.L.: What question do you get asked all the time, that I forgot to ask?
Simon Lelic: The same question every author gets asked: where do you get your ideas? And I’m glad I don’t have to try to come up with an answer!
L.L.: Thank you, Simon. It’s been a pleasure!
Simon Lelic: Thanks so much for having me. I sincerely hope your readers enjoy the book!
For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to order a copy of THE NEW NEIGHBORS, please see:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Simon Lelic is a former journalist and the author of the award-winning A Thousand Cuts as well as the critically acclaimed The Facility and The Child Who. The New Neighbors is his first psychological thriller, inspired by a love of Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King. Simon lives with his wife and three children.
You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:
- Facebook: LeslieLindsayWriter
- Twitter: @LeslieLindsay1
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[Cover(s) and author image retrieved from Penguin Random House website. Couple house-hunting retrieved from usatoday.com; all on 4.18.18 ]