By Leslie Lindsay
What if you were to come home and find your beloved home was being emptied of all its belongings and new owners were moving in? That’s what OUR HOUSE sets out to discover. Plus, Louise talks about how sometimes our demise is at our own hand, writing herself into ‘knots and tears,’ and being published for the first time in the U.S.
I’m a big sucker for books about houses. Seriously, two of my favorite things. So when I stumbled upon OUR HOUSE (Berkley, August 7 2018), I knew I had to read it. I’m new to Louise Candlish, too and her writing is quite beautiful and darkly brilliant, well-plotted, and compelling.
Fiona (Fi) and Bram are at the end of their marriage. Bram has been unfaithful one too many times and Fi is done. But what about the kids and their beautiful home in a desirable London suburb? They couldn’t possibly sell it and split the family, send the boys to a different school. So Fi devises a plan to keep the house and the family as intact as possible in the bird’s nest arrangement: the children will stay in the home and the parents will take turns caring for the boys in the house (while the other parent stays in a nearby flat). Everyone is in agreement that this is the best possible scenario.
Fi comes home from a few days away with her new beau and lo and behold, there’s a moving van out front, a new couple giddy with their purchase. This couldn’t be happening…could it?
We hear both sides of the story via Bram (Word Document) and a podcast from Fi so it’s a bit ‘he-said, she said;’ plus there are as interspersed newspaper articles, and yet still such a mystery. This technique lends to the overall frantic feel of the narrative.
Overall, OUR HOUSE is a very fresh, darkly disturbing, brilliantly plotted domestic suspense about property fraud, murder, adultery, secrets/lies, double-crossing, and so much more. The killer ending is a fast-paced rush to the finish line.
Please join me in conversation with Louise.
L.L.: Louise, it’s great to have you! First, the cover is stunning and the writing very gripping, but before we get to all that, what was your inspiration when you set out to write OUR HOUSE?
Louise Candlish: Thank you for having me! The main source of inspiration for the book was the increasing problem of property fraud here in the UK. There’s a perfect storm of rising house prices and burgeoning cybercrime that’s truly terrifying. I wanted to write about a crime I hadn’t seen before in fiction and I knew this was it. One particular real-life case caught my eye in the Daily Mail: a woman was almost defrauded of her million-pound home by a criminal gang, one of whom had even changed her name legally to the owner’s. It was stopped at the last minute.
L.L.: I have to admit to liking the bird’s nest concept. I haven’t actually seen it in practice, but I can see the appeal. Can you tell us more about how this came to your attention? Do you know others who have done this successfully?
Louise Candlish: It’s fascinating, isn’t it? Emblematic of our age of conscious uncoupling. I read about it in the Telegraph here and a lightbulb flashed: perfect for my domestic crime set-up! It’s evidently quite a successful custody arrangement, but tends to be an informal thing (as Bram and Fi’s is), rather than a court-ordered one, so it’s impossible to quote data. I would do it myself (while keeping my passport and personal documents under lock and key, of course).
L.L.: Bram is kind of a bad-boy. He’s charming, charismatic, and well-liked by the ladies. And he has a bit of a reckless streak. At some point in the novel, there’s a passage about our undoing being completely on our own accord. Can you elaborate on that, please?
Louise Candlish: It’s so interesting that you picked up on that, because it’s one of the central concerns of the novel. What’s the difference between things going right and things going wrong? It’s one bad call, basically, one unfortunate little bit of poor judgment. Then life can spiral dangerously quickly. Of course it’s not quite that simple. There are complex links between mental health issues and crime and Bram’s got a lot going on in his head. He isn’t in a position to make a good decision.
L.L.: There are a lot of characters in OUR HOUSE, most notably Fi and Bram but also neighbors, as well as Mike and Wendy and the various storytelling techniques used [Bram’s Word Doc and Fi’s podcast]. Was there a character or technique you enjoyed more—or felt most aligned with?
Louise Candlish: I enjoyed writing Fi’s (transcribed) podcast interview, because by definition when you’re giving a interview meant for public broadcast, you have an agenda. She’s quite controlled, but then occasionally she’ll allow some emotion or grievance to burst through. That was fun to write. Bram was a different experience because his account is so raw and confessional. He made me feel quite sad. For me, their narratives exemplify one of the points the book makes: men are straightforward, their faults on the surface for all to see, whereas women are more multi-layered, more ambiguous. I had an inkling readers would find Fi irritating at times, so I used the tweets to provide some human reaction to her.
L.L.: OUR HOUSE is so intricately plotted—or at least it reads that way!—what was your process like and did you ever write yourself into a corner?
Louise Candlish: I was in corners a lot. In knots in corners, weeping. The main problem was how interconnected everything was, so every tiny alteration had its own ripple effect and I had to chase the ripples until they disappeared. It’s been interesting to see the reaction of other writers to this book: to a man (and woman), they have remarked on how hard it must have been to structure. They totally understand my pain. For the reader, of course, I hope it’s seamless!
L.L.: The page is blank. What’s calling to you now?
Louise Candlish: I’m in the late stages of my next novel, about a terrible neighbour who inspires the worst instincts in those who cross his path. Could you hate your neighbour enough to plot to kill him? If the newspapers are anything to go by, yes. I’ve yet to discuss this with anyone who doesn’t offer up a horror story of their own. Bad neighbouring is universal and yet somehow we all think we’re great neighbours. Interesting.
“A high-stakes domestic thriller that is utterly absorbing. Twists and turns abound; OUR HOUSE will have you locking your doors and checking your windows . . . Trust no one!”
—HEATHER GUDENKAUF, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF NOT A SOUND
L.L.: What’s obsessing you these days? It doesn’t have to be literary.
Louise Candlish: I’ve always been a big tennis fan and I annually down tools for Wimbledon, but in this digital age I can watch any tournament I like – a terrible temptation. I will be one of the millions who will wear black for a month when Roger Federer retires. Same for Rafa Nadal. If they retire at the same time, well, that will be the end of me.
L.L.: Louise, it’s been a pleasure. One last question: is Alder Rise/Trinity Avenue a real place? Is there anything else I should have asked, but may have forgotten?
Louise Candlish: The pleasure is mine. No Alder Rise is fictional, but many people know I live in South East London and know certain areas better than others. Alder Rise is a composite of those areas. It’s the hidden gem with the park and the great school and the farmer’s market and the artisan bakery. These houses never come on the market (at least not to the owners’ knowledge!).
I guess you could ask what it’s like for a British author to be published for the first time in the US?
The answer: so far so delightful. So I thank you.
For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of OUR HOUSE, please visit:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Louise Candlish attended University College London and worked as an editor in art publishing and as a copywriter before becoming a novelist. She lives with her husband and daughter.
You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:
- Facebook: LeslieLindsayWriter
- Twitter: @LeslieLindsay1
LOVE IT? SHARE IT!
#psychthriller #domesticsuspense #summerreading
[Cover and author images courtesy of Berkely and used with permission]