In time, distance will bring a perspective that’s impossible to imagine now – Ellie Holmes.
I love reading stories written by new authors; there’s a sense of innocence entwined between the letters and lines: the pureness of characters’ voices that propel the story forward, so far along that you completely fall into the web of their imaginary lives. This is how I felt whilst reading Ellie Holmes White Lies.
We dive straight into action from the word go: Sam Davenport and her husband Neil are involved in a car accident which spirals their near-perfect (from the outsider’s point of view) lives into tatters. Sam takes the wrap, but her guilt heightens more and more as she discovers the motorcyclist they hit has trouble recuperating. This begins a strange sort of friendship between Sam and David, which then spirals into something more.
Sam plays a dangerous game of tiny white lies that begin as harmless as a different name which cascades, like a waterfall, into a completely new identity for when she’s with her new friend, rolling and gathering turbulence as it escalates into something further.
Ultimately this is a story about relationships of all kinds, one that will resonate with you in one way or another.
I caught up with the author on what it’s like to be a new author, her writing schedule and deeper issues laced within the story.
1. How does it feel to be a new author on the block when there is so much competition/books/authors in your field out there?
I try not to think about it too much! As a writer, I need to concentrate on making my books the best they can be and to try to constantly improve as a writer. If I do that I hope my visibility will rise through word of mouth referrals and sales. Getting too caught up on what other people are doing or trying to compare yourself to others can be distracting and not particularly healthy.
2. What was the first hit of inspiration that you got for White Lies?
I wanted to write a story that had a moral dilemma at the start of it and the idea of the car crash came from that which then launched the whole story.
3. Which character is your absolute favourite?
What a question! I’d have to say I love all of my main characters despite their many and varied faults. If I had to name my absolute favourite, however, it would be the character of Connor Barrett. He was based on my best friend so I’m bound to say that.
4. Which is your least favourite? Do you dislike any of the characters? They all have their weaknesses and bad traits, however does this influence your thoughts about them when writing them or reading them?
I don’t dislike any of my characters. Their faults and weaknesses are what make them recognisably human. If you are writing a character who is behaving in a less than exemplary way it is important, however, to make sure their motivation for acting the way they do comes across to the reader. We may not like what it is they are doing but if we understand why they are doing it, I think it helps. We are none of us perfect, after all.
5. There is a deeper part of the novel whereby mental health is talked about. Was this always a part of David’s character? Was it a gradual addition to the story? Do you feel like mental health should be talked about more openly in women’s fiction?
It was always my intention to explore this with David’s character. Because of the nature of the story (the plot) I did not feel there was an opportunity to go into this in as much depth as perhaps I would have liked.
I think mental health should be talked about much more in women’s fiction. Any of us can have mental health issues even if we have never experienced them before and as a society I think we need to be much more open and honest when discussing the problems people can face. If someone breaks their leg, they have a visible injury and people are sympathetic and make allowances. When it comes to mental health issues and people have a broken spirit it is an invisible injury, only the symptoms are obvious and people are a lot less sympathetic or willing to make allowances. That has to change.
As an author, it is an area I am keen to return to in future books.
6. How important is the story of White Lies to you personally?
As a novelist, I invest so much time in creating my stories that I do become very personally invested in them. I have heard authors liken books to children: you cherish and nurture them and watch them grow and when the time comes you need to let them stand on their own two feet in the world and hope others (reviewers and readers) will be kind to them. I can relate to that.
7. In retrospect, is there anything different as to how you would have told the story? Anything about the characters you would have changed?
I wouldn’t change anything about the fabric of the story or the characters. If I had an unlimited word count I would have liked to explore a little of what happened next for them all but I think the reader will pick up from the conclusion of the book what the future held for Sam, Neil and David.
8. What is your writing day like? Do you write daily? Set yourself targets?
I try to write, if not daily, at least every couple of days. I aim for 5,000 words a week. When I am in the flow of the story I can often exceed that and it’s a nice feeling to have exceeded my target. If I am editing rather than writing a first draft, I will aim for 5 hours of editing a week.
9. What are the themes and morals that you want the reader to take away from your story? Are there any you have taken for yourself?
When Sam, the lead character in White Lies, is confronted with a moral dilemma at the start of the book, she has to make a snap decision about what to do. Once she’s made her choice she has to stick to it. I wanted to write about a character who tells a lie at the start of a book but then continues to lie, sometimes with the best intentions, sometimes not. These lies eventually pile up with unexpected consequences for Sam and all around her. Sam is a complicated character and it isn’t easy to like her because of the choices she makes. However, I hope readers will put themselves in Sam’s shoes as the book progresses and ask themselves “What would I do in a similar situation?” I also wanted to explore the fact that often the biggest lies we tell are the ones we tell ourselves.
The moral people should take from the book and the one I have taken from it myself is that honesty really is the best policy.
I was also keen to write about the imprints made on us by our parents and how we can carry those through into our actions as adults – both good and bad. The three main characters have to rise above the influences their parents have had on them before they can become their own people. There’s a lesson for all of us in that too, I think.
10. Which character are you most like and why?
I think there’s a little bit of me in all of my characters – but only the nice parts of course.
White Lies is a story about normal people who’s lives turn upside down but are worsened by their own tongues. If they were all honest from the beginning, I wonder where the story would have led them, or if there would have been any story at all?
Love, Faye xo