We’re so excited today to bring you an exclusive interview with author Alexandra Monir. You may recall we talked previously about her book Suspicion. The author was then kind enough to sit down and talk to us about writing, blurbs, and adapting novels.
We hope you enjoy our interview with Alexandra!
In the blurb Jessica Brody gave you on Suspicion, she mentions how “if Alfred Hitchcock had directed Downton Abbey, the result would have been this book” — were there any particular traits of Alfred Hitchcock’s style that you specifically used in writing Suspicion?
That was such a kind blurb from Jessica! J And yes, I definitely studied Hitchcock’s work and tried to incorporate his style of pacing, the way he parcels out clues and reveals big twists, and how he sets a chilling, atmospheric mood.
You have already expanded beyond the music industry to become an author, do you ever see yourself, if any of your books were optioned for films, negotiating to be the screenwriter or soundtrack composer? You mentioned Gillian Flynn as a favorite and both she and Rainbow Rowell chose to write their own adaptations of their most popular novels.
That’s my dream! I’d probably pick composing the soundtrack as my first choice, because that would be such an incredible combination of my writing with my music. But writing the screenplay comes a close second. Fingers crossed this will be a reality one day soon! J
What, if anything, surprised you during your trip to Oxfordshire? Was there any traditions or habits that you picked up there that you passed onto your characters in Suspicion?
I learned a lot about polo while I was in England, a sport that I found really fun and exciting—and I made it a surprisingly important plot point, actually!
When writing a song, do you come up with the words or melodies first? How about when writing a book? What is your creative process?
I always come up with melodies first when songwriting, and then add lyrics afterward to fit the tune. With books, it usually starts with a one-sentence idea. For example, with my first book Timeless it was: “What if two people could be soulmates even if they live 100 years apart?” And then I start writing from there, whether it’s an outline, summary, or just diving into the manuscript.
Did your process change while writing a mystery? And how do you keep the romance alive when everyone close to Imogen could be a potential murderer?
My process was different with Suspicion in that I began the book knowing how it would end, but not much else…so I started with the end of a riddle and then had to go and construct the actual riddle! As for keeping the romance alive, I thought about how there can be a fine line between fear and desire, so I tried to incorporate that conflict for Imogen in the third act of the book.
I think it is a riot you read the Tatler for research. Did you go into reading the gossip mags with any expectations? Were you shocked at how outrageous they can be or cruel? Did any story stand out to you or inspire the way you wrote any of the dream scenes in Suspicion or the fashionable parties?
I really had no idea Tatler would be so helpful! It was actually my mom’s suggestion that I start reading it, as soon as Suspicion sold. I feel the magazine is actually very open-minded and embracing of all sorts of characters, and not judgey at all, which I appreciate—if anything, the magazine is very tongue-in-cheek and a bit outrageous, which makes it so fun to read. I love their feature stories on different British aristocrats; that was really helpful in understanding the Rockford family in my story. It’s definitely a guilty pleasure read, but one with the added benefit of including features about history and politics, so it’s not all fluff!
Your use of magic realism works brilliantly in Suspicion — you have explained how the supernatural element is really a metaphor for the fear of being different — is that a theme you’ll continue to use in future works do you think, especially since you are sticking with YA for now?
Thank you so much! Yes, I love exploring what it means to be different and unique, and having my characters struggle with that and come out the other side. I’d love to continue with that theme in different ways in my future books.
Can you reveal anything about your latest book you are working on? Will you return to paranormal romances or break out into a whole new genre like you did with the mystery genre with Suspicion?
My next book is another YA mystery for Random House called The Girl in the Picture. This one has more of a contemporary realism feel, but it’s also a romance told in an unconventional way—and of course there’s a big twist! That’s all I can reveal for now. J
Personally, I felt that the end of Suspicion leaves you free to write a sequel, is that a possibility?
I hope so! I wanted to wrap up the story with a satisfying conclusion and have it work well as a standalone—but at the same time I loved writing these characters and the world so much that I also wanted to leave a bit of room for me to come back to it if the stars align that way. We shall see!