Guy Mankowski wrote his first novel, The Intimates when he was 21. His other novels include the fantastic Letters From Yelena and How I Left The National Grid. His new novel, An Honest Deceit was released by Urbane Publications on 20th October.
When Ben and Juliette’s young daughter dies in a tragic accident on a school trip, they begin searching for answers. But will they ever know the truth? What was the role of the teacher on the trip – and are the rumours about his past true? As Ben and Juliette search for the truth and the pressure rises, their own secrets and motivations are revealed…. An Honest Deceit is an intelligent and gripping contemporary psychological thriller that questions not just the motives of others, but the real reasons for discovering the truth.
Hi Guy, welcome back to Novel Kicks. Can you tell me a bit about your new novel, An Honest Deceit? What inspired you to write it?
Hi Laura, thanks for having me. An Honest Deceit is inspired in the main by an anger at the way our institutions often treat individuals who ask them uncomfortable questions. There are hundreds of people in this country who are sitting pretty in extremely well-paid jobs that they’ve only kept hold of because they’ve used the power institutions offer them to manipulate the truth. They use this power to hurt others and look after themselves. This book looks at the impact of that through the plot of a man investigating how his daughter was killed on a school trip.
What’s your typical writing day like? How has your writing approach changed since writing your first novel?
For my first novel, The Intimates, I edited the manuscript about three times. For my second novel, about eight times. For my third about 35 times and I couldn’t begin to count how many times I edited An Honest Deceit. Every word has been changed at least once so is it even the same novel? If someone looked at a draft I had of a novel called ‘Marine’, in 2011, I think they would barely recognise that it would become ‘An Honest Deceit.’ So my typical writing day has changed in that it is much more about editing and rarely about just writing.
What are the challenges of writing a psychological thriller?
It’s hard to know how deep you should go into a characters psyche because you don’t want to lose the narrative too much. The way I ended up handling it was to go very deep into their darkest thoughts and feelings and then in later drafts ensure that there were questions the reader had at every point to keep them going. It is hard to resolving everything, within your made-up world, so it doesn’t all seem too pat.
What authors do you admire?
Siri Hustvedt, Paul Auster, Vladimir Nabokov, Albert Camus.
If you were only allowed to own three novels, which three would you pick?
Paul Auster’s Moon Palace, Hustvedt’s What I Loved and Simon Price’s Everything. All books, I’ve noticed which are about the heft of human experience that’s gathered during life.
Where do you like to write and do you prefer silence or noise?
Silence. I seem to spend most of my life looking for silence.
What’s your favourite word?
Which fictional character would you like to hang out with for a while and what would you do?
Probably Carina from my first novel, The Intimates. I wouldn’t have written her if I wasn’t trying to will her into life in some way.
Five pieces of advice for new writers?
1. Don’t do it unless you need to do it. The knocks are hard and the only reason I’m okay with them is because I have to write. When people say ‘I have a novel under the bed that I haven’t got round to finishing’ I think ‘you don’t need to finish it then.’
2. Don’t believe there is no money in it, because there is. But you have to be pay attention to the business side of things, and be smart about your contracts. Check the percentages. Does the publisher take all the money in your first thousand copies? Tell them you’re not doing that and don’t sign any contract you can’t reasonably make money from. Beware of the words ‘this is a standard contract, everyone else happily signed it.’ There’ll probably be some well inserted clauses in there that will lose you money that need to be taken out.
3. Lots of editing makes a novel far better. There’s no short cuts.
4. Learn to take the praise as well as the criticism. Those closest to me say I carefully consider the criticism and I ignore the praise. I’m learning to change that.
5. The publishing industry has no secret scale by which it discerns which novels are worthy of publication. Agents and publishers are inundated with submissions and are looking for reasons to reject your work and their processes are as flawed as anyone’s. But some authors get a few rejections and believe their work is intrinsically bad. I believe that we know, deep down, how good our submission is. Remember, every novel you love and every blockbuster was probably rejected by many people so rejections are par for the course. But you are always just one email away from the response that could change your life and it could come in the next second.