The debut thriller Sometimes I Lie
is a dark psychological tale that starts with this short note from the main character:
“My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.”
New author Alice Feeney was a BBC journalist for 15 years, secretly writing fiction before and after work, during her lunch breaks, and on her commute. After years of rejections, she was approached by 15 literary agents when she completed Sometimes I Lie. Feeney quickly got a book deal, and the TV rights were snapped up before her novel was even published. She now writes full-time in her garden shed in the English countryside with her dog. Feeney talked to Goodreads about how she was inspired to write this story, based on her experience in a hospital, and her path from journalist to fiction writer.
Alice Feeney: I was in an accident in my early 20s. I woke up in hospital with a serious head injury, unable to remember what had happened. I could hear people and feel them touching me, but I couldn’t move or speak. It was terrifying.
That memory played a big part, but the main idea for the book came to me in my sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night with a character called Amber in my head. I wrote down the three things I knew about her on a notepad by the bed. Those three things have never changed.
GR: You spent 15 years as a journalist at the BBC. Tell us about the transition from full-time journalist to mystery novelist.
AF: I loved being a journalist, but my secret dream was always to be an author. I was working in the BBC newsroom when my agent [Jonny Geller] called to tell me that publishers wanted to buy Sometimes I Lie. I started shaking, I swore a bit, and then I cried a lot.
I’ll always remember hiding under my desk and whispering to him on the phone, “Is it real?” I had wanted this for so long. I struggled to believe it was actually happening. To be honest, I still have to pinch myself on a regular basis. I feel so lucky.
I think it is proof that you have to follow your dreams—no matter how scared you are of failing. Your dreams always know the way. I work in my garden shed now with my co-writer, a giant black Labrador who is scared of feathers, and it really is the best job in the world.
GR: There’s a long tradition of journalists making the leap to the mystery and thriller genres. Why do you think that is?
AF: Journalists are people who like telling stories, so it never surprises me when an author has that kind of background. They are also exposed to all the horrors of the world on a daily basis. Nothing my imagination could possibly conjure up would ever be worse than the things I have seen people do to one another in real life. So perhaps that is part of it—writing to try and make sense of a world that sometimes doesn’t make any sense.
GR: Tell us about your writing process for Sometimes I Lie. How did you plot those twists?
AF: Sometimes I Lie was so much fun to write. The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is to write a book that you would want to read yourself, which is what I always try to do. The story was like an obsession, and I could not stop thinking about it.
I’m a planner. I think about a story for a long time before I commit to writing it, and I plot everything out on a giant board before I write a word. There is no right or wrong way to write, but for me, starting a novel without a plan would be like going on a big walk without a map—I’d spend the entire time worrying about getting lost instead of enjoying myself.
The whole experience was pretty fast with Sometimes I Lie. I wrote the book in six months, and everything that has happened since has been the most wonderful whirlwind.
GR: What writers are you influenced by, and how do those influences show themselves within Sometimes I Lie?
AF: There are far too many to list here! I started reading Stephen King books when I was a child, and perhaps a little younger than I should have been. His stories have helped me through some difficult times, and he’s a real hero of mine, so his writing has without doubt influenced my own.
I read all genres, but I do love psychological thrillers. Agatha Christie has been a big influence in more ways than one, and I also love everything ever written by Gillian Flynn. I tend to write dark, twisty stories with a splash of horror, and I think everything we read influences us as writers, the bad as well as the brilliant—it’s all good. We are what we read.
GR: The television rights to your book have already been picked up by a production company. Can you tell us what’s in the works?
AF: I’m thrilled that Sometimes I Lie is being made into a TV series by Legendary. They made amazing films like Inception and Interstellar, which I loved. I can’t share too much at the moment, but I’m so excited.
I didn’t want to write the screenplay; I only want to write books. So I was quite relaxed about handing it over to another writer. I am a consultant on the show, and I’m really happy about everything the team has planned for the first series. I can’t wait to see Amber brought to life on-screen!
GR: What are you currently reading, and what books are you recommending to your friends?
AF: I’m currently reading A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena—it’s my reward for finishing book two, and I’ve been looking forward to it.
I’m very lucky that I often get sent early copies of books by agents, publishers, and other authors. Three dark and twisty novels that I recently loved are The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh, and Our Houseby Louise Candlish, which will all be out in 2018.
GR: What’s next for you? Any preview you can give readers?
AF: I’m pleased to say I have finished editing book two, a brand-new dark and twisty story called Sometimes I Kill. I hope people will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I’m now scribbling book three.
I feel very lucky to be a full-time writer now, and I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who helped make that dream come true, especially my readers. It really does mean everything to me when people get in touch to say how much they enjoyed the book. Writers are nothing without readers, and I have the best!