Helen Callaghan Interview

I had a chat with Helen Callaghan, the author of Dear Amy. I recently reviewed this book and it was released today! (16th June). 

A huge welcome from No Safer Place to Helen Callaghan.

1. The 16th June sees the release of your debut novel! Can you tell us about it?
It’s a thriller called Dear Amy, and it’s about a teacher and part time agony aunt called Margot Lewis who receives a desperate letter from a girl called Bethan Avery. Margot takes the letter to the police and finds out that Bethan Avery was kidnapped nearly twenty years ago and is presumed dead, and the letter is a hoax. But Margot is uneasy - particularly as a girl at her school, Katie, has gone missing and is assumed a runaway. She thinks these things are linked and starts to investigate, and things start to unravel for her from there…

2. I’ve seen so many positive reviews about Dear Amy from people of all ages. Did you write this book with a target audience in mind?
Thank you! Well, in a way - I guess that the target audience would be me! I wrote the kind of book that I would want to read, and Dear Amy is full of the things that intrigue me or frighten me or that I feel passionate about. You wouldn’t do it, I don’t think, if you weren’t into it, because writing is so thankless usually and so uncertain. You have to really love what you’re about.

3. What inspired you to write this book? Did you do a lot of research before starting to write it?
I did a fair bit - I read a lot of sad books and watched some very upsetting documentaries about kidnapped children. Most of the research was while the book was underway, however, because things like social care policy and police procedure change all the time.

4. Do you share any character traits with the main character, Margot Lewis? If so, which ones? I personally found her mental health extremely relatable.
You know, I don’t think so. In many ways Margot is more idealised to me than anything - she’s someone I’d like to be like. She always tries to be brave even in the face of her demons within and without, and she tries to be kind. She makes mistakes and has issues, but she bears up to them.

5. Most readers always have a handful of favourite books, as opposed to one. What are some of yours?
Oh, wow. We could be here all day! I suppose my favourite book is probably Jane Eyre, but there are so many things I love - like Donna Tartt (The Secret History was a huge influence), The Crow Road by Iain Banks, The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris.

6. Dear Amy is obviously a thriller/suspense novel. Is this a genre you’ve always been in love with?
Because I worked at bookshops for most of my life, I’ve always read a ton of things, including most genres (never been big on romance, funnily enough). I think it’s fair to say they I do love a good thriller, but mostly I love any well-constructed mystery that takes risk with form and narrative - Gone Girl is a great example of that.

7. If you could write another genre, what would it be and why?
I love archaeology and history, and would love to write something historical - I’m already thinking about the third book and that will have archaeological elements. I also write speculative fiction when left unsupervised, but again, all of these things are constructed as heists, or, as in the case of Dear Amy, as mysteries - I think it’s the thing I like doing best of all!

8. Can you tell us about any upcoming projects you’re working on?
Yes - the follow up to Dear Amy, which I'm very excited about. I better not give too much away on that for now!

9. Last Question. Give us a quote that motivates you!

“A word after a word after a word is power” - Margaret Atwood.

The news of a Dear Amy sequel has absolutely made my day! Will be (not so patiently) waiting for that! 

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