Interview With an Author: Rose Wilding

Daryl M., Librarian, West Valley Regional Branch Library,
Author Rose Wilding and her debut novel, Speak of the Devil
Author Rose Wilding and her debut novel, Speak of the Devil. Photo of author: Topher McGrillis

Rose Wilding is a crime writer from the north of England. She studied at the University of Manchester, the University of Sunderland, and Towson University. When not murdering fictional people, she can usually be found drinking coffee, reading feminist sci-fi, or posting more pictures than anyone needs of her two chihuahuas on Instagram. Speak of the Devil is her debut novel and she recently talked about with Daryl Maxwell for the LAPL Blog.

What was your inspiration for Speak of the Devil?

Speak of the Devil was born one afternoon when I was in a critique class during my MA at the University of Manchester. A fellow student had submitted a chapter of his book for critique in which his protagonist raped a (female) sex worker, and then the sex worker started talking about how sometimes women enjoy being raped. I was enraged and wrote the opening chapter of the book that night—Jamie was not in any way based on my peer, but the patriarchal society who raised him to think that way.

Are Ana, Josie, Kaysha, Maureen, Nova, Olive, Sadia, Sarah, or any of the other characters in the novel inspired by or based on specific individuals?

So the Towneley Arms—the hotel in the novel—was a real place and was owned by my grandparents (though it was much nicer than the fictional version!). The characters that inhabit the hotel are directly imported from real life—my grandparents are the landlord and his wife, and Gary was their lovely but easily startled barman. Otherwise, the characters strolled into my mind and introduced themselves to me as I wrote that first scene.

Jamie Spellman seems like he MUST be based on someone (or several someones). Are you at liberty to name any names (or provide a few hints) as to his inspiration?

In a broad way, Jamie represents the patriarchy and all of the terrible things it does to women, but he is also inspired by a couple of really bad men I knew. I had one particularly awful boyfriend when I was in my twenties who was a gaslighter, and a lot of Jamie's dialogue is taken directly from his mouth. There are also elements of a man in his sixties, who I was quite friendly with when I worked in a cafe a few years later. He seemed like a really nice man, and then I found out that he had done some profoundly evil things in his life (there were newspaper articles to back this up), and it really shook me. It took me quite a while to process that he had fooled me (and everyone else I worked with), but when I had accepted that he wasn't who I thought he was, it seemed so obvious that he was a monster. I wanted to take that ability to disguise your inner evil and give it to Jamie.

How did the novel evolve and change as you wrote and revised it? Are there any characters or scenes that were lost in the process that you wish had made it to the published version?

The original version of the book had no Nova. I was very focused on just telling the women's stories to think about what happened after they left the hotel room. One of my mentors read what I had and told me my structure wasn't right and the book needed more lesbians (don't all books?!)—enter DI Nova Stokoe and the police investigation to tick both boxes. I loved writing Nova, so I'm really glad the focus of the book shifted.

As a debut author, what have you learned during the process of getting your novel published that you would like to share with other writers about this experience?

It's really hard on your mental health. When I was writing, only my agent and I had read the book for a really long time, and I poured my whole soul into it—and then suddenly, loads of people had read it, and they had opinions, both good and bad. When people are really positive about it, it's hard to believe your own hype, and when people are negative about it, it feels really personal. You have to grow a thick skin and learn that your worth as a person isn't tied to what people think of your book.

Also—very important—DON'T read your reviews. I did it once and learned my lesson. Get a loved one to read you the nice ones so you don't have your confidence obliterated by the negative ones.

Speak of the Devil would make a marvelous film or series. If you were able to cast the production of Speak of the Devil, who would your dream cast be?

Thank you! I'd love it to be a TV show at some point. Ideally, all of these actors would be able to do a flawless Newcastle accent by the time they were cast.

Jamie: Charlie Hunnam
Nova: Jess Glynne
Kaysha: Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Sarah: Ria Zmitrowicz
Olive: Gillian Anderson
Maureen: Charlie Hardwick
Josie: Emily Carey
Sadia: Jameela Jamil
Ana: Michaela Jaé Rodriguez

What's currently on your nightstand?

I've just received a gorgeous early copy of Disturbance by Jenna Clake which I cannot wait to open—as well as a pile of other books and a deceased Kindle!

Can you name your top five favorite or most influential authors?

I definitely can't narrow it down to five because there are so many I love. Five I’m really watching at the moment are Micaiah Johnson, Emily St John Mandel, Cherie Jones, Eliza Clark and Kate Elizabeth Russell.

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers series. I was desperate to go to boarding school.

Was there a book you felt you needed to hide from your parents?

I used to read past bedtime every night and get caught every night, so I had a decoy book and a decoy torch that my mother would confiscate, and then when she'd gone, I'd pull out my real book and my real torch and carry on.

Is there a book you've faked reading?

Basically, every boring book I was supposed to read for my Bachelor's Degree. Thank god for SparkNotes.

Can you name a book you've bought for the cover?

Threadneedle by Cari Thomas.

Is there a book that changed your life?

Two—when I was sixteen I read The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy and Wise Children by Angela Carter. Both books are irreverent and funny and brilliant, and I realised when I read them that I was allowed to develop a distinct voice, I didn't have to try and conform to anything.

Can you name a book for which you are an evangelist (and you think everyone should read)?

I tell everyone to read The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson. It's my perfect novel.

Is there a book you would most want to read again for the first time?

Probably Carol by Patricia Highsmith. I think it gave me my biggest book hangover ever.

What is the last piece of art (music, movies, tv, more traditional art forms) that you've experienced or that has impacted you?

I was in a modern art gallery in Newcastle a little while ago, and in one of the rooms, they were playing a documentary from the seventies about a group of working-class men who went to a support group. They would talk about their wives, their jobs, fatherhood, their own parents, and their mental health struggles. It was so moving to see what a positive impact it had on these men to feel supported and heard and to share ideas without judgment. I thought it was beautiful, and it's really stuck with me. We need more of that.

What is your idea of THE perfect day (where you could go anywhere/meet with anyone)?

I lived in Maryland for a year when I was twenty-one, and I adopted a family while I was there. Their house is my happy place because it's just so full of love, but it's so far away that I go years without visiting. A perfect day for me is just hanging out there, drinking iced tea, and listening to them talk about how the Ravens are the best football team, laughing when they try to copy my accent.

What is the question that you're always hoping you'll be asked but never have been? What is your answer?

No one ever asks me who my favourite character is! I think it's probably Ana. I loved her so much when I was writing her that she was basically a flawless angel, and I had to go back and give her flaws.
I also loved writing any scene with Kaysha and Nova. They're so great together.

What are you working on now?

My second novel. It's quite different to Speak of the Devil—it's about love and obsession, and focuses on two women rather than eight!

Book cover of Speak of the devil : a novel
Speak of the Devil: A Novel
Wilding, Rose