Beneath the Skin is the debut novel from former divorce lawyer Caroline England.
To give you a taste of what Beneath the Skin has to offer I’ve partnered with Avon, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, to give you a special excerpt of Beneath the Skin and an exclusive author interview with Caroline England!
Beneath the Skin is a psychological thriller around lies, deceit, friendship and betrayal that’s sure to keep you on the edge of your seat, have you feverishly page turning and send you many chilling moments that’ll truly get….beneath your skin (I know, I know – I couldn’t help it).So now you know a little bit about the book, here’s a special excerpt:
His eye catches the heading ‘Size Has Clout’ and he smiles for a moment before a mild but nagging anxiety sets in. ‘Oh, piss off,’ he says out loud. It’s an unwelcome emotion, one which hasn’t really bothered him since the day he discovered he was attractive. An overheard conversation between his eldest sister and her new friend from university when he was fourteen. ‘Ramona, your little brother. His face – he’s stunning!’ he’d heard. He’d rushed to the bathroom and locked himself in, dared his eyes to the mirror expecting to see a fat boy, but had been astounded to find that the girl was right. His chubby cheeks had grown thin, his face was bony and chiselled. It was a turning point for Samuel Richards. Samuel became Sami. He stood tall and put anxiety behind him. But now it prods at him from a distance and he isn’t entirely sure what it means.
He takes his feet off the desk and leans on the table, careful not to crease his tie. ‘Why am I anxious?’ he scribbles on the writing pad with the fibre-tip pen he bought to match his watch.
Reclining again, he swings in his chair, the pen to his mouth. Perhaps it’s the huge project at Trafford and the commission he’ll lose if it doesn’t go through. Or maybe it’s Sophie, his mother and the IVF. Or even the suit he forgot to collect from the cleaners. But he knows it’s Friday, last Friday, when he should’ve been in the pub. The memory catches his breath and makes his skin tingle. It just isn’t like him to care so much.
He crumples the paper into a ball and lobs it into the waste-paper bin, expecting to score as usual. It hits the edge and lands softly on the carpet. He stands, bends to pick it up and looks at it thoughtfully in his palm before dropping it directly into the bin. Then he stoops to look at himself in the mirror hung next to his surveying qualification certificates. Replacing one of the certificates, it’s really too low for Sami’s height. Everyone in the office laughs at this token of vanity, but he doesn’t care. Everyone in the office laughs at this token of vanity, but he doesn’t care. ‘Have to keep up the standards,’ he always says to anyone who comments. ‘You should try it.’ But the reality is that standards don’t come into it, he’s one handsome bastard and the mirror is there for him to strut and to preen, to confirm what he already knows. But today his reflection doesn’t look quite right. It’s as though his slight emotional imbalance is reflected in his striking face.
‘No, really, piss off,’ he says again before collecting his jacket and keys and then checking one last time that the words ‘site meeting’ are clearly legible in his diary for anyone who might look.
Beneath the Skin is your debut novel, how does it feel?
A combination of emotions! Since giving up the day job, so to speak, my dream has been to see my own novel on my bookcase, so I’m tremendously excited. But I’m nervous too. I so want readers to like it and to identify with the characters (even if they don’t like them!) It was thrilling when I first met my agent, Kate, and then my editor, Phoebe. They both loved the story and the enthusiasm shining through their eyes was wonderful to see! But of course novels are like olives, I’m not going to please everyone, so I’m steeling myself for those reviews every author hates!
What is it about the psychological thriller genre that attracted you?
Beneath the Skin is at the ‘domestic noir’ end of the crime fiction spectrum, so it’s more a nuanced unfurling of secrets type of read than a pacy crime thriller. I think my interest in this genre comes from my fascination with people. We all just human! We all have secrets, we all lie, we’re all flawed; we’re all fearful and put on a mask at some point in our lives! I also love stories with misdirection, twists and turns.
Where did the idea to write Beneath the Skin come from?
The characters first appeared in a short story I wrote called The Dinner Circle. On the face of it, everyone was happy, but each person around the dinner table had a secret… I’m not sure where the idea for that came from, though, other my fertile imagination! Hm, there’s a thought. My friends might not be so keen on dining with me once they’ve read it…
How has your professional experience helped you craft your novel?
Definitely. During my legal career I worked in the areas of crime, family and professional indemnity, often working with clients at their lowest ebb. From youths who’d fallen into petty crime and who had sobbed uncontrollably because they’d let down their mum and dad, to men and woman who were devastated by betrayal; from allegations of parental abuse to solicitors or surveyors who were broken by an accusation of professional incompetence. I was also a community mediator, dealing with disputes between neighbours, school and parents, parent and child, former lovers. Dealing with each party independently, impartially and objectively, it was fascinating to see how we all have our view point or versions of truth. I think this has really helped me get under the skin of all my characters.
Are you currently working on another novel?
Yes, I have just gone through the proof pages of book 2, a process I love doing! My Husband’s Lies, available for pre-order, will be published by Avon Harp
I’d like to thank Avon – especially Sabah Khan, and Caroline England for giving me the opportunity to bring this post to you.