The Lies We Told by Camilla Way
The idea for The Lies We Told came to me after having a conversation with some fellow mothers about whether certain behavior in kids is innate or learned. We all make jokes about how this child’s ‘a little monster,’ or that one’s ‘a born diva,’ but I wondered what it would feel like for it to gradually dawn on you that your child is a genuine sociopath – for that instinctive, unconditional love to slowly change to fear then horror.
In The Lies We Told we follow Beth who in 1981, after struggling for years to conceive, finally has her longed-for daughter, Hannah, only for Hannah to begin to exhibit some very disturbing behavior. Alongside this is Clara’s present-day story whose boyfriend Luke vanishes out of the blue one day. We know that somehow Luke and Hannah are connected, but don’t find out how until the end.
I first began writing when I was in my twenties. My dad was an author (he wrote spy thrillers) but died when I was quite young, and I always had the idea that I’d love to write a novel too one day, but didn’t have the confidence to try.
My background is magazine journalism. I worked as a production editor – the person who edits copy, writes headlines and oversees print deadlines. At the time I was working on Bliss!, a teenage girls’ magazine that was great fun but very long hours, and I’d started to feel a little stuck and bored. I’d also split from a long-term boyfriend so was feeling pretty rubbish about life. The dream of writing kept nagging at me, but I had no idea where to start.
I’m a Londoner, and have always been interested in secret and subterranean London – underground tunnels, disused railways, that sort of thing. I was having a conversation with my brother about the deserted sand mines beneath Greenwich, south-east London where we grew up, and I suddenly thought, ‘What a great place to hide a body!’ and the seeds of the idea for my first thriller were sown.
After a holiday in Costa Rica during which I nearly drowned, I returned home with a feeling of ‘seize the day’ and sat down to try to write the first few chapters of what would become The Dead Of Summer. After around 8,000 words, I excitedly read it back to myself. It was awful! Even for a first attempt it was shockingly bad. I showed it to a couple of trusted friends, hoping desperately that I was being too hard on myself, but they – kindly, tactfully – agreed: yup, it stank.
I decided I’d been stupid to even try and stopped writing it. A year later, I had a new job working on Arena magazine. Suddenly I was amongst a bunch people who also harbored an ambition to write a novel/screenplay/non-fiction book one day. I found the conversations we had really inspiring and a year after I’d abandoned them, I nervously returned to those terrible few chapters.
As I read them, it occurred to me that one of the minor characters was far more interesting than the current main protagonist, so I made her the focus instead. I also changed the tense from third person to first and decided that the murderer would be someone else entirely. What I had now was instantly more energetic and engaging. Writing in this character’s voice flowed in a way that my first attempt hadn’t come close to before.
For a year or so I wrote in my spare time; slowly adding to it during the odd evening and weekend. When I finished, I nervously showed it to a few friends and colleagues who were very positive and encouraged me to send it off to agents. Waiting to hear back from them was terrifying; suddenly I realized just how desperately I wanted it to be published.
Thankfully, after several rejections, a couple of agents said they were interested and I signed up with Claire Conrad at Janklow & Nesbit. Claire suggested a few changes and when it was finally ready she submitted the manuscript to publishers. Five publishers were interested and after an auction it was sold to HarperCollins in the UK and Houghton Harcourt in the US.
After my second novel, Little Bird, was published I took a break from writing while I had my twin baby boys (I barely had the wherewithal to write a text message, let alone another book). Slowly though, as the boys grew easier, I began to write notes for what would become my third novel, and with a lot of help from my fantastic new agent Hellie Ogden, Watching Edie was finally ready and came out in 2016, with The Lies We Told hitting shelves in the UK in May 2018 and the US in October.
Writing is fun and exciting, but the knowledge that you, and only you, are responsible for filling those 300-odd blank pages with something publishable, can be incredibly daunting. You have to learn to trust yourself – that you will find a way around plot holes or solve problems with pace, even if it means deleting thousands of words and starting all over again. Whether it’s your debut or fifteenth novel, I think all writers have to be doggedly determined, hold their nerve and sometimes just keep on writing through the panic! It’s worth it: when it’s going well it’s incredibly exhilarating, and there’s nothing else I’d rather do.
(c) Camilla Way
Camilla Way was formerly an editor on the style magazine Arena and has written for Stylist, Elle and the Guardian.
She first became interested in the theme of toxic female friendships and the question of whether we can ever, truly, escape our past after hearing a news story about a teenage friendship that went horribly wrong.
Camilla is now a full-time writer and lives in south-east London with her partner and twin boys.
About The Lies We Told:
DO YOU PROMISE NOT TO TELL?
Beth has always known there was something strange about her daughter, Hannah. The lack of emotion, the disturbing behaviour, the apparent delight in hurting others… sometimes Beth is scared of her, and what she could be capable of.
Luke comes from the perfect family, with the perfect parents. But one day, he disappears without trace, and his girlfriend Clara is left desperate to discover what has happened to him.
A LIFE BUILT ON LIES
As Clara digs into the past, she realizes that no family is truly perfect, and uncovers a link between Luke’s long-lost sister and a strange girl named Hannah. Now Luke’s life is in danger because of the lies once told and the secrets once kept. Can she find him before it’s too late?
Order your copy online here.