This is an excellent, riveting read. Helen, her husband Daniel, her brother Rory and his wife, Serena, all live a seemingly idyllic life in Greenwich, London. However, an encounter with a woman at an antenatal class turns Helen’s world upside down and brings secrets from the past crashing into their lives now, with page-turning consequences.
We enjoyed it right until the very last tantalising sentence...
Do you remember the moment you were inspired to write Greenwich Park?
Yes I do! I was pregnant and sitting in my first antenatal class. The opening scene is actually based quite heavily on that class – the heat, the jammed windows, the awkward conversations!
From there, I started wondering what it would be like if you went along to one of these classes and found you couldn't get rid of the person you befriended – and how that might play out for someone who is heavily pregnant and already anxious and feeling a bit isolated.
You wrote this book while on maternity leave - that’s very impressive! How did you juggle a newborn and writing a new novel?
With extreme difficulty! But having said that, I don’t think it’s easy for anyone to fit writing a book around your life – it’s something you have to really commit to. For me, although writing a book on maternity leave might sound slightly mad, actually my job (as Head of News at The Times) was so demanding I don’t think I’d ever have finished it alongside working! At least on maternity leave, I could allow my brain to completely focus on it. I certainly didn’t write very much at all in the first three months – it was far too much of a whirlwind!
After that – when I started getting a bit more sleep! – I started taking my laptop out in the bottom of the pram when I walked my daughter around, and then stop and do a bit of writing in a café once I’d got her off to sleep. When she was six months old, I had written about 15,000 words, and was desperate to finish the book, but I knew I needed help and some sort of structure.
I decided to do the Faber novel-writing course in that second six months of my maternity leave, which gave me the push I needed to finish a first draft.
In the book, Katie is an investigative journalist – is she an autobiographical slice of you in the story?
Yes, Katie’s chapters were definitely inspired by my time working as a reporter for national and regional papers. I covered quite a lot of court cases, including rape and child sexual exploitation cases, and did crime backgrounds, so I had quite a lot to draw on when I was writing her chapters. I like to think I’ve probably got slightly better taste in men than Katie, though…
How do you balance your journalistic career with novel writing?
Another tricky juggling act! I absolutely love being a journalist but it’s totally all-consuming. I didn’t really get around to doing any work on my second book until I went on maternity leave again last year to have my second daughter.
I am now taking a little bit of time out from journalism while my daughters are tiny to concentrate on writing that second book. It’s been lovely to be able to throw myself into that – and to be able to pick my girls up from nursery every day.
Greenwich Park is almost like another character in the book. Why did you choose to focus the title on the location?
I love that as well as the beautiful parts – the park, the market, the stunning houses where I imagined my characters to live – there’s a real seedy underbelly to Greenwich, with the tunnel, the river and the less salubrious areas.
Did you know how Helen’s story would play out before you started writing?
No, I didn’t! I've found (in my not very vast experience of writing novels!) that I like to keep the plot quite open. I start with a place, some characters, and most importantly, an atmosphere, and I spend quite a lot of time at the beginning writing and feeling my way into those elements before I finalise the details of the plot.
Hilary Mantel describes her process as 'growing a book'; starting with a few elements like that that feel important to the story, and then gradually allowing the book to reveal itself, piece by piece, through the process of writing - I really relate to that.
What 3 books do you recommend all thriller fans read?
Three of my all-time favourites are He Said She Said by Erin Kelly, Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty, and Our House by Louise Candlish for a final line twist that made me gasp out loud!
It’s not strictly a thriller, but this year’s Girl A by Abigail Dean is a total must-read for thriller fans, too – it’s terrifying and impossible to put down – and for a completely original take on the genre, The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris, out in June, is mind-bendingly brilliant!
What fictional character would you like to go for a drink with?
I loved Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse so much that I named my first daughter after her. She’s not everyone’s heroine but she’s definitely mine. I think she’d be great to share a bottle of wine with!
What message would you like readers to take away from your book?
That’s a very good question!
We live in an age where, through social media, we have the illusion of intimacy and familiarity with other peoples’ lives. In fact, no one has the perfect life, and things are rarely as they appear on the surface.
Thank you so much for talking to us, Katherine! Get your copy of Greenwich Park here.
We'll be discussing the book over in our Facebook group, so make sure you join us there!