Today I’m on the blog tour for this intriguing book, which I have a copy of on my January read list. As I’ve not been able to read it yet I have a guest post from the author so read on and enjoy!
Blurb: ANNA has been taught that virtue is the path to God. But on her eighteenth birthday she defies her Mamma’s rules and visits Florida’s biggest theme park.
She has never been allowed to go – so why, when she arrives, does everything seem so familiar? And is there a connection to the mysterious letter she receives on the same day?
ROSIE has grown up in the shadow of the missing sister she barely remembers, her family fractured by years of searching without leads.Now, on the fifteenth anniversary of her sister’s disappearance, the media circus resumes in full flow, and Rosie vows to uncover the truth.
But will she find the answer before it tears her family apart?
Lizzy Barber on Acting and Writing
My writing teacher once told me that there are two kinds of writers: character writers, and plot writers. I have always felt I fell within the former camp.
Writing, for me, has always begun with a character. A whisper of their voice in my head; a glimpse of what they look like; a burgeoning sense of how they think and act. All of this slowly takes root and grows stronger, until they are fully-formed, three-dimensional creatures. When my characters are wholly realised, I feel I can place them into a plot and know how they will behave in a given situation – for me, it’s when I don’t truly know my characters that the plot jars, a scene feels weak or untruthful, and I am tempted to give up.
I think I owe a lot of this approach to my training as an actress. As a small child, I spent a lot of timing playing vivid make-believe games. This playacting was quickly channelled into the drama classes which took up most of my spare time – Saturdays spent at Sylvia Young Theatre School, summer drama camps, school productions. I was lucky to have two incredible drama teachers at school who fuelled this love through theatre studies GCSE and A-level courses, sharing their admiration for Stanislavski, Artaud and Peter Brook, and introducing me to fantastic theatre companies such as Shared Experience and Cheek by Jowl. Theatre productions were rife when I was an undergrad at Cambridge, where I performed in at least three productions a term, and I channelled my English degree towards drama, studying everything from Greek tragedy to Shakespeare to modern American playwrights.
Throughout all of this training and performing, an understanding of the character was key. You may be given the lines a character is going to speak, but it is up to you, the actor, to get under their skin and know how they would say it – and this comes from knowing everything about them, from the inner workings of their minds, to something as simple as what they would eat for breakfast. Techniques such as improvisation can take you beyond the script, whereas exercises such as monologue writing, or selecting a prop as a stimulus to react to, can help you discover your character further. I remember a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream in which I played Snug the Joiner (one of the mechanicals) as a bedraggled school child, because of decisions we made in the rehearsal room about his meekness, and the irony of him then performing as the lion in Pyramus and Thisbe.
There are myriad ways to translate these techniques into writing. I have always valued writing prompts – a short suggestion or sentence which serves as a stimulus for you to respond to, sometimes within a set amount of time. I can highly recommend these, particularly if you’re feeling stuck or uninspired. They may seem like a diversion, but they can really help free your mind, and you never know, you might even discover a gem of a side plot or secondary character in the process. Similarly, jotting down ideas about your characters’ physicality may guide you to a better understanding of them. For example, in My Name Is Anna, Rosie’s inner angst manifests itself her a constant need to pick at the skin around her nails or bite her lips, whereas Mamma, a religious woman who believes strongly in purity, constantly washes her hands and dislikes touching other people. What do they wear? What sort of music do they listen to? Are they a dog or a cat person? These questions may seem trivial, but they can all work together to give you a complete picture of the person you’re trying to create.
About the author:
Lizzy Barber studied English at Corpus Christ College, Cambridge University. After ‘previous lives’ acting and working in film development, she is now the Head of Brand and Marketing for a restaurant group, working with her brother, a restaurateur.
Her debut novel, MY NAME IS ANNA, was the winner of the Daily Mail crime writing competition, and will be published in hardbook in January 2019 by Century, an imprint of Penguin Random House. The North American edition, retitled ANNA IN THE DARK will be published in December 2019.
She is currently hard at work on her next thriller. Lizzy lives in London with her husband, George, food writer and strategy consultant. They are expecting their first child in January 2019.