Former journalist turned bestselling author Linda Green’s latest novel is a compelling thriller with an intriguing twist. She spoke to Yvette Huddleston.
It was a sad turn of events that prompted best-selling author Linda Green to write her latest novel After I’ve Gone.
“A couple of years ago I lost two friends within two months,” says Green who is based in Bingley. “It was the first time I had lost friends of my own age and also it was my first experience of losing people who I had been friends with on Facebook. What happened was that all their other friends and family were posting tributes on their timeline or tagging them in posts. It became a point of focus for everyone who was grieving and struggling to come to terms with what had happened.”
The novel tells the story of Jess, a young woman in her early twenties, who one day logs on to Facebook and discovers that her timeline appears to have jumped forward by 18 months to a day when shocked friends and family are posting tributes to her following her sudden death in ‘an accident’. Is it a sick joke, or a chilling glimpse of her true fate?
It is an intriguing premise – which completely grabs the reader right from the start – and the resulting time shifts are deftly handled by Green. She pulls it off with aplomb, but, I suggest, she didn’t make life easy for herself. She laughs. “Yes, it is my eighth novel and without a doubt is is the toughest I have written. I knew from the beginning it would be really hard – you are battling against every instinct as a writer and asking readers to suspend their disbelief to go with it.”
Plenty have been happy to – the response to the book, published by Quercus in the summer, has been very positive so far. Like many of Green’s novels it is set in West Yorkshire – Jess lives in Mytholmroyd, as Green once did, and works in Leeds; there are plenty of locations local readers will recognise. “I like the Northern setting,” she says. “I was born and brought up in London but I’ve been up here for a long time. I get aggrieved at how much fiction is set in London and the south so I’m really pround to set mine where I live. Also, I tend to write very visually and I see my characters move through the landscape.”
Green’s previous novel While My Eyes Were Closed, which came out last year, was also a gripping psychological thriller – it told the story of a missing four-year-old child who disappears during a game of hide and seek in the park with her mother and was a heart-stopping read for any parent– but she has come to the genre relatively late. Her early novels, after leaving journalism to write full-time, were classed as ‘women’s fiction’, although they always had “a dark side” she says and dealt with serious issues.
“I am interested in the human reaction to difficult things in life. I think a lot of that comes from my experience as a journalist. I tend to like to throw a hand grenade into my characters’ world.”
She is already working on her next novel which deals with four generations of women and opens with the great grandmother revealing a devastating secret on her death bed. The novel explores the impact of that secret on those left behind. “I never seem to be short of ideas,” says Green. “In fact sometimes the hardest thing is deciding which idea to pick from all those jostling around.”
After I’ve Gone By Linda Green
published by quercus books, £7.99
Best-selling author Linda Green’s follow up to last year’s acclaimed bestseller While My Eyes Were Closed is an equally compelling psychological thriller.
It tells the story of feisty twenty-something Jess Mount who, through an unexplained quirk on Facebook, gets to see a year and a half ahead into her own future when friends begin posting tributes to her after her death.
It is a page-turner of the very highest quality – you will be tempted to read it in one sitting – but it also incorporates some profound observations on grief, loss and the fragility and preciousness of life. How would knowing the date and nature of your death affect your behaviour? In Jess’s case there is also the factor of an as yet unborn son who she can only save by sacrificing herself.
And it delves into the modern phenomenon of ‘social grieving’ – why don’t we let people know how much we care about them while they are still alive instead of sharing those thoughts with strangers on social media after they have gone?
The book also deals with the issue of domestic abuse, in particular coercive control, in an intelligent and enlightened way – the fact that the victim is young, vibrant and well able to stand up for herself emphasises the point that it is the kind of situation anyone could find themselves in.