Leeds author June Taylor tackles toxic relationships in new thriller

Leeds writer June Taylor once again delves into the murky depths of difficult relationships in her psychological thriller. She spoke to Yvette Huddleston.

Author June Taylor
Author June Taylor

“We all have secrets and we are never sure when to reveal things to significant others – most people hold things back,” says Leeds-based writer June Taylor whose latest psychological thriller is published in paperback this week.

Keep Your Friends Close is the follow up to her accomplished 2017 debut novel Losing Juliet (nominated for the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize) which charted the fall out from a toxic friendship, and it tackles similar themes – deceit, breakdown of trust and the potential consequences when relationships go wrong.

“I think I naturally gravitated back to those themes because I find them fascinating,” says Taylor. “What I am also really interested in is that point in a relationship when you start to think about what you need to let someone know. Because we are not telepathic, we only have our instincts to guide us as to whether we can trust people. And if we have something really bad or troubling in our past we wonder when, or whether, to tell someone about it.” This was the starting point for her new novel in which the protagonist 22-year-old Karin has a complicated past with a lot to hide involving the death of her father, the suicide of her stepfather and estrangement from her mother. “I wanted my character to be young and have a very dark secret and not really know how to handle it and then just let that play out,” says Taylor.

In the book Karin does eventually tell a close friend but she lives to regret it and Taylor skilfully ramps up the tension as she explores how confiding in someone can make you extremely vulnerable and how information, in the wrong hands, can become a dangerous weapon.

As well as the intricate plotting which takes the reader on an enjoyably twisting journey, the narrative incorporates different viewpoints with each chapter telling the story from one of three perspectives. It’s a clever device that prompts niggling questions about the reliability of the narrator’s version of events and keeps the action moving along at a cracking pace. And Taylor is unafraid to delve into the depths of human behaviour. What is it that attracts to the dark side? She laughs. “I’m actually by nature a very happy and positive person and like to see the good in everyone and give everyone the benefit of the doubt but inevitably in this genre the material is in those dark and difficult places and I think that’s when we are at our most interesting .”

The response to Keep Your Friends Close, released as an e-book in October, has been very positive so far – it is climbing up the Kindle charts – and Taylor is already in the early stages of book number three, also a psychological thriller. While she says she also has ideas for novels beyond that which may not be crime fiction, it is clearly a genre which suits her writing style and at which she excels. “Like most people I’ve had difficult things to deal with in my life such as grief and loss and illness and I think writing is my way of dealing with those. It allows me to think about those things and make stories out of them.”

The book launch is at the Leeds Library on Commerical Street on January 18 at 7pm.