Today I have the pleasure of interviewing thriller writer and fellow copywriter Heather Barnett about her debut novel and upcoming projects.
Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What led you to start writing thrillers?
I love the thought that there’s more to life than meets the eye, and I’m naturally drawn to the humour in a situation: both those things always inform my writing style. Which might sound odd for a thriller writer, but my debut is more of a light-hearted mystery than a gritty thriller.
I didn’t set out to write a thriller: I had an idea about a top-secret organisation and when I started exploring it, the story lent itself naturally to the pace and twists of a thriller.
What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally? How do you draw on your past when writing fiction?
My background’s in marketing and my day job sometimes involves copywriting, but it’s a very different kettle of fish to my fiction. I’ve always loved writing and have written short stories, poems and novels throughout my life, but this is the first time I’ve been published. (Unless you count a poem in a children’s anthology when I was ten. Which I do.)
People from my past pop up in my writing – never as whole characters but I’ll amalgamate different personality traits and mannerisms to create the people in my stories. I love larger-than-life characters so whenever I meet someone like that in real life I’m mentally tucking them away for future inspiration.
Talk me through your debut novel and why you think readers will love it.
At its heart, Acts of Kindness is about the power of human kindness – so I hope from that point of view people will find it up-lifting. It’s also a bit of escapism to transport readers into a world that’s softer round the edges than ours, peopled with characters you can root for, characters you can laugh at, and a few you wouldn’t want to meet down a dark alley.
Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?
I think for me inspiration is a cumulative process. It’s more like mixing together different ingredients that combine to create a new whole, than one single light bulb moment. The inspiration for Acts of Kindness was witnessing commuters helping a woman who’d fallen down the stairs at Paddington station, intermingled with wondering what was behind some grand stone gateposts that I used to drive past in Wiltshire. Those disparate things swirled around in the back of my mind and came out as the secret OAK Institute, which is at the core of the book.
If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?
Jane Austen. Without a doubt. There wouldn’t be any collaboration though, just me watching on in awe and supplying her with pens, paper and cups of tea.
Do you have any projects coming up in the future that you are particularly excited about?
Yes, I’ve written a romantic comedy called Lord Seeks Wife that will be published by Serpentine Books in summer 2021. It’s like a modern-day PG Wodehouse set in a quintessential English village with plenty of eccentric characters and some unexpected twists.
Are there any new books that you are looking forward to reading over the next few months?
It was my birthday recently so I’ve got a whole stack of new books to read including The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel and Humankind by Rutger Bregman.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Thanks for asking me to do the interview Hannah!
Thanks Heather for answering my questions, it’s been lovely to learn more about your amazing work.