Nicole Trope is a former high school teacher with a Masters Degree in Children's Literature. In 2005 she was one of the winners of the Varuna Awards for Manuscript Development. In 2009 her young adult novel titled I Ran Away First was shortlisted for the Text Publishing Prize. In 2012, Nicole published The Boy Under the Table. Her most recent novel, Three Hours Late, is our Book of the Week.
As a mother was this story difficult to write?
Yes. Anything involving a very young child is always difficult. As a mother I wanted to reach in and grab Luke away from danger but as the writer I had to let the story unfold for better or worse.
Did you have to do much research into domestic violence and family breakdown?
I did. I read a lot of personal stories on domestic violence, which really helped me to understand what it felt like to be in such a relationship. I was interested to see the same things coming up again and again. I think that most women have a certain amount of experience with feeling powerless. When you have a baby you tend to feel particularly vulnerable because of your need to protect your child and because of what your body has gone through. It was easy for me to connect with Liz because of this and to understand why it was so hard for her to leave.
There is not much to read from the man’s or the perpetrator’s perspective so I had to tread carefully when writing Alex’s scenes. It’s so easy to dismiss someone like him as -just awful- but I needed to know the reasons for his behaviour.
There is a good deal of suspense in your book. Did you always know how your story was going to end?
I originally wrote the story another way and then changed it when it just wasn’t working but as soon as I began the final draft that became the novel I knew how it would end. It feels like the whole plot of a novel comes to me in a series of images which I then have to look at slowly so that I can explain the story to the reader.
Gillian Flynn put on a video clip of Singin’ in the Rain at the end of each day whilst writing her thriller Gone Girl. It pulled her out of her material and put her in a better frame of mind to greet her family. Do you have a similar technique?
Not really. I do leave for school pick up a little early and read the paper whilst I wait for my children so I suppose that switches my thinking; but children will not accept it if you are not present. They know that their news is much more important than anything I’ve been doing. They drag me out of wherever I am at the end of a writing day.
What advice would you give to a writer keen to pursue this genre?
Write about what scares you. Not about things that are seen to be conventionally scary but about something that really terrifies you to write about. That fear brings a certain amount of honesty to your work and I think readers appreciate it. I know that I am writing something worth reading when I am so involved in the story that I forget I’m supposed to be editing.
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