Interview with Karen Hamilton, author of bestselling, The Perfect Girlfriend and The Last Wife
Karen Hamilton spent her childhood in Angola, Zimbabwe, Belgium and Italy, and developed a love of travel through moving around so much. This led her to a career as a flight attendant, and it was in the air that she thought of the idea for her debut thriller The Perfect Girlfriend.
Karen is a recent graduate of the Faber Academy, and has now put down roots in Hampshire to raise her young family with her husband. The Perfect Girlfriend was a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller in paperback. The Last Wife is her hotly anticipated second novel.
Here’s a taster…
Nina, in the final days of her illness, asks her best friend Marie to look after her family when she’s gone. And Marie does everything she can to step into Nina’s shoes after her friend’s tragic death. She tries to do the best by Nina, tries to be there for Nina’s young children, tries to support Nina’s grieving husband, tries to keep their lives on track despite their terrible loss.
But when Marie discovers a dark secret that Nina had kept concealed, she is forced to confront the past.
The Faber Academy is famed for producing great new authors, how did it help you with your writing process and do you think it helped you achieve a book deal?
Early on in the course, we covered Point of View. I had already started to write what would become The Perfect Girlfriend in third and decided to switch it to first. I submitted my piece for feedback, half in third and half in first. The positive feedback for writing the book in first was kind and very encouraging, so I completed a first draft. I definitely think it helped because it gave me self-belief and encouragement.
What was the most important new skill the academy taught you?
To ‘keep going.’ Confidence. Self-belief. To build resilience. The value of feedback and support from others. To follow your instinct.
Did you know instinctively that your debut, The Perfect girlfriend would be a success or did it come as a very welcome surprise?
A very welcome surprise. I was very grateful for all the encouragement I received along the way as this helped me to hope and keep working at it.
I actually went on the Faber Academy course to write a different book. While discussing Point of View as mentioned above, I had an image of the protagonist in The Perfect Girlfriend, Juliette, (this isn’t in the book) walking down a street one night while it was getting dark. I imagined her looking inside the windows as the lights went on in family homes, longing to be a part of one of them.
It was then that I decided to try and develop the character of Juliette as above instead of the other book I was going to try and re-write.
Both of your novels focus on the intricacies of relationships and how they can become skewed and shaped by past events. Where do you think this ability to understand what makes people tick comes from?
I go to therapy ‘in character’ (a service called Characters on the Couch, recommended to me by Phoebe Locke who also writes under Nicci Cloke). I attend a session near the beginning of writing each book to try and delve deep into the minds of my latest protagonists. I also attended a five-day psychotherapy course for writers at The Faber Academy called Who Do You Think They Are? Psychotherapy fascinates me.
Was there something that happened in real life that inspired you to write The Last Wife?
I knew for a while that I wanted to set a book in The New Forest (not too far from where I live). I was setting a book-group up with some friends in my village, which is lovely. However, while I was reading about book-groups online, I was really surprised to discover that some weren’t as friendly as I had imagined. This really surprised me. When it came to creating Marie’s character, I thought about someone trying to join a well-established group in a village and how someone like Marie would approach it.