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Interview: Rosie Walsh talks about Ghosted

Published in more than 30 languages, Ghosted is the book for anyone who has ever waited for a call that didn't come. Rosie Walsh talks to NZ Booklovers about her novel Ghosted.

Tell us a little about Ghosted

Ghosted is the story of Sarah and Eddie, who meet and fall in love during a beautiful week together in the English countryside – only for Eddie to completely disappear, without warning or explanation. Sarah’s friends are certain she has been ghosted, but Sarah is convinced there is a more sinister reason for Eddie’s disappearance. Her quest to find him uncovers some terrible, long-buried secrets, which are held together by what - I hope - will be a twist that nobody will anticipate! It’s an epic love story, and a mystery, but also a story about grief, guilt, family and mental health.

What inspired you to write this book?

The trigger was a dinner with a female friend – an intelligent, beautiful, successful woman; a real catch. She was in the early stages of a relationship with a man, and they’d been discussing a holiday together – when, without warning, he stopped contacting her. I listened to her hypothesising the reasons for his disappearance: a broken phone, ill health, possible sudden death – and I felt furious. Why was this happening to a woman in her forties? Why does this sort of thing happen at all? I decided to write a novel about it.

What research was involved?

I spent a long time learning about Clown Doctors: specially trained professionals who work with children in hospitals and other care environments. I did most of this research through a British charity called Hearts and Minds, but spoke to a great many hospital staff too. I also spent a while shadowing a cabinet maker, and had extensive conversations with mental health professionals, charity workers and carers. Plus hours and hours of conversations with friends about everything from the specifics of their birth experiences to the sort of questions their kids ask while trapped on long car journeys, and a million other strange questions in between.

What was your routine or process when writing this book?

The writing process for this book was something I will never forget. Rather than thrashing out the plot at my desk, like I normally do, I conceived it over the course of a five week, three hundred mile hike around the Cornish coast. I had nothing but the sound of the sea, the birds, and the wind for company (and my boyfriend, who listened to endless half-baked ideas) which provided the perfect thinking environment: I had the whole thing planned out by the time I arrived at my computer back in Bristol. But I also spent a great deal of time in the valley in which most of the action takes place. I went there throughout the year, making notes on the flora and fauna as the seasons changed; smelling the air, writing lists of the sounds around me. It was magical.

If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

I think The Cure’s Pictures Of You would be a good place to start. In fact, if I met any members of the band I would suggest that they update the lyrics for the modern generation, to say something about how I’ve been looking so long at my inert mobile phone. (NB Cure fans: I’m joking. It would be sacrilege.)

What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?

Almost everything. I felt very calm and happy writing it, although it’s possible that I’m applying a celestial filter to the experience – I know that the edit process, which took fifteen months, was brutal, and nearly drove me mad! But for all the struggle, I did really enjoy the learning. We ended up selling this book to publishers all over the world, which meant I had to do even more edits, long after I thought I’d finished – and this process of repeatedly going back to the manuscript, even when I thought there was nothing to do, was fascinating. I learned so much about stripping out deadwood and finding simple, elegant ways of saying something that might previously have taken entire paragraphs.

What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

I still don’t feel like I’ve finished it! Having publishers all over the world is the stuff of dreams, but with it comes a great deal of publicity work.

What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

A beautiful, poignant, joyous book called Little Big Man, by Katy Regan. It’s about a ten year old boy, Zac, who sets out to find his missing father, and it made me cry so hard that my partner took a picture of me and sent it to the author! But for all the tears, there was so much laughter, and so much truth. Regan has a quite extraordinary ability to write searingly real characters – characters who stay with you for months after you’ve turned the final page. I don’t know how she does it. All I know is that I couldn’t put it down, and that as a writer it made me green with envy.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

I am writing my next book, very, very slowly. I had my first baby a few months before Ghosted came out, so it’s been a pretty busy time, and brain power has been limited. But I’m almost there with the plot, now, and looking forward to writing the thing – so far I’ve just written hundreds of pages of notes. I’m also about to take my first holiday in a very, very long time! I am writing this on a plane to Lisbon, where I hope to drink a lot of port, eat delicious food and maybe - if I’m really lucky - get twenty minutes lying down in the sun.


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