A twisty, lush mystery novel, The Glass House is set between 1971 and the present day. When a baby is abandoned outside a remote manor house in the Forest of Dean, the family inside takes her in and hides her from the authorities, forging an explosive secret. Within days someone will lie dead in the woods, and a society scandal explodes. Decades later, a Londoner with holes in her family history and an urgent need for answers sets out to discover the truth.
I’m very interested in the process of writing and plotting a mystery. Where do you start from: do you start writing knowing the solution all along, or do you start from the scenario and work out a suitably satisfying pay-off as you go?
A bit of both. I plan and outline first, partly to reassure myself there’s enough story for a novel. But I have a tendency to go wildly off-piste since my best ideas usually come during the writing process itself. I also do a lot of revisions, sifting through the manuscript, rethreading plot strands, sharpening character and laying red herrings. This is my favourite bit of the writing process: the heavy lifting has been done, and the rest is delicate crafting, which I love.
The Glass House unfolds by way of a dual timeline: one thread of the story is set in the present day, the second in 1971. Could you tell us about the challenges of writing a storyline set in the past, and what sort of research you had to conduct to do this?
I’m a seventies baby so it’s not so far back. I remember quite a lot from a child’s perspective: clothes, smells, the way hazy summer days seemed to stretch forever. The more serious stuff such as the law, forensics, and the way struggling new mothers were treated—not very compassionately—I researched, mostly online. My other Eve Chase novels, with strands set in the fifties and sixties, required more swotting and reading.
Country houses often turn up in your novels. Why is that? And is Foxcote Manor based on a real place?
I do love a big old house: romantic and slightly creepy, full of stories and deliciously dysfunctional families. Like families themselves, houses can be havens or terrible places you need to escape to survive. Foxcote Manor isn’t based on a real house, but it’s fairly typical of a hunting lodge, used as a weekend retreat by wealthy city dwellers. The foresters themselves would have eyed its inhabitants warily, as outsiders.
What does your writing day look like?
In lockdown? Interesting! Normally, I work while my three children are at school. But now school has moved into my living room, it’s harder. After running with the dog and any reluctant children, I take my coffee to my writing shed at the bottom of the garden—I’d not swap my shed for the world. Because it’s such a distracting time to write, I’m trying to work in 25-minute concentrated slots. On a good day I’ll write 2,000 words. A bad day will involve me reading the entire internet before starting work, writing 500 words, and deleting 800. For every three good writing days you generally get one bad day.
Yes, lockdown must have been a very strange time to publish a new novel: how have you been marking publication?
Yes, a very weird time—the bookshops are shut, not great—but there’s also a hunger for good stories, respite from this never-ending pandemic. One reader told me novels were like coaches taking her to exotic locations, and mine went to a beautiful summer forest. (I liked that!) There’s been much more social media activity than normal. Everyone’s online. I even bought myself a tripod to make videos, like a twenty-something vlogger. I thought I’d hate it, but I’ve discovered I quite like beaming myself direct to my readers. I’ve also learned to slap on a flattering filter. Needs must.
This is your third novel published under the name Eve Chase. Previously, you wrote a number of novels including the bestselling The Rise and Fall of a Yummy Mummy and The Angel at No.33. Could you tell us a little bit about this decision, and what defines each identity?
I’d written seven comic contemporary novels, published under the name Polly Williams—and put in my 10,000 hours—and I wanted to write darker, more ambitious novels, with a historical element. Black Rabbit Hall, my first novel in this genre, went to auction on both sides of the Atlantic. A new name made sense to the publishers. Chase is my married surname, and I choose Eve because it’s international, short and worked nicely on a book jacket. A capital E is a pleasing thing.