Five years ago, Rosa walked to the end of the pier in the dead of night. She looked into the swirling water, and jumped. She was a brilliant young Cambridge student who had just lost her father. Her death was tragic, but not unexpected.Was that what really happened? The coroner says it was. But Rosa’s boyfriend Jar can’t let go. He sees Rosa everywhere – a face on the train; a figure on the cliff. He is obsessed with proving that she is still alive. And then he gets an email. Find me, Jar. Find me, before they do…Is Rosa really dead? And, if she is, who is playing games with the ones she left behind?
23 Review Street
Q&A with J. S. Monroe
Hi J. S. Monroe, thank you for being on my blog I am thrilled to be asking you questions about your book and books in general! I have read ‘Find Me’ and I can truly say it is one of the best books I have ever read.
Find Me is one of those books that keeps you guessing throughout, did you know how it would end or were you just as surprised by the ending?
I’m delighted you enjoyed Find Me and thank you for inviting me to be on your blog. After writing about a third of the book, I realised that I was heading for an espionage resolution to the question of Rosa’s disappearance. I’d previously written five spy novels (under my own name, Jon Stock) and was confident that my spy theory would more than explain why and how Rosa had disappeared five years earlier in Cromer. Then I had lunch with my agent, Will Francis at Janklow & Nesbit, and he nodded politely over the soup to my summary of how the story would end. He liked it a lot, he said, but had I considered throwing in alternative possible reason for her disappearance – something to do with her past and her own character? In other words, steering Find Me into psychological thriller territory and away from the spy landscape that I was familiar with. I knew at once that he was right – I also knew that it would be a lot harder to do. But I was so excited by the challenge, more so than I’ve ever been about anything that I’ve written.
As I began to develop this second possible explanation for Rosa’s disappearance, I realised I didn’t want to let go of the first, espionage theory. Far from it. And so I developed both theories in tandem, aiming to make them equally credible (which did my head in, believe me!). Throw in some unreliable narration and you have the makings of a complex story. I hope that the reader doesn’t know which narrative to believe until the very last chapter – and even then there should be an element of doubt as the narrative gives one final flick of the tale…
If Find Me was made into a television show or movie, who could you imagine playing the characters and why?
We’ve already had a lot of film interest from America and in particular and a British writer who works on scripts with a fellow American scribe. The British guy could really relate to Find Me, for various personal reasons. Interestingly, he wants to switch round the sexes, making Jar a woman and Rosa a man, so it would be a woman looking for her apparently dead boyfriend. I was a little surprised when I first heard this, but there’s actually quite a lot sense in it. For one thing, there are, apparently, a lot more gifted young female leads right now in Hollywood than men.
I’ve had a long, exciting ride with Warner Bros after they optioned my 2009 thriller, Dead Spy Running, but I’ve also learnt not to get too excited until a film is actually greenlit in Hollywood. Warner Bros commissioned a number of different scripts, including one by Oscar winner Stephen Gaghan, and the project is currently with McG, the director of Terminator IV and Charlie’s Angels. The bottom line is that, almost eight years later, the film is still in development, but the latest word from McG is that he wants to turn it into a ten-part series for US TV, which would be great.
So, thinking of who might play the lead characters in a film of Find Me is a dangerous, premature game, but if pushed, and assuming the characters stay the same sex as they are in the book, how about Domhnall Gleeson for Jar and Kaya Scodelario for Rosa?
What inspires you to write and why?
Different things inspire me. The original inspiration for Find Me lies in the opening scene. Jar is on his way to work in London, taking the escalator down into Paddington station. Suddenly, he sees Rosa, his girlfriend from university, passing him on the up escalator. Except that she died five years ago and I knew Find Me wasn’t a ghost story. A former girlfriend of mine days died a few years after we went out together at Cambridge University. Later, I thought I saw her on a station platform. I knew, of course, that it wasn’t her, but it set me thinking. What if?
In terms of reading, do you normally go for books of the same genre that you write or other genres instead?
When I’m writing a thriller, I tend to steer clear of other thrillers and read from completely different genres. I recently read and hugely enjoyed A Girl is a Half Formed Thing, by Eimear McBride (an extraordinarily original voice), and Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson, who does all sorts of clever things with the narrative. Psychological thrillers I’ve enjoyed include The Girl on The Train and, of course, Gone Girl. And I really liked Clare Macintosh’s I Let You Go.
What would your writing day look like?
I aim to write 1,000 new words a day. I begin by editing the previous day’s efforts and usually delete up to a quarter of what I’ve written. Early mornings are great if I’m on a roll. I have three teenage children so the house is quiet before breakfast. In winter, I load up the wood-burning stove, put on Radio 3 and write from 5am to 7am, before making the porridge for everyone’s breakfast. In the summer, I’ll do the same if it’s warm enough, but sit outside and write, under the apple tree. The worst time of day for me is just after lunch, when I’m feeling very sleepy. I really should just be honest with myself and give in to a half hour siesta. Sometimes I do, but I’ve yet to avoid the guilt.
If you could describe your writing style in three words, what would they be?
Pace, poise, rounded.
Thank you so much for being on 23 Review Street, I can’t wait to read what you write next!
Thank you – it’s been a real pleasure.
Another day, another book,
Another day, another book,