Author Vincent Ralph signed a two-book deal with Penguin Random House and on the 4th February he released his latest novel Lock the Doors, which features Tom, who moves into a new home with his family, and Amy, who used to live in the house. Since starting writing as a teenager, Vincent released his debut novel Are You Watching? in 2019 which was praised by The Observer as a ‘twisty whodunit’. We recently chatted with Vincent who talks more about releasing his latest novel Lock the Doors, the main characters Tom and Amy and how it was having his debut novel Are You Watching? published through Penguin Random House.
Your new book Lock the Doors was released on 4th February, can you tell us about it?
When Tom and his family move into their dream home, he is the only one to notice clues that point to a dark mystery. He befriends Amy, who used to live there, in a bid to figure out what happened.
How long were you working on the novel and where did you get the inspiration from for the storyline?
The book happened quite quickly. The first draft took around three months, then another few for edits, so probably about six months in total. Houses hold all kinds of secrets and I wanted to write a story where the characters are unsure if there is even a mystery to solve while being certain something isn’t quite right.
Why would you recommend the book to readers and who do you think it will appeal to?
I think it will appeal to anyone who loves a page-turner. At first glance, the novel is a thriller, but it is also about family and coming of age.
How would you describe the main characters?
Tom is trying to move away from his past. He has OCD and anxiety but those things help him in pursuit of the truth. Amy is the new girl at school who is drawn to Tom even though he suspects all is not as it seems.
Since you first planned the novel, how different is the plot and characters in the finished publication?
I don’t really plan my books. I like to just write and see what happens. With Lock the Doors I had a couple of key moments in mind but nothing was noted down in advance, so the finished story is pretty much all there ever was. It went through a couple of rounds of edits but the characters and storylines stayed the same.
Without giving spoilers, was there a part of the storyline that was most challenging to write?
This is tricky because I don’t want to give anything away. There was one section that I wanted to get spot on as I knew how important it was to the whole story. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get that right. Sorry that is so vague!
What is it like releasing Lock the Doors during lockdown?
It’s disappointing knowing I won’t be able to see my book in shops for a while. I absolutely love the cover (which was designed by Arabella Jones) and think it will stand out on shelves. I enjoyed visiting my first book and signing some copies so it’s a shame not to do that for Lock the Doors. But hopefully, when it’s safe to do so, I can see it in the wild.
How different did you find writing this novel to your debut Are You Watching? which was released in 2019?
Are You Watching? was the book that got me an agent and a publishing deal. I worked on it for a long time and publication was the culmination of a lot of work, plenty of prayers and untold luck. I signed a two-book deal so Lock the Doors was bought before it even existed; and that was terrifying when it came to actually writing it. There were deadlines and expectations and I didn’t know if it would be good enough.
Thankfully it worked out. I’m really proud of both novels and I’m so grateful for everyone who has helped me along the way.
How was it releasing Are You Watching? and having it published through Penguin Random House?
It was a dream come true. I have wanted to be a novelist since I was at school but there were so many times when I didn’t think it would happen. To have my debut novel published at all was amazing; but to have a penguin on the spine, that was phenomenal.
What is your writing process and are you constantly thinking of new concept ideas?
I like to write at night. I think my imagination prefers the dark and that’s when a lot of Lock the Doors was written. I write a first draft from beginning to end with little or no planning, then I’ll start editing or tweaking things in my head. I need the scenes and characters to exist on the page before I can move them about or figure out what needs changing.
I have a list of new concept ideas that I want to work through. I got a few new ones while writing Lock the Doors and I had to put them on the backburner. After finishing a book, I start a couple of new ones and see which one won’t let me stop.
We understand you’ve always enjoyed books, who are some of your favourite authors?
There are so many authors whose work I love. I read a lot of John Irving, Terry Pratchett and Margaret Atwood when I was younger. I also love Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn inspired me to write thrillers of my own and all her novels are amazing.
How do you like to spend your time away from writing?
Most of my time away from writing is spent with our son. He was born between me finishing Are You Watching? and starting Lock the Doors and he ensures we are never bored. I also love listening to music and – when the world allows – going to gigs and musicals.
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