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Author of the Month

Name: Eve Seymour

First Novel: The Last Exile

Most Recent Book: Beautiful Losers

'...a riveting psychological thriller filled with suspense and misdirection.'

Synopsis:
Kim Slade is a clinical psychologist who specialises treating women with eating disorders. Her life is good, but marred by one thing: she is being stalked. It starts with a few cards and the delivery of a mirror, then things start to escalate when Kim finds her stalker has access to her apartment.

At the same time, ex-male model, Kyle Stannard is hampering Kim to talk to him. He feels that as Kim also has a facial scar like him, she will understand him, but Kim is certain Kyle is her stalker coming out from the shadows. Is his appearance at the same time as things become scary a coincidence? Or is her stalker someone who she knows intimately? All rationale is gone when Kim begins to fear for her life.

Review:
This is the start of a new series for Eve Seymour. Her previous books have involved two very masculine men and so this is a new departure for this author as Kim Slade takes centre stage.

Seymour builds a book surrounding anorexia, Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and stalking, all big issues which appear to have become prominent with the advent of the Internet. Facts about these conditions are scattered throughout Seymourís novel, although I didnít feel they overwhelmed or halted the thrust of the plot. If anything, some facts I found quite fascinating, especially about the way investigations are conducted in to stalking.

Seymour describes in her Q&A that she herself has suffered from anorexia and been a victim of stalking, so this is a very brave novel to write and knowing the writer has not only researched her subject matter, but experienced it, brings a certain authenticity to her novel and Kimís dilemma. Kim is not perfect and with her facial scarring and prickly demeanour, I still managed to warm to her as she is not untouchable and is fallible.

With the dexterous hand of a professional, Seymour maintains the suspense, transforming Kim from a woman in control of her life to a woman in fear, seeing menacing shadows in every corner. There are plenty of suspects littered in ĎBeautiful Losersí, giving me plenty of options as I read as to who it was stalking Kim Slade. Is it really Kyle Stannard? Is it friends she had known for years? Or is it her boss? With a deft sleight of hand, Seymour flicks the spotlight on each character, some female as well as male to confuse her reader. I made several choices as to Kimís tormentor until Seymour reveals all Ė and be ready for there being a bigger picture than even Kim could ever imagine.

Seymour has delivered a riveting psychological thriller filled with suspense and misdirection. I was hooked very early on and it reminded me of the novels of Minette Walters. ĎBeautiful Losersí brings out the ugliest in many of those here and shows that some can be ugly, and it isnít always on the surface.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating



Questionnaire

1) Your previous novels have featured Paul Tallis and Joshua Thane as the main protagonist. ĎBeautiful Losersí is the debut of a new series featuring Kim Slade. How different was it writing from a female perspective to a male one?
Very different. Tallis and Thane are both ĎAlpha Malesí able and willing to use weapons when the need arises. Kim Slade, a clinical psychologist, wouldnít know a Heckler & Koch MP5 sub-machine gun from a Glock 17 pistol. This is a pretty obvious statement but the real challenge was to write from a womanís emotional perspective.

To explain, I think many men react to aggression with aggression while women respond, at least initially, with fear. In fiction, that distinction is even greater. Up against it, male main protagonists regularly throw a punch and reach for the nearest weapon. For a woman, whose normal day job is spent listening to people, this wouldnít really work as an overarching strategy. So I decided to focus on the Ďfear factorí and play up what fear actually does to Kim. Most would expect that, in her role as a psychologist, sheíd be able to out-psyche her stalker, and yet as the pressure is piled on (deliberately on my part) the opposite happens. For me, and given the type of woman Kim is, it felt a more authentic response. And this brings me to the real difficulty of writing from a female perspective: Iím on record as stating that I find writing male characters easier than females, possibly due to my upbringing in a predominantly male household after my mum died. In a sense, it was always easier to tap into the male psyche, and, if Iím honest, I feared that, with Kim Slade or any female main protagonist, Iíd expose too much of my own personality. Strangely, in this regard, I appear to have unwittingly succeeded. Friends who know me well and have read the novel think that there is a lot of Eve Seymour in Kim Slade Ė not sure if this is a good thing or not!
2) Both Tallis and Thane were active males, whereas this new novel is more cerebral as Kim is a psychologist. Did you have to approach ĎBeautiful Losersí with a different mind-set with regards to pacing your plot?
Definitely. It was a fine balance to ensure that, while Kim might be paralysed by fear, her brain didnít go entirely to mush. Sheís quite sleuth-like in the way she looks at angles and tries to nail her stalker. Conflict is the name of the game in crime so, to maintain pace, I started with minor if offensive irritationsĖ like the dead rat incident Ė escalating to murder and beyond. With each development I charted Kimís deteriorating mental state. The more terrified she becomes the more irrational she is until sheís suspicious of even her closest friends, and paranoia is her watchword. A writer can do a lot with a character who is taken apart mentally, bit by bit.
3) Kim deals with eating disorders such as anorexia. Was it a daunting task to tackle this sensitive subject without sensationalising it?
I genuinely hope that I havenít sensationalised anorexia because, as a recovered anorexic, I know exactly what itís like to have oneís entire life taken over by controlling what you put in your mouth. To this day, I wonít have scales in the house. I have no idea what I weigh because my GP surgery never discloses my weight to me. If Iím under stress, I have a tendency to skip meals. Of all eating disorders, it has the highest mortality rate, which is why I get narked when people, particularly those in the public eye, make ill-informed statements about what is a complicated mental health issue. There comes a point when youíre so vanishingly thin that you donít think rationally. Itís a deeply isolating condition. This is a long-winded way of saying that writing about the subject didnít daunt me. Once in the grip of the disorder, the genuinely daunting task is recovery. I hope Iím proof that itís possible.
4) ĎBeautiful Losersí also deals with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). Do you feel this syndrome has developed since the Internet with websites uploading unachievable images of celebrities for people, particularly youngsters, to become dissatisfied with their bodies and looks?
Thatís a tough question. Iím no expert on BDD, but in common with Anorexia Nervosa, body image and focus on appearance is almost a smokescreen for the greater crisis going on inside the suffererís head. There is also an element of BDD in the average anorexic because what you see in the mirror isnít a true reflection of what you look like. You can be thin as a stick and still believe that youíre overweight. Decades ago, (before the Internet) I donít ever remember thinking that I wanted to look like a celebrity or model. I do remember the driving need to take control of my life, not to grab attention, (the last thing on my mind actually) or upset people around me. To answer the specific question about the Internet, I daresay it doesnít help, but I donít think it causes BDD. Iím more concerned with websites that exploit vulnerable individuals by validating eating disorders and BDD as if they are a legitimate lifestyle choice.
5) Kim Slade is a strong woman and yet she is being stalked. What research did you have to do to make this scenario creditable? I was surprised that stalking is on the rise due to the anonymity of the Internet. Why do you think it doesnít get the press coverage is should?
I havenít been stalked in the way itís portrayed in the novel, but I have had an experience that came close. It got quite nasty and Iím reluctant to talk about it in detail, but it felt a lot to me like stalking so I was able to draw on that.

Iím not certain that I agree that the Internet is Ďanonymousí. In fact, I think itís the reverse. Itís quite easy for those with stalking in mind to fixate on individuals, and the Internet is a wonderful tool for digging up all kinds of information. One could argue that the Internet aids and abets stalkers.

With regard to the press, thereís less publicity in the UK but there are numerous cases documented in the US. Unfortunately, they often result in the death of the victim. Thank goodness for Lilly Allenís recent testimony, but itís notable that she only went public when she felt safe enough to do so. Imagine if you were a stalking victim Ė would you want the press getting hold of the story? Iíd worry that by doing so, even anonymously, a stalker might find out and interpret it as a green light to continue.
6) ĎBeautiful Losersí could be classed under the sub-genre of ĎDomestic Noirí which is enjoying a huge readership since ĎGone Girlí. Do you believe dangers lurk closer to home than many would like to admit?
One hundred per cent. The seven deadly sins get the best workout within a tight domestic unit. Itís no accident that youíre more likely to be bumped off or stalked by a spouse, partner or someone with whom youíve shared your life. The dynamics that govern intimate relationships provide a field day for the average writer and itís no wonder that police put husbands and wives of murder victims under the spotlight first. Add to this, wrangling over wills and inheritance by offspring and you have all the ingredients for a high body count.
7) ĎBeautiful Losersí is the title of a Jack Vettriano painting. Are you a Vettriano fan?
Iím a massive fan of Jack Vettriano. I love the drama, the slightly louche men and the sheer sexiness of his female figures. Walking through an arcade in Birmingham several years ago, I caught sight of ĎBeautiful Losersí in a gallery and simply stopped. Musing on the story behind the painting gave me the idea for the novel and, since then, Iíve been a committed fan. Care of my husband, I have a print of ĎBeautiful Losersí hanging in our sitting room.
8) For writers who are just starting out on their Ďnovel journeyí, what one piece of advice would you give?
Roll with it. Itís a rare writer who has a rollercoaster ride of instant success. I work with a lot of unpublished authors in my day job and Iím amazed by the unrealistic expectations or impossible goals set by some when starting out. These are often individuals who have succeeded in their chosen professions and expect the same when writing a first novel. They are also the same people who are most crushed when publication, initially, seems elusive. It takes time to craft a novel and often many revisions. Even then you may not achieve success, but remember you arenít unique. All professional authors recognise that writing for publication is a tough old business and robust mental muscles, (or bloody-mindedness) is necessary. If you write a piece of work that youíre proud of, chances are someone else will admire it too, but if they donít, thereís no need to beat yourself up. Treat every bit of constructive criticism as simply that: a means to help rather than hinder, then take the dog for a walk, have a coffee with friends, a drink and a laugh at the pub, visit the cinema, swim, cycle or whatever floats your boat. Iím not advocating a light approach to writing, but itís vital to roll with the punches because there will be plenty and, if youíre not careful, it can be destructive.
9) Are you a fan of crime fiction in general? What would you say are the top three crime novels that have made a lasting impression on you and would take with you to a desert island?
Yes, although I also love historical fiction. Top three crime novels for my desert island? What an insane idea! This means Iíd have to excise outstanding authors like Dennis Lehane, Jeffrey Deaver, John Connolly, R J Ellory, Tana French, Belinda Bauer and plenty more. In a bid to narrow it down, Iíve chosen writers who, for me, have a fine grasp of human psychology Ė essential for great crime writing. Years ago, the husband and wife duo, Nicci French, opened my eyes to the possibility of writing psychological thrillers. ĎBeneath the Skiní is my all time favourite. The market is stuffed with police procedurals but, if forced to select one British author I think is head and shoulders above many, Iíd choose Stephen Booth and ĎBlind to the Bonesí. And, as a portrait of parental grief, it doesnít get much better. Lastly, Iíd happily slip any of John Hartís novels into my rucksack, but ĎThe King of Liesí resonates most strongly with me. The way in which a toxic relationship between father and son is depicted is a masterpiece.