Author of the Month

Name: Sheila Bugler

First Novel: Hunting Shadows

Most Recent Book: I Could Be You

'‘I Could Be You’ roars from the opening page...'

Synopsis:
On a stifling hot day, former journalist Dee Doran finds the crumpled body of her friend at the roadside. Katie and her little boy, Jake, have been a light in Dee’s otherwise desolate life – now a woman is dead and a child is missing.

Katie has been keeping secrets for a long time. Years earlier, she fell for the wrong person. But he was in love with someone else; who he couldn’t have but couldn’t keep away from. When jealousy and desire spilled over into murder Katie hid the truth, and has been pretending ever since.

As Dee assists the police with their enquiries she’s compelled to investigate too. She realises Katie wasn’t who she claimed to be. Lies are catching up. Stories are unravelling. Revenge is demanded and someone must pay the price. The question is: who?

Review:
With her new psychological novel, Bugler pitched me straight into her story. With the confidence of an artist, Bugler sets the scene from page one, the hot summers’ day, the quiet, dusty country road, the twisted body of a woman splayed across the tarmac. With this description on page one Bugler had me hooked!

Bugler slowly unravels her plot, scratching away at the surface and tempting you to read on as more layers are peeled away. Travelling from the past to the present, Bugler shows the varying degrees of obsession within her cast of characters. We all have some obsession or other, from regretting a love affair that swallowed up years of our lives, to a love that will not ever be returned.

Dee is not your usual hero, but Bugler delivers well-rounded people you can understand and feel for, Dee in particular. Having arrived at a dead end in her life, she is not sure where she can turn to put her life back on track. Without making Dee an object of pity, Bugler charts Dee’s emotional state with sharp accuracy. The search for the truth of what happened on her doorstep, brings Dee’s whole being alive as her journalistic instincts begin to burn again.

‘I Could Be You’ roars from the opening page like the Eastbourne waves in a storm. It is relentless and won’t let you go. I was entranced by this book. Bugler shows all her characters emotionally raw, even those with only a small part to play in the drama. Not everyone gets over the finish line, and when they didn’t I was quite emotional about it. This is writing I love. A writer who draws out every part of herself to write about people you come to care about, events that ring true and can put the reader through the emotional wringer! Having finished Bugler’s story, those people are still rolling about my mind which is always a sign of a brilliant story well told. This is one book I will be pushing on to people in 2020!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating



Questionnaire

1) You have based ‘I Could Be You’ in Eastbourne where you live. What is it about the place that made you want to set a thriller on your own doorstep? Do you feel that the landscape of a book is as important as plot?
Eastbourne is so beautiful. Its setting - on the south coast, surrounded by the South Downs National Park - really is special. As well as the beach and the downs, we also have the dramatic white cliffs that make up Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters. It’s just stunning.

On landscape and location, I’ve always felt that location is a key element in crime fiction. My first series was set in south east London, an area I know and love. I always try to create the feel of the place where my novels are set. I really hope I’ve done that for Eastbourne in this novel.
2) Dee is a burned-out journalist who has retired from the human race after a number of knocks. What was it about Dee that appealed to you to make her your main protagonist in this drama?
There aren’t enough older women (ie, women over 45) in crime fiction. I know there are exceptions – Ann Cleeves’ Vera novels, in particular – but most of the time female protagonists are young and attractive.

I wanted to explore issues like the menopause, what it feels like when you suddenly ‘become invisible’ as you get older, what it’s like to start dating again in your fifties and – importantly – how difficult it can be for women over fifty to find work.

I initially had the idea of a middle-aged, female character living alone on the edge of somewhere. I always knew she’d be a journalist, but I wasn’t sure whether she’d be working for a local paper or doing something slightly different.

In the end, Dee became a journalist who’d left her exciting London life and moved back to her home town after the break up of her marriage.

I really love Dee, because she’s real. She’s strong and funny and she loves her friends. She sometimes drinks too much, and she’s far from perfect – like all of us, she makes mistakes and bad decisions. She’s a combination of all the brilliant women I know.
3) I am sure I am not giving anything away by saying ‘I Could Be You’ is a story about obsession in its many guises. Even Dee was, and to a certain extent, is still obsessed with her ex-husband, Billy. What was the nugget that started the ball rolling on this theme?
I’ve always been fascinated by how easily people fall for the ‘if only…’ myth. You know, ‘my life would be so much better/happier/etc if only I was rich/thin/lived somewhere else/etc’

One of the central characters in I Could Be You is an unhappy young woman who believes the ‘if only…’ myth. She becomes obsessed with another young woman, believing her life would be perfect if only it was more like the other woman’s.

If there’s one lesson I could instil in my children, it’s how false this idea is. Happiness is all about appreciating what you have – right here, right now.

As for Dee, you’re right – she is obsessed with her ex-husband. She believes she gave him the best years of her life and he’s the reason she can never have children. These two regrets mean she’s unable to let him go and move on with her life. It’s a different version of the ‘if only…’ myth. Dee’s trying to find a way to change her past – at the start of this novel, she hasn’t yet learned that’s not possible.
4) You are able to create well-rounded characters in your novels, making them all seem real rather than mere two-dimensional. Which means more to you, plot or character?
Character! Of course, in crime fiction plot is very important. But first and foremost, your reader has to care about your characters.

When I think about the crime novels I’ve most enjoyed, I can barely remember the plot details. It’s the characters that stay with me.
5) Your first three books featured DI Ellen Kelly and were more police procedurals. How different was it to turn your hand at writing your new psychological thriller, ‘I Could Be You’?
Hmm… interesting question. I’ve never consciously set out to write a particular ‘type’ of crime novel, but I know I’m definitely more interested in people than police procedure. In fact, a lot of reviewers described the Ellen Kelly novels as ‘police procedural crossed with psychological thrillers’.

I did think about writing another series with a detective as the main character, but I felt I’d already done that with Ellen, which is probably why Dee ended up as a journalist!
6) What can we next expect from Sheila Bugler?
There are two more Dee Doran books planned for later this year. These will be followed by a stand-alone psychological thriller. All three will be published with my current publisher, Canelo.

After that, who knows? The only certainty is that I’ll carry on writing crime fiction, no matter what. I was 51 last year and I’ve decided I want another 51 years on this planet. All going well, I’ll be writing crime fiction until the very last day of those 51 years!
7) With your experience as a writer, what advice would you give to anyone attempting their first novel?
Don’t give up. And don’t be lazy. Writing is hard work. It involves sitting down, day after endless day, and writing until you’ve reached your daily word count. It’s not glamorous and, a lot of the time, it’s not much fun. But if you can find it in yourself to keep going, then please do. Because if you’re born to be a writer, you won’t ever be really happy unless you’re writing.
8) Are you a fan of crime fiction? Which three crime novels would you like with you if stranded on a desert island?
I’m a huge fan of crime fiction. If I really have to only pick three then I’d choose: A Dark Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine; The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith; Dare Me by Megan Abbott.

But choosing those books means losing books by Mick Herron and John le Carre and Gillian Flynn and Ken Bruen and Philip Kerr and all the other writers I love…

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