Five Parks by Ross McGuinness
Five blind dates.
Five potential kidnappers.
After breaking off her engagement with Michael, Suzanne is still looking for The One. Bored with her freelancing job, she decides to take matters of both work and love into her own hands and Five Parks is born.
She starts a blog, offering five prospective suitors a chance of one of five dates in five London parks. Suzanne’s blog goes viral, amassing a huge following and even getting a column in a daily newspaper.
But after the fifth date – which she has no memory of – Suzanne wakes up shackled to a bed in a windowless room. The only items with her are a table, a chair and a laptop.
And an instruction from her captor: Keep Writing.
Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?
A) Five Parks is a psychological thriller about a freelance journalist who sets up a dating blog to go on five blind dates with five different men in five London parks. After the fifth date, of which she has no memory, she wakes up alone in a dark room, handcuffed. The only light comes from a laptop her captor has left her, along with a simple instruction… ‘Keep writing’. She must do so, as well as go through her previous blog posts, if she is to uncover which of her dates kidnapped her, and more importantly, find a way out.
Like Suzanne, the protagonist of my novel, I am a freelance journalist, and have been for the past three years, writing for Yahoo, Metro.co.uk, The Guardian and the BBC. Before that, I spent three years as news features editor at the Metro newspaper in London.
Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?
A) Every debut author has a long, drawn-out tale of climbing the mountain to publication, and I guess I’m no different. In 2013, an agent, Andrew Gordon at David Higham Associates, approached me and asked if I had any plans to write a book. We met and I pitched him several (mostly rubbish) ideas, but there was one he liked. So off I went for the next year and cracked out a first draft of what I hoped would be my debut novel. Only trouble was, just as I finished it, another book with a very similar jumping-off point was published. I decided to put what I had written to one side and concentrate instead on another idea, one that would eventually become Five Parks. I spent another year or so writing Five Parks and then after that Andrew found it a home at Endeavour Press.
Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?
A) If a brilliant novel was published a year ago, you can guarantee I’ll get to it in another 12 months – I’m terrible! I’ve only just read Behind Her Eyes, Sarah Pinborough’s thriller that totally deserved its famous #WTFthatending hashtag. It actually should have had a #WTFthatbeginning hashtag, because once you read the WTF ending you can’t help thinking what happened at the start was even more out there. Brilliant book.
I absolutely love Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. I went to university in Dublin and also worked there, and she captures the city’s seedy side so wonderfully. She’s one of those rare crime writers who doesn’t have to rely on plot developments to hold your attention – the writing on its own is just so fantastic.
Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?
A) I went straight from Roald Dahl into Stephen King, a literary journey I would highly recommend. Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes are still as horrifying as anything King has concocted. Most would-be authors say On Writing is King’s best book – and it kind of is – but it’s a fight between Salem’s Lot and The Dark Half in my 13-year-old brain. The best book I’ve ever read is still Frankenstein though – every single sentence is packed with ideas.
Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?
A) I did my own Five Parks book tour, leaving free copies on benches in each of the five London parks from the novel. In one of the parks, I overheard a reader who had picked up her copy say, ‘This has made my day!’ – which pretty much made mine.
I also found out recently that Five Parks has made it into its first book club, which is tremendous. Even if they spend just two minutes discussing the novel before moving on to talking about how crap work is or what they’re watching on Netflix (like every book club ever), Five Parks will still have made it into a book club!
Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?
A) Just like Suzanne, I was very secretive with Five Parks. The only person who knew I was writing a novel at all, apart from my agent, was my wife. I couldn’t have done it without her.