Shame On You by Amy Heydenrych
Have you ever lied about who you are to get more likes?
Have you ever followed someone online who you think is perfect?
Have you ever reached the New Year and thought it’s time to reinvent yourself?
Social media sensation. The face of clean eating.
Everyone loves her. Everyone wants to be her.
But when Holly is attacked by a man she’s only just met, her life starts to spiral out of control. He seemed to know her – but she doesn’t know him.
What if Holly isn’t who she seems to be? What if Holly’s living a lie?
But surely we all lie a bit online, don’t we . . .?
YOU THINK YOU KNOW HER . . .
Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?
A) My novel is set in London, and is about social media star Holly who seems to have it all. Her Instagram and blog – a personal platform to document how she brought on her remission from cancer through a healthy diet – now has millions of loyal followers. So when she meets a striking young surgeon in Starbucks, it feels like yet another win in her wildly successful life. However, at the end of their dream date, the surgeon takes out his scalpel and viciously attacks her, claiming to be giving her what she deserves. Her followers are stunned, and cry for justice, but as their investigation deepens, they get closer to an ugly truth that Holly wants nobody to see. As her fans swing from adoration to hatred, the surgeon circles in on her, promising to leave her more than disfigured this time around. A final devastating discovery gives her a chance to tell her followers her side of the story.
My background is slightly different! I am South African and based the setting of the story on the years I spent living and working in London. I am trained as a journalist and in political science, but fiction writing has always been my first love.
Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?
A) Shame on You came to me as a fully-formed idea. I had been speaking to a well-known fashion blogger and was surprised to hear how different her life was in reality compared to the image she portrayed. It seemed like the perfect start for a chilling story. I have a personal interest in clean-eating and have always wondered how much deception goes on among clean-eaters on social media – surely one cannot be that healthy all the time! I sketched out the plot and treated the book like a full time job – I was able to do this because I work as a freelance corporate writer. In a couple of months, I had a first draft, which I sent to my writing group and a few other trusted readers for comment. After a few rounds of revisions, I started with the pitching process.
I came very close to signing a few agents, and eventually I was signed by the wonderful Jenny Bent and Sarah Manning of The Bent Agency. Together, we polished the manuscript further until it was ready to go out to pitch. Sarah sold the rights to Bonnier Zaffre in the UK and, in a hilarious turn of events, the offer came through as I was going into labour with my little son, Zach!
Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?
A) I read very widely – most of all, I enjoy a mix of literary and thriller novels. My favourite authors are Tana French, Jennifer Egan, Anne Patchett, Margaret Atwood and Louise O Neil. My favourite psychological thrillers this year were Good Me, Bad Me, by Ali Land and Behind her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. Other books I loved were: Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng, and The Mothers by Brit Bennett.
Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?
A) I was a massive book nerd as a child and read everything in my library! I was the ultimate Nancy Drew fangirl as a young girl. As a teen, the book High Fidelity by Nick Hornby stands out – I was just discovering a whole lot of new music and that book tapped into the deep emotions I felt for certain songs and infatuations I felt for certain boys.
Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?
A) Having other people engage with my story and form opinions about my characters! There is no greater thrill than having something you have written come to life in the imagination of another.
Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?
A) My family have been there from the start, and have never doubted that I could make writing my career.
My husband has been an incredible support, and has been my unfailing source of encouragement when it felt like every week brought on a new rejection in my writing career.
My writing group – Blaize Kaye and Catherine Jarvis – have been amazing first readers and provided consolation during all the highs and lows that a writer’s life brings.
*Thank you for taking part in the Q&A on my blog, I wish you every success with your writing career.