Paula Daly

The Trophy Child – Paula Daly

Title – The Trophy Child

Author – Paula Daly

Published – 2017

Genre – Psychological thriller

A book that’s full of characters that you love to hate. There is a complicated ‘blended’ family; husband and wife Noel and Karen with her son Ewan, Noel’s teenage daughter Verity and Brontë – their joint child. In a local nursing home is Noel’s first wife, Jennifer, trapped there because of her MS.

Where Brontë is concerned Karen is a ‘Tiger Mother’, determined to have perfection and avoid the disappointment she feels with her son. So Karen fills Brontë’s time with music lessons (the harp), Stagecoach (for self-confidence), extra tuition (maths) and she is pushing Brontë all of the time.

Then Brontë disappears and the family’s relationships come under the spotlight as Detective Sergeant Joanne Aspinall sets about trying to find the missing girl, even though she also has a connection to the family, something she fails to disclose.

These are people that you wouldn’t want to be your friends, and you definitely wouldn’t want to be Brontë. And I’m not a fan of books where the characters aren’t likeable. Verity feels like the hero of the piece although there is a mystery about her and something she has done which requires weekly drug tests at her school and trips to a psychotherapist. Nevertheless she seems to be the most normal person in the family. I also liked the character of Joanne although I’m not a fan of characters who are economical with the truth.

I enjoyed the crime aspects of the story but less so the dysfunctional family. It is a twisty tale which I’d be surprised if many readers could see where it was going but it also asks the reader to suspend their disbelief to a considerable extent.

You can read an interview with Paula Daly about her writing process here.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.


Paula Daly and her writing process

The Trophy Child by Paula Daly, her fifth novel, was published on 26 Jan. A mix of domestic / psychological thriller and police procedural, in a similar vein to Eva Dolan’s Watch Her Disappear it explores the internal pressures within a family and the dark side that can be hidden behind a perfect facade.

As part of the blog tour Paula talks about her writing process.

I’m often asked about my writing process. Not so much about where the ideas themselves come from, but how I go about shaping those ideas, how I go about actually writing a novel.

I can understand the curiosity. When I first started writing it was the one thing I wanted to know. I read lots of books on how to write, how to write a novel, how to write a thriller, a crime novel. I watched endless YouTube videos of authors explaining how they went about their work, creative writing teachers extolling their methods, other writers at the same stage as me, sharing what they’d learned so far.

What was clear was that there were many ways to tackle writing a novel. You can come at it from lots of different angles and still arrive at the same end point. Some writers don’t plan at all and are happy to get what Anne Lamott calls the ‘shitty first draft’ down fast, and then revise the manuscript until it’s ready. Others plan meticulously. A lot of writers do both.

I used to write freely. As in, I had no idea where I was going and I let the plot take me where it wanted it to. Trouble was, I ended up with three unpublished novels as a result. So I decided to try planning instead and I’ve stuck with that process ever since. I realise now that I need to know what I’m writing towards or I’ll go off at crazy tangents and waste a lot of time. And I find writing hard. Getting the words down on paper is not easy for me. So I don’t want to have to delete whole chapters when I’ve got it wrong.

So, once I’ve got an idea for a book, I sit on it for a while. I know when it’s a good idea because I get excited about it. And other ideas seem to start flooding in and ‘sticking’ to that original idea, making it better, more interesting, adding layers.

Then I research. Researching is great because it throws up more ideas for your plot. Often, I can actually begin to fashion a story out of what I discover during the research period. Then I start to write down ideas for scenes. Nothing concrete, just things that I think would be cool to write about, or would maybe surprise the reader, because they’d not seen something done in that way before. Once that’s done, I organise the scene list, and list of ideas, into something coherent that resembles a proper plot. This again takes practice. Structuring a novel is where most people stumble and it wasn’t until I read lots of books and articles about structure that I finally cracked it.

Eventually I’m ready to write. After around three to four months of planning, I’m ready to write Chapter One. It is the scariest moment for me because so much of what happens in my books is rooted in that first chapter. So I have to get it right.

I write seven hundred words a day (it used to be a thousand but I’m limited by back pain now) until the book is done. I edit as I go along, something that a lot of writers don’t do because it stops them from finishing the book. But I have to edit as I go as it’s the only way I understand what I’m writing about, and it’s how I keep track of my story and my characters. When the thing is finished it doesn’t need much of an edit as I’ve been through it over and over by then. Maybe just a day or two tidying up last bits and pieces before it’s ready to go out to my editors.

Then I send it off and I pray.