I read Sister last Fall, I guess when it came out in the UK, and I couldn't put it down. Rosamund Lupton is a fresh new voice on the mystery scene. So, I asked Rosamund Lupton to contribute a post to Mystery Fanfare. Waited until today to post since today is the launch of Sister in the US.
WIN A COPY OF ROSAMUND LUPTON'S SISTER. 6/13: WINNERS ARE KATHY D & JANET A. Congratulations!
When Rosamund Lupton set out to write her first novel, she had two objectives in mind: the first was to create a good old-fashioned detective story that would keep readers glued to the page; the second was to write about the incredibly deep and powerful bond shared by sisters. While at first seemingly disparate goals, in the hands of Lupton, they form the framework of her brilliant debut, SISTER: A Novel (June 7, 2011; Crown Publishers).
When SISTER was released this past fall in the UK, it became the fastest-selling debut novel in WH Smith’s sales history and made Lupton the fastest-selling British debut of 2010. The novel has received endless critical praise (the Daily Mail called it “stunningly accomplished . . . it’s devastatingly good and announces the arrival of a truly original talent”), was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club for 2010 (and was subsequently selected as one of Richard and Judy’s top 100 Books of the Decade), and spent weeks on a number of bestseller lists with more than 400,000 copies sold to date and foreign rights sold into twenty-seven territories. Lauded for expertly combining the pacing and suspense of crime fiction with the elegant prose and poignant tone of a literary narrative, Lupton has created a story that is dark, surreal, and utterly haunting. Rosamund Lupton lives with her husband and two sons in London. Sister is her debut novel.
ROSAMUND LUPTON: The Story of Writing Sister
When I was working as a screenwriter, an exasperated director once said to me ‘You just write far too much stage direction! I want a script not a novel!’ Five years later I decided to try and write a book. I had the germ of an idea, but I thought as a screenwriter so it was a scene I imagined. I saw an uptight conservative young woman in a designer suit change into scruffy clothes so she could play the part of her missing little sister in a police reconstruction of her sister’s last known movements. I saw the older starchy sister – Beatrice – put a long wig over her own immaculately cut hair; I saw her exchanging her designer suit for her sister’s scruffy bohemian clothes. But despite their differences, I knew I wanted these two sisters to be devoted to each other. Close to my own younger sister, I wanted to write about the strength of that bond and a detective story – with Beatrice as detective – would be the ideal way to show it.
So the next scene I imagined was Beatrice having a dull and conventional lunch party, despite being in the glamorous city of New York, with her dull fiancée and dull conversation. And then the phone goes. It’s her mother saying that her sister, Tess, hasn’t been seen for five days. Beatrice gets on the first flight to London to look for her. She doesn’t for a moment think of doing anything else. It’s her job as older sister to look after Tess. It’s the start of the detective story but that desperate immediate flight to London also shows Beatrice’s fierce protectiveness. As I wrote the story this love and protectiveness makes Beatrice jettison her old safe life and take huge risks – eventually putting her own life in danger – as she hunts for the truth about what happened to Tess. During the book, Beatrice discovers courage she never knew she possessed.
I wrote the novel while my two children were at school and at weekends and into the nights. It was far harder work than I could possibly have imagined. I could read through a screenplay in a couple of hours, but it took longer than a day to read through a novel. I found I could quite literally lose the plot! And then there was the nail-biting time of sending it off to agents and publishers. Eventually in the UK a publisher took it but wanted me to re-write a huge chunk – effectively throwing the last two thirds in the bin. And I had three months to do it. It was all hands to the pumps, with my friends looking after my children, my mother coming to stay, and I made the deadline with a day to spare. A few months later it was published in the UK and amazingly, went into the best seller list and stayed there for 14 weeks. It has now sold over 420 thousand copies in the UK and has been translated into twenty seven languages.
On the eve of Sister’s publication in the US I owe that exasperated director a huge thank you for pointing me in the right direction and an apology. You were right. I was always, secretly, trying to write a novel.