It’s always a pleasure to host an author about a new book release, and especially to host Roz Nay today as she offers up this insight into her book, into what writing means to her, and how coffee shops can be unlikely sources of information! *Note to self: never talk to ANYONE in a coffee shop, especially if it looks like Roz is nearby.
Our Little Secret began as a short story that I wrote in a creative writing class a few years ago. I’d moved from the UK via Australia to Canada, and my husband signed me up for the course here in Nelson, B.C. because he thought it would be good for me to get a hobby. (That’s quite funny now.) At the time I hadn’t really written before and didn’t think I had a novel in me, but once the class was done, the main character of Angela would not be ignored.
Our Little Secret turned into a psychological thriller about first love, betrayal, and the lies we tell ourselves and others. I wrote it in a year, desperately trying to balance parenting two young children and working five days a week. Once I’d started writing it, I couldn’t stop—it was exciting to see where the plot would take me as it twisted and turned. It’s set in Vermont, U.S. and Oxford, UK, and chronicles the love triangle between Angela, her high school boyfriend HP, and an Australian woman called Saskia. At the start of the novel, Saskia has gone missing and for much of the book, Detective Novak is interviewing Angela, trying to find out where Saskia might have gone.
As someone who’s moved countries (twice), I think writing has become a way to work through any homesickness I might have felt. Emigrating in your thirties is never straightforward but with the books I’m working on—and very notably with Our Little Secret—I could share memories of the places that have meant a lot to me. I spent some time in my twenties as an obsessive snowboarder in Vermont and really enjoyed the winter around Killington. In the mid-90s, I studied at the university in Oxford; the city feels like my English home now and I always go back there whenever I’m in the UK. Writing is a great way to pay homage to loves like these: it’s been interesting to realize how many experiences I’ve stored in my brain unknowingly. I’m pulling them out helter-skelter now that I’m writing more and more. The other thing I’ve found about novel writing is that there’s no better source of inspiration than what real people actually do and say publicly. I quite often sit in coffee shops listening to the amazing things people say. The world is full of tiny moments. But honestly, if you ever see me sitting near you in a coffee shop, you should probably move. It’s possible I’m writing everything down.
For fans of In a Dark, Dark Wood and All the Missing Girls comes Our Little Secret, a compulsive and thrilling debut about a missing woman, a tangled love triangle, the secrets we keep and the secrets we share.
The detective wants to know what happened to Saskia, as if I could just skip to the ending and all would be well. But stories begin at the beginning and some secrets have to be earned.
Angela is being held in a police interrogation room. Her ex’s wife has gone missing and Detective Novak is sure Angela knows something, despite her claim that she’s not involved.
At Novak’s prodding, Angela tells a story going back ten years, explaining how she met and fell in love with her high school friend HP. But as her past unfolds, she reveals a disconcerting love triangle and a dark, tangled web of betrayals. Is Angela a scorned ex-lover with criminal intent? Or a pawn in someone else’s revenge scheme? Who is she protecting? And why?
Twisty and suspenseful, Our Little Secret is an intense cat-and-mouse game and a riveting thriller about the lies we tell others—and ourselves.
Perception is an interesting thing. If nothing else, the current President of the United States has taught us that there is more than one way to view an event, and that filters and half-truths (fake news! filtered media!) can colour the strongest recollection. Like Angela, our protagonist in Our Little Secret, we all view our high school and college years a little differently than our fellow classmates. Our perceptions are shaped by the events behind the scenes – our emotions, our family tragedies, our own insecurities – and as a result, what we think happened is only one version of the truth. I was reminded of this while reading Roz Nay’s intriguing and fascinating psychological thriller, especially as the story unfolded in dark layers around me.
Nay’s writing is subtle at first, with a straightforward interview in a police station about a missing wife and a former high school girlfriend who may or may not know something about her disappearance. As the chapters fall away, however, the complexity of the story slowly reveals itself, and even the most innocuous throwaway details begin to take on a greater meaning. I was completely drawn into the cat and mouse between Angela and her police detective Novak, and how Angela’s story began to show so much about her life and those around her. There’s a delicateness to the narrative that is so fine that you can’t really put your finger on when and where things start to go wrong, but that sense of unease begins to build within you as a reader until you can’t ignore what’s happening any longer.
Since this book is, for all intents and purposes, a two-hander between Angela and her policeman, we must decide who is telling us the truth, or at least more of the truth than the other. Initially, we see HP through Angela’s eyes as a strong, supportive and tragic figure, and we can see why she loves him. It is later on, once further details emerge that we begin to build another view of HP as a regular, flawed human and it forces us to begin to question Angela’s perspective on other characters as well. Freddy, Ezra, Angela’s parents and Saskia are all real to us because of Angela’s memories, and we come invested in their roles in the drama.
The character development, especially of Angela, our narrator, is exceptional. She is all of us at one point in our lives, living an unexpected life and trying to make sense of what happened in her past. Angela’s insecurities are such that each reader will find something with which to relate, whether it is not fitting in with your hometown, a sense of loss over your first real love or the slow awareness that your life is not turning out to be the one you thought that it might be when you were young. At the same time, there is an aloofness to her that makes you question the validity of every statement she makes. I found myself fascinated by her story, and how each of the threads wove together at the end. I found I wasn’t sure how much I trusted Angela and what she was telling us. It is this juxtaposition that kept me fully engaged to the very end.
I’m not saying a lot about the plot of this book, partially because it’s unique in that nothing really action-based happens, but more because the complexities of the unraveling layers are best experienced for yourself. Our Little Secret is the suspenseful, one-day read you’ll be passing around the cottage this summer, eager to discuss as soon as the next person has finished. This is Roz Nay’s first novel, and I’m already anticipating her next offering.
A copy of Our Little Secret was provided by Simon & Schuster Canada for this blog tour but does not affect my opinion of the book. It is available for purchase from your favourite online, independent or chain retailer. ISBN: 9781501142802, 228 pages. Be sure to visit the other stops on this blog tour for more information and reviews.