A London-based TV news reporter, Rachel Walsh, investigates the disappearance of a young woman who turns out to be her former best friend, in Colette McBeth’s first novel, Precious Thing.
How did your background as a TV news reporter help you create the character of Rachel?
Rachel’s character came to me first, and her job came to me at a much later date. One of the themes of the novel is truth and the different perceptions people have of it. Newspapers and TV often spin and edit stories to suit their own ends, so what is presented as fact is really just an interpretation. And, yes, my background definitely helped. Let’s just say I had a lot of material to work with after 13 years in a newsroom!
What attracted you to exploring a friendship between adolescent girls and its impact on the characters’ adult lives?
Since the story is about trust and betrayal, there had to be a close relationship to show that breakdown. Most of us can remember those toxic friendships and the girls who made our lives hell. Even with good friends, you often tread a fine line between love and hate. These are the girls with whom you share your innermost secrets, and for the most part, that’s great. But it means they know your weakness, so when it comes to hurting you, they know what buttons to press.
What made you decide to have Rachel address her missing friend, Clara O’Connor, in the second person?
When I started writing Precious Thing, I didn’t think this approach was unusual; it was instinctive. It was how Rachel started talking to me. And Rachel was such a strong character—she’d often refuse to do what I had in mind for her—so I didn’t fight her on that one. It seemed to work because it added to the intensity and sense of claustrophobia in Rachel and Clara’s relationship.
Did you consciously decide to limit the book’s physical violence?
I’m the person who hides behind the cushions when there’s a murder in a TV drama, so it’s strange that I’ve ended up in the crime genre, but there was never a question that I was going to write scenes that were big on physical violence, because I’m just not comfortable with it. The “violence” in Precious Thing takes place in the head, which can be just as unnerving and twisted. In my next book, the violence has already taken place, and the story deals with the aftermath.