Author Spotlight: Nicola Rayner

Thrilled to have author Nicola Rayner on The Bandwagon!

Photo by Joseph Paxton

Nicola Rayner was born in Abergavenny, south Wales, and works as a freelance journalist. The Girl Before You, her first psychological thriller, was picked by the Observer as a debut to look out for in 2019. It has been translated into multiple languages and has also been optioned for television. Her second novel, You and Me, came out in paperback, ebook and audiobook in October 2020. She lives in London with her husband and Jack Russell.

How did you get into writing?

I’m one of those people – and I think there are a few of us! – who just devoured books growing up; I couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than writing one myself. For many years, I’ve worked as a journalist, so writing has always been part of my day job, but I long harboured a dream of writing fiction too. Initially, it was something I fitted around my work as a magazine editor, but in 2019, when my debut, The Girl Before You, was published, I finally got to balance the two full-time.

Why did you choose to write in this genre?

I just love a mystery. Most of my favourite books are suspense novels in one way or another, but their writers have a wonderful way with language too. Those were the sorts of books I always aspired to writing. Daphne du Maurier was a particularly big influence when I was a teenager. I think the central questions in books such as Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel recur in many other works of domestic noir today, including my own – they’re all about trust and how well you can ever truly know another person. 

Who are some of your favourite authors?

Du Maurier has been a huge influence, as I say, but I also adore Kate Atkinson, Maggie O’Farrell, Alice Munro, Julie Myerson and Sarah Waters. I love discovering new writers – debuts I’ve enjoyed this year include Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid and My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell – and reading new psych suspense novels, of course, by my friends and peers at the PSAA!

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a reluctant pantser – I’d love to be a plotter, but unfortunately for me that’s not the way I work. I find I have to start writing first to get to know my characters and, once I know them a little bit better, I can go back and start plotting.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Persist, persist, persist! It can be a tough business and you have to keep at it. When I was a child, my father kept the famous Calvin Coolidge quotation taped inside his briefcase: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not… Genius will not… Education will not… Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” I think of that quote all the time. And if it ever gets too much, read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert – it’ll remind you why you fell in love with writing in the first place. 

Finally, what are you currently working on?

I’m in the early stages of working on my third novel. I’m sure it will change a lot, so I’d better not say too much! However, at the moment, it’s a story exploring female jealousy, uneven power dynamics and the question of how well you can ever really know a person, which are all things I always seem to come back to.
You and Me is out now!

Check out some of our other author spotlights and psychological suspense news here.

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