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Allie's debut novel 'Shiver', a story about a reunion weekend in the French Alps that turns deadly when five friends discover someone has deliberately stranded them in a deserted mountaintop resort, was published earlier this year and we had the pleasure of asking her a few questions about it.
Click here to see our reviews.
They don't know what I did. And I intend to keep it that way.
How far would you go to win? Hyper-competitive people, mind games and a dangerous natural environment combine to make the must-read thriller of the year. Fans of Lucy Foley and Lisa Jewell will be gripped by spectacular debut novel Shiver.
When Milla is invited to a reunion in the French Alps resort that saw the peak of her snowboarding career, she drops everything to go. While she would rather forget the events of that winter, the invitation comes from Curtis, the one person she can't seem to let go.
The five friends haven't seen each other for ten years, since the disappearance of the beautiful and enigmatic Saskia. But when an icebreaker game turns menacing, they realise they don't know who has really gathered them there and how far they will go to find the truth.
What drew you to choosing to go with a thriller for your debut? What would you say your favourite book genre is?
I've been a massive reader all my life. My first ever job was in a bookstore, a Saturday job when I was fourteen. Over the years I've read pretty much every genre there is but for the last ten years, I've been hooked on thrillers, especially psychological thrillers set in dangerous natural environments like mountains, forests and beaches. I love thrillers for the fast pace, tension and twists!
Why did you choose to tell the story from Milla's POV? If it were to be from a different character, who would it be?
As a female, I hate to see female characters portrayed as weak or as victims in thrillers, so I knew I wanted to write a book full of female characters who were as strong as the male characters, so much so that when they are all trapped together, the men would feel intimidated and threatened by the females present, and unsure what they were capable of. Milla Anderson seemed a natural choice for the main character. Ten years ago she was a professional snowboarder. In the present day she's a failed athlete, looking back on the past at the mistakes she made. She's feisty, driven and extremely competitive.
In my opinion we often see highly competitive males in our society, and we accept and admire them, but we rarely see overtly competitive females, so I thought Milla would make an interesting and unique lead. It would have been interesting to write Shiver from her rival Saskia's perspective, or even some scenes from her perspective, but she would tell you a totally different story!
What was a highlight, and a lowlight in writing Shiver that you can share with us?
Shiver was the first book that I actually planned before writing. I spent a whole month planning it, then wrote it in just six months. The plot came so smoothly and easily, so that was one highlight. And of course the amazing phone-calls when a London agent offered to represent me, and later when Shiver ended up in a ten-publisher auction! The only lowlight was when the time came to write book 2. I think I was spoilt with Shiver! This time round I'm really struggling with the plot and it's so much slower to write!
You have previously spoken about your inspiration for the snow setting where the novel takes place coming from seasons you spent snowboarding. We're also curious about the inspiration behind the main characters. What did the process of bringing them to life look like? And is there any in particular you are most fond of?
Top athletes fascinate me! For many of the characters, I took inspiration from real-life athletes. I watched many interviews on YouTube. I'm a massive fan of the top surfer Kelly Slater. In an interview, I was fascinated to hear one of his rivals say this about him: 'He's one of the most competitive people on earth. He plays real mind games. This inspired the character of Curtis Sparks. He's my favourite character in Shiver, who plays the love interest and three-times British halfpipe champion. In Milla's words: 'He always seemed like he had higher morals than the rest of us.' He's a damaged Alpha male, torn between his attraction to Milla, loyalty to his sister Saskia (Milla's rival), his friendship with Brent who is also his closest rival, and his own desire to win.
Two other characters in Shiver, Brent and Dale were based on real pro snowboarders. I listened to them talk and looked at their body language, but during the writing process they all took on lives and voices of their own. Milla's character came the easiest of all because she's very much like me (a failed athlete, driven and determined, a total tomboy who lives for her sport) except I'm a lot less competitive!
What would you say the key theme or message in the book is? and what do you hope the readers take from it?
One message that I hope comes across from the book, is that women can be just as strong as men, if not more so, because mental strength is just as important as physical strength. Shiver is full of highly competitive characters. I'm very happy to say that in real life, the snowboarders I met and trained with were not like that at all - they were the nicest bunch of people imaginable, but a cast of nice characters wouldn't have made an interesting story. I've heard many stories about top athletes in other sports playing mind games and using intimidation tactics to get a psychological edge. With Shiver I wanted to portray this aspect of sport and question how far someone might go to win.
We always give 3 words we personally would use to describe every book we review. We'd love to know what 3 words would you use to describe Shiver?
I would love Shiver to be described as: creepy, immersive and entertaining.
Thank you to Hachette Australia for sending us a review copy of this book, and to Allie for organising it!
You can find more information about the book and purchase a copy here.