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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Sarah Watts talks about the inspiration behind her new mystery book, What Happened to Evie Del Rio?
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Sarah Watts about her life and career, what inspired her to start writing, and the story of her new mystery novel, What Happened to Evie Del Rio?
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I’m from London, born in North London but since the age of two I’ve lived in West London, where much of my debut novel is based. I’ve worked in publishing (not books but inflight magazines and duty free booklets) and then in recruitment for many years and more recently I worked for my local business improvement district.
I’m married (we got married in Vegas and had an Elvis wedding!), mum to two sons and a rescue black cat called Hector who often features on my Instagram account. I’m obsessed with music and you will always find me listening to music, except when I’m editing. I love going to see live bands and discovering new music. I’ve always enjoyed reading and love getting absorbed with a good story.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
It has always been my dream to write a book, ever since I was a little girl. I often would staple sheets of paper together to replicate a printed book, design my own cover and then try and write inside in ridiculously small writing! My sister and I would often write plays and perform them for our family.
When did you take a step to start writing?
Ever since I left school, I have always written stories. I first started writing on an old typewriter – I’ve now upgraded to a MacBook! Once both my children were at school, I would go home and write. My first completed novel was probably a bit too short so when I was writing What Happened to Evie Del Rio? I went the other way and wrote over 107,000 words which of course then had to be cut. Hopefully with my next book I will manage somewhere in the middle.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
I first had the idea for What Happened to Evie Del Rio? after a trip to Brighton in August 2018. I had plenty of time to think and listen to music as I watched my sons enjoy themselves on the numerous fairground rides on the pier (I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat when it comes to fairground rides!) On the car journey home, I typed some lyrics on the notes part of my phone which was the start of the song ‘Used to Be’ which Ed Nash wrote for his then girlfriend. I’ve always been fascinated by popular songs that have been inspired by a muse/ex-lover. So that was my hook – what happened to the inspiration of that song – especially as Used to Be only became popular over 30 years later.
I then started writing a bit more over the next year or so when I wasn’t working. It wasn’t until lockdown happened that I started writing religiously every morning – I would try and write at least 1000 words and then after lunch I would reward myself with my daily walk, listening to music as I did so. Without the distractions of daily life and not going to the gym I managed to complete my novel.
I then started sending it off to some agents and online publishers. I read an article in Writing Magazine about how my now publisher, Cassandra at Cahill Davis Publishing had set up a publishing house in lockdown and was now looking for submissions so I sent my manuscript to her in January 2021, receiving an offer from her in April of that year.
After a few rounds of editing which was such a good learning curve, my debut novel What Happened to Evie Del Rio? was published on 8th July 2022!
What made you want to write What Happened to Evie Del Rio??
As I mentioned earlier, I’m completely obsessed with music. I’m the daughter of a jazz drummer and you’ll probably find that I’m either listening to music, going to live gigs or writing about music! I love lyrics that tell a story and so I decided to write a story about a teenage couple where the girl is the inspiration for an indie love song – but the song only becomes really popular over 30 years after it was written – but what happened to that girl? I wanted to write about the fall out for everyone involved after the song is released and about how people change throughout their lives.
What were your biggest challenges with writing What Happened to Evie Del Rio??
Just real life getting in the way of writing, that’s why the lockdown really helped me in focusing on finishing the book.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
I had a young Debbie Harry in my mind looks wise for Evie. Personality wise she’s just like many teenage girls; living life for the moment, wanting to be just like everyone else, making mistakes along the way but unfortunately with the resurgence and popularity of Used to Be, years later her structured and settled life with her husband and children is in danger of imploding as Ed pursues his quest of success and fame that has eluded him for so long. Ed is your typical bad boy rockstar (Think Louis Partridge looks wise who played Sid Vicious in Pistol); attractive, brooding and still living in the past, he’s emotionally immature and used to getting his own way.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
There are several and I enjoyed writing them enormously. There’s Ed’s Uncle Paul, a bit of a waster, a lover of all thing narcotic and an all-round creep! Felicity, Evie’s mother is highly religious and this clouds many of her decisions, she’s not a woman who enjoys female company and resents Evie for her youthfulness, doting on Evie’s absent older brother. Auntie Maureen is Felicity’s sister who almost became a nun. She is a catalyst in making Evie’s life a complete misery. Callum is Virginia’s ex-husband who is a real jack the lad who causes chaos and discord to Virginia’s life whenever he can. All the characters are fictional but I think there are elements of real people somewhere in there.
What is the inciting incident of What Happened to Evie Del Rio??
When Ed’s love song for Evie becomes successful over thirty years since it was written, it’s not only Ed that’s asking ‘What Happened to Evie Del Rio?’
What is the main conflict of What Happened to Evie Del Rio??
Ed can’t stop talking about how Evie inspired his indie anthem Used to Be, but Evie who has now reinvented herself as a devoted and respectable wife and mother is mortified that her past has come back to haunt her.
Did you plot What Happened to Evie Del Rio? in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I had the basic idea of how the story would develop but I’m a real fly by the seat of my pants when it comes to writing! And because the book is written from multiple points of view, I just let my characters talk to me and tell me their story.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did What Happened to Evie Del Rio? need?
My publisher, Cassandra and my editor Lauren were such a support throughout the editing process. They helped me make my book the best version that it could be. I think there were about three main edits which included changing the ending and also writing an additional chapter towards the end of the book.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Just write! If you have an idea, just get the words down. You can always edit something that’s on screen or on paper but you can’t edit it if it’s still in your head! Write the sort of books that you would like to read.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I’m currently writing the sequel to What Happened to Evie Del Rio? I can’t say too much without giving away the ending of the first book but expect to be reacquainted with some familiar characters and be introduced to some new ones.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I’m so thrilled to be published. It really is a dream come true. I really enjoyed the whole process of working with my publisher. I love it when people say they have enjoyed my writing. It makes all those hours of writing worthwhile.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
My publisher is www.cahilldavispublishing.co.uk
You can get a copy of my debut novel What Happened to Evie Del Rio? from your preferred retailer here:
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