Today I’m excited to participate in Holly Bourne’s blog tour for her new novel ‘Pretending’ by sharing a fantastic author Q & A and my review of the book. Scroll on to read the interview and my review, and then go check out her latest book!
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Interview with Author Holly Bourne
Q: When did you first begin to craft your, Pretending?
A: I wrote it during this endless London heatwave in the summer of 2018. It was the perfect writing weather for the story, as it reflected the stifled energy of April’s unprocessed trauma. Weirdly, the weather finally broke the day I typed ‘The End’ in August.
Q: Where did you receive your inspiration to create Pretending?
A: My inspiration for Pretending came in the form of the opening line, which sets up the opening chapter and April’s conflicts. I was coming home from London late one evening, and got really aggressively sexually harassed by someone at a train platform. When I told him to leave me alone, the guy got even nastier, and followed me, shouting abuse until I fled to my train. Once I was safely onboard, I was shaking with rage, and the character of April came to me. I pulled my laptop out of my bag, and typed the words ‘I hate men’. The first chapter was finished by the time I got home.
Q: Are you a pantser or a planner? Or somewhere in between?
A: I long to be a planner. I try so hard to be a planner, but my first drafts always take on a life of their own and refuse to follow my plot points. It makes redrafting much harder, but I’ve learned to just accept this is my process, and it does always work out in the end.
Q: Describe the emotional journey for you, as a writer, when finishing your novel.
A: Absolutely terrified, and yet bursting with pride. I’m so happy with what I’ve achieved with Pretending, and how I hopefully managed to write a book that pulls readers into the head of someone with trauma. But, I’m also painfully aware of how much we still judge and blame victims, and feel fiercely protective of April and her story. So, having the book going out into the world is a mixture of very strange, and often conflicting emotions.
Q: On a typical day, how much time do you spend writing?
A: I try to write 2,000 words a day, five days a week. Some days, I’m done by ten am and feeling very smug about it. Other days, I’m still at my laptop, swearing profusely, at gone 11pm.
Q: Who is in the cast of characters that readers will meet in Pretending?
A: You have April – who is darling, but damaged. And then you meet her ulter-ego, Gretel, the perfect woman April pretends to be so she can finally feel some power. Then there’s Gretel’s love interest, Joshua, who April starts falling for, even though he’s supposed to be a social experiment.
I also love April’s wonderful housemate, Megan, and all April’s colleagues at the charity where she works.
Q: Tell us, readers, what your main protagonist, April is like.
A: She’s hugely vulnerable, and she knows it, and hates that about herself, and wishes she could be stronger. But, once you learn more about her, her vulnerability makes total sense. What I love about April is, until her Gretel revenge plan kicks in, she’s never let her trauma negatively impact anyone else. She’s caring, and gives back, and is kind and glorious. It’s just such a shame she can’t realise how great she is, and that she makes the drastic decisions she does.
Q: Was it difficult to create your character April and her double life?
A: One of my biggest hurdles in the manuscript was making the ‘Gretel’ storyline seem plausible. Initially it felt so nuts – a woman pretending to be a totally different person on dates. Until I realised, to some extent, we all behave that way when we’re trying to find a romantic partner. We’re all pretending to be what we believe is romantically acceptable – hiding all the darker, more complex parts of us, under a rug and hoping our crush never finds out what we’re really like. Once I got there, the story got much easier to write.
Q: What was the publishing journey like for your American debut?
A: I’ve actually had over ten books published in England, but this is my first American deal! So the journey has been a mixture of huge highs, and then general disappointments. The US market is a huge deal, and I’m delighted to have finally been published there. I think I owe a LOT of Fleabag. She has whetted US audience’s appetite for the slightly more cynical sharpness a lot of UK writers use.
Q: Describe your writing style using three words.
A: Confronting emotional honesty
Q: What is your advice for aspiring writers?
A: You do you. There’s no point comparing yourself to other writers. You will never be able to write like them, because you’re not them. So embrace that only you can write how you write, and that’s special, and, if you believe in your voice and your story, one day someone will be comparing themselves to you!
Q: What future projects do you have coming out soon?
A: I actually have a Young Adult book coming out in the US in December called ‘It Only Happens In The Movies’ It’s about two teenagers who fall in love working in a small-town cinema, and how real love is never how it comes across in romantic films.
Q: Where can readers find you and your work online?
A: I’m on Instagram at lot – hollybourneYA.
And Twitter less, because everyone needs to calm down! But @holly_bourneya
Q: Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you.
A: I absolutely hate buttons. They make me feel queasy. And I can never wear any clothes with buttons on them.
Review & Thoughts
‘Pretending’ is deep and dark but surprisingly entertaining and charming. I enjoyed this book but would warn that it’s not a light read [see trigger warning below]. I would recommend this to anyone looking to gain new perspective; to understand where someone is coming from when they’ve been in an emotionally and/or physically destructive and abusive relationship.
Important Themes and Topics:
There’s power in being yourself and embracing who you are. There’s power in getting help and going to therapy to work on healing from past traumas. Everyone deserves love and respect and to live their life the way they want, and that should never include taking away someone’s safety or self-worth.
The idea that you can’t qualify someone’s pain and suffering, to say that someone’s suffering isn’t as bad as someone else’s. Anything you do without permission is wrong. Just because you’re in a relationship with someone and they’ve given consent before doesn’t meant that they continue to give consent 100% of the time forever. It’s so sad that there are people out in the world that have so little respect for another’s body and spirit that they would take advantage of them.
I liked that she went to the boxing class for women who have been through trauma. I loved the girl-power vibes and the connection the women had with one another. To have a support group, people that understand where you’re coming from because they’ve been through it too.
Trigger Warning for anyone that’s experienced rape or abuse in a relationship.
In a Nutshell: Overall I enjoyed this novel and was glad I read it. I found myself equal parts disturbed and entertained but ultimately was left with more compassion for those that have been a victim of abuse and the new perspective that you can’t qualify someone else’s pain and suffering.
My Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Book Format & Source: Paperback Advanced Review Copy gifted from Harlequin Trade Publishing / MIRA Books. Receiving a complementary review copy does not affect my review or ratings; you can always trust that my reviews reflect my honest opinion. Any ARC editing errors noticed are assumed corrected prior to the final published copy release.
About the Book: Pretending
Published: November 17, 2020 by MIRA Books
In this hilarious and heartbreaking debut novel perfect for fans of Fleabag, a woman struggling to move on after a traumatic relationship pretends to be “the perfect girl” in an act of vengeance that goes awry when she finds herself emotionally compromised.
He said he was looking for a ‘partner in crime’ which everyone knows is shorthand for ‘a woman who isn’t real’.
April is kind, pretty, and relatively normal – yet she can’t seem to get past date five. Every time she thinks she’s found someone to trust, they reveal themselves to be awful, leaving her heartbroken. And angry. Until she realizes that what men are really looking for is Gretel.
Gretel is perfect – beautiful but low maintenance, sweet but never clingy, sexy but not a slut. She’s a Regular Everyday Manic Pixie Dream Girl Next Door With No Problems.
When April starts pretending to be Gretel, dating becomes much more fun – especially once she reels in the unsuspecting Joshua. Finally, April is the one in control, but can she control her own feelings? And as she and Joshua grow closer, how long will she be able to keep pretending?
Book Links: Pretending
Books by Holly Bourne
Connect with Author Holly Bourne
Holly Bourne is a bestselling UK-based YA and Adult Fiction author and is an Ambassador for Women’s Aid. In 2019, she was an Author of the Day at the London Book Fair, and was named by Elle Magazine’s weekly podcast as one of “Six Female Authors Changing the Conversation in 2019”. Pretending is her US debut.