The Doll House
You never know who’s watching…
Corinne’s life might look perfect on the outside, but after three failed IVF attempts it’s her last chance to have a baby. And when she finds a tiny part of a doll house outside her flat, it feels as if it’s a sign.
But as more pieces begin to turn up, Corinne realises that they are far too familiar. Someone knows about the miniature rocking horse and the little doll with its red velvet dress. Someone has been inside her house…
How does the stranger know so much about her life? How long have they been watching? And what are they waiting for…?
I’m absolutely over the moon today to post not only my review of this fantastic novel but also to host a Q&A with author Phoebe Morgan. She answers questions about the inspiration behind her debut novel, her writing routines and her path to publication. But first things first here is my review:
I finished The Doll House a few days ago and I’m still reeling now. One thing about this book you should probably know is this: no matter how much you endeavour to pause, make a cup of tea, get the dinner ready, even do the chores you know need to be done, this novel will not allow you to escape it’s vice-like grip. Addictive is a mild term to use for this. It’s a chilling, creepy, visceral book.
Ashley and Corrine are grieving over the death of their beloved father just under a year ago. Simultaneously juggling their hectic, emotional lives. Ashley is bringing up three children, harbouring a suspicion that her husband is having an affair and Corrine is undergoing round after round of IVF, dreaming of becoming a mother. Then strange occurrences begin to take place.
Something I really loved about this novel is the fact it isn’t just one woman who’s experiencing these strange things. It’s two sisters, bound by a past and by a fate that is growing more and more frightening each day.
The emotion jumped off the page. I felt Corrine’s desire for a baby float up from the book and press against my heart as if she was standing next to me. But most of all it was her and Ashley’s sadness and fear that leapt off the page and wrapped itself round my mind. Were they being watched? Played with? Lurking beneath every word, every sentence, every paragraph lies a miasma that sends a chill down your spine.
A tense, addictive read from a very talented author. The plot thickens and thickens, and then when you think you have it sussed, it thickens again and leaves you lost for words. I’m looking forward to reading Phoebe Morgan’s second novel so much! I have no doubt it will be just as wonderful!
Tense. Dark. Chilling.
And now here is the wonderful Q&A:
Can you tell us a little more about yourself and your path to publication?
I’m a commissioning editor at Avon HarperCollins by day and a writer by night! I’ve always loved writing but I only started taking it seriously a few years ago. I wrote my first draft of The Doll House relatively quickly, but then spent months editing it with the help of my lovely agent Camilla Wray at Darley Anderson. After she took me on, we worked on it for a while and then it went out on submission – terrifying! I had some rejections and near misses which at the time were difficult to deal with, but then this year HQ offered me the deal and I was over the moon. It wasn’t the easiest path to publication in the world but I honestly thing everyone’s is so different; there is no longer one set path and I’m really enjoying the place I am in with my book right now.
Do you have any writing rituals?
Not really – when I’m trying hard to finish something I make myself write 1000 words a day, and it doesn’t matter what time I do them as long as it’s before I go to sleep (although wouldn’t it be great to be able to write in your sleep?!) I write best at home or in cafes, with coffee or a glass of wine at times! I find it quite difficult to write in a linear way so I often flit about the book and revisit scenes later on, then try to join the dots together at the end of the novel. I sometimes read things about writers who get up at 5am and bash out 2000 words but that’s just not me – I am a terrible morning person and find I work best at night or during the day at weekends. I need to put my phone in another room if I’m writing because otherwise I get distracted by social media which is the bane of any writer’s life. So I store my phone away, light a candle (I love candles) and sit down with my laptop, hoping for the best…
What was the inspiration behind The Doll House?
It was inspired by a doll house my own father made me as a child, which you can see pictures of on my blog. It’s beautiful, and it got me thinking about the idea of the perfect home and how easily that can shatter. The book is also very much about sisters and family – I think sisters can have such fascinating relationships, and in some ways it’s about parental responsibility too. One of my characters is desperately trying for a child, and some of my other characters are already parents but perhaps doing it badly – it’s such a complex, difficult role to play I think and I definitely wanted to explore that in the book too.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Essentially yes, but I absolutely love my job as an editor too – my actual dream is to do both. I’ve always known I wanted to work with words – I’m fairly rubbish at everything else – and I did actually train as a journalist before going into publishing. Journalism wasn’t for me, but creative writing definitely is – I love the total freedom it gives you to create your own world and your own characters. I used to write stories as a child and I was always, always reading. We didn’t have a television growing up which I do think helped – it just meant I read more and more and then became inspired to write my own. I used to write short stories too and sometimes still do when I feel stuck with a book – it helps me remember what I love about the process. None of the ones I’ve written so far are in a fit state to show anyone, though!
If you could have written any other book what would it be?
Ooh, I’d actually love to write a collection of short stories one day. Lorrie Moore is one of my favourite writers, she has such a unique way of using language that I’ve always dreamed of emulating but definitely haven’t so far! I like the way short stories compress everything, too; they can be extremely impactful if done right and I love the idea of spending little bits of time with different characters, seeing snippets into different people’s lives. Maybe one day I’ll manage it.
Do you have any advice for budding authors?
This is a very common piece of advice but it’s so true – you have to be persistent. I certainly didn’t get picked up by the first agent or the first publisher I approached, but even though the rejections are hard, I personally don’t know a single writer who has not experienced setbacks in some shape or form and the key is to learn from them where necessary, but above all don’t let them stop you! As an editor myself, I know how subjective the publishing process can be – sometimes there will be a book that in an editorial meeting another editor really loves and I just don’t get it, or vice versa – reading is such a personal thing and the other thing to contend with is the market, which is a tricky beast and can change at any moment. Publishers are always aware of the market and just because your book isn’t quite right at any one time, does not mean it’s a bad book – sometimes it’s all about luck and timing, but you have to stay in the game to be in with a chance of winning it. So yes, be persistent, be positive, and be nice to yourself too. I know how depressing and demoralising it can be when your dream feels a million miles away, but you never know when something might just click and if writing really is what makes you happy, you owe it to yourself to pursue it. The other advice I’d give is to reach out to others. I made some really great friends through writing and we support each other every step of the way, which can be incredibly helpful when you’re spending most of your time tapping away alone on a laptop! There are writer groups, there’s Twitter, there are online forums – so many great ways to connect with people these days so I do urge you to be brave and try it.
Who are your favourite authors?
My all-time favourite authors are Liane Moriarty and Maggie O’Farrell. They have different styles but they are the two that I will drop everything for when a new book comes out! Liane Moriarty always delivers such a brilliant story; she’s excellent at building worlds and writing the complexities of relationships with a dash of humour and lightness too. None of her books has ever disappointed me. Maggie O’Farrell is a beautiful author; her prose is spectacular and her latest book (her memoir I Am I Am I Am) made me cry at 1am. I’ve seen her speak before and found her very inspiring.
How long did it take you to write The Doll House?
Eek, I can never remember the proper answer to this! When I wrote the bulk of it I was working at a non-fiction publisher but I was also propping up my salary by bartending and tutoring and babysitting (London living isn’t cheap!) So I would write after I’d put the little boy I babysat for to bed, and I’d write at the weekends, but honestly the first draft was a total mess. It probably took me about six months or so. But the book that is being published now is pretty different to the first version – I revised it so much, and took out whole sections (which was painful but worth it!) I prefer the editing process to the first draft process though – that’s when I start to enjoy myself.
Are you working on a new novel now?
Yes, I am! It’s exciting to be with whole new characters but also strange to let the ones from The Doll House go. The new book is set in Essex, in a small village where everyone knows each other’s business, and bad things are just not supposed to happen. But they do, of course…. It’s about a sixteen-year-old girl who is found dead in a field of buttercups, based on a real field near where I used to live. I’m enjoying writing it but also desperate to get to the end and start editing!
In three words, can you describe The Doll House?
Well, I like hearing other people describe it as my main aim is just to connect with readers and I love reading their interpretations of it, I’m so grateful to all the amazing bloggers who have written reviews so far, it means the world. I suppose if I had to pitch it I’d say suspenseful, dark and sad – there is a thread of sadness that runs through the book and makes the characters behave as they do, and I hope that comes across in some way.
Thank you so much Phoebe for taking part in the Q&A. I wish you lots and lots of success with your brilliant novel – by the way your second book sounds fantastic!!!
The Doll House is published on the 14th of September. If you would like to pre-order, here is the link:
About Phoebe Morgan:
Phoebe Morgan is an author and editor. She studied English at Leeds University after growing up in the Suffolk countryside. She has previously worked as a journalist and now edits crime and women’s fiction for a publishing house during the day, and writes her own books in the evenings. She lives in London and you can follow her on Twitter @Phoebe_A_Morgan. The Doll House is her debut novel.
Huge thanks to Phoebe Morgan, HQ Digital and Netgalley for my review copy!