Robyn Harding is the author of numerous books, including the international bestseller, The Party, and The Swap, which was an instant #1 Globe and Mail (Toronto) and #1 Toronto Star bestseller. She has also written and executive produced an independent film. She lives in Vancouver, BC, with her family. Visit her at RobynHarding.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @RHardingWriter or on Facebook AuthorRobynHarding
Girly Book Club: What can you tell our members about your recent release, The Perfect Family?
Robyn Harding: This novel is about a well-to-do family who is being harassed by a bunch of hooligans in the night. They have no idea why they’re being targeted… Or so they all claim. But each member of the family has their own dark secret that might be behind the abuse. And as it escalates, they’re pressured to come clean… before it’s too late.
GBC: Where did the inspiration for The Perfect Family come from?
RH: A few years ago, there were kids in our neighborhood who were harassing certain houses. It was innocent, really – knocking and running away, throwing fruit or eggs – but they only targeted specific homes and we really had no idea why. It was surprisingly unnerving knowing there were kids out there in the night. And their age made it scarier since teens’ decision-making abilities and impulse control aren’t fully developed.
GBC: You tell this story – and others – from multiple points of view. What is your intention behind using multiple POVs and how does hearing the story told from different perspectives enhance the storyline?
RH: Gustave Flaubert said: “There is no truth. There is only perception” If I think about that too much, it really freaks me out! But I love playing with perspectives in my novel… especially within families. How a parent and child see the same situation can be completely different. The same with spouses, siblings, friends… These differing points of view make for great drama. And I feel a story moves more quickly when we shift the perspectives.
GBC: Do you play favourites with your book characters, and if so, which character from The Perfect Family is your favourite?
RH: Every character I write has something in them that I connect to. Even the terrible people (and I write a lot of terrible people) have a kernel of relatability. In The Perfect Family I think Eli is the most sympathetic character, but I had the most fun writing Tarryn. I remember being a teenage girl with angst and attitude, and I love her sass.
How did you get into writing and what inspired you to write your first book?
RH: I was working as a copy writer at an ad agency. It was an excellent way to build my writing skills, but I really wanted to write fiction. I’d dabbled for years, and finally came up with an idea that I loved enough to finish. My first novel, The Journal of Mortifying Moments, was published in 2004.
GBC: When you start writing a new book, what is your goal? What do you aim to invoke in your readers?
RH: I want to offer readers an escape. I believe there is great value in entertainment – a point hammered home during the pandemic. Books, movies, and TV shows provided me real comfort during stressful and scary times. I feel such a sense of accomplishment when a reader tells me they got lost in one of my books.
GBC: What does your writing process look like? Do you map each story out from start to finish or do you begin with an idea and see where it takes you?
RH: I always start with a premise, and then I create characters that I want to drag through the messy situation. For several years, I focused on screenwriting which taught me a lot about structure. I usually map out major story beats before I begin writing.
GBC: What makes a book great, in your opinion? What elements does a great story possess?
RH: For me, it’s all about engagement: a book that I can’t put down, that I think about between reading sessions, that I can’t wait to pick up again. I believe it’s a combination of interesting characters, an exciting premise, and a great storytelling style.
GBC: Our GBC community are big readers; share a book reco or two to add to our TBR-list!
RH: I read an early copy of Roz Nay’s The Hunted and I loved it. It’s a dark thriller set at a dive camp in Africa. It was wonderful to visit such an exotic setting while we’re banned from traveling. I also loved Who Is Maude Dixon by Alexandra Andrews and Dark Roads by Chevy Stevens.
GBC: Any advice you can share with the aspiring writers within our community?
RH: I encourage writers to finish their projects, even if they have lost faith in the idea. You learn so much about structure and pacing and what it really takes to write 300 pages by writing a full manuscript. And when you feel ready to submit to agents, find books in your genre and check the acknowledgements. Writers always thanks their agents. And agents are always looking for that next break out debut novel.