With thanks to the lovely folks at Aria Fiction and NetGalley, for the opportunity to be in right at the beginning of this Blog Tour for The Pupil by Dawn Goodwin.
If you enjoy reading this extract, why not visit some of the other tour participants over the coming few days, I’m sure they would be pleased to welcome you!
Psychological suspense that explores a labyrinth of lies, manipulation and revenge. Perfect for fans of Louise Jenson and Katerina Diamond.
Literary agent Viola Matthews is sure she’s met Katherine Baxter before. So when her husband and bestselling novelist Samuel Morton introduces Viola to the quiet, unassuming woman he has offered to mentor, she knows their paths have crossed before. The question is where?
As their worlds collide and the bond between Samuel and Katherine deepens, Viola realises she must take control.
If Viola is right, then Katherine needs to pay for something that happened twelve years ago.
A graduate of the Curtis Brown creative writing school, she loves to write about the personalities hiding behind the masks we wear every day, whether beautiful or ugly.
Now a company director, what spare time Dawn has is spent chasing good intentions, contemplating how to get away with various crimes and misdemeanours, and immersing herself in fictitious worlds.
She lives in London with her husband, two daughters and a British bulldog called Geoffrey.
The best thing about being a writer is the ability to live vicariously through your own imagination, with no boundaries as to how you behave on paper. And having a good excuse to read as many books as you like in the name of “research”.
One of the most enjoyable parts of being a writer is being able to take the darker side of human nature and explore it to the full, allowing myself to inhabit the mind of a villain and take the driving seat. I certainly wouldn’t think to behave in public the way some of my antagonists do, but it can be fun to imagine what it would be like
Catch up with all the latest news on Dawn’s website
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To co-start the Blog Tour, Aria Fiction and Dawn Goodwin, have requested that I share this extract with you.
The words are taken from the beginning of Chapter 2
Situated as it was near to Soho, there were already a number of suits spilling out of the bar and into the street, enjoying their first cigarette post-work. Late September leaves swirled about their feet, waltzing with cigarette butts and empty crisp packets.
A long, polished bar dominated the room, illuminated by the rows of multicoloured bottles standing to attention behind the bar staff. Artisan gins and trendy rum brands stood shoulder to shoulder with cheaper spirits in eye-watering hues. The air was heady with a bouquet of aftershave, alcohol and naked ambition, making me almost nostalgic for the days of my youth when bars up north would reek of cigarette smoke, beer and regret.
The writing group congregated around a few tables to the side of the room. I hovered on the periphery, holding my coat in front of me like a shield. The group looked at each other for a moment, no one wanting to be the first to offer to get a round in, not for so many of them in one go. Eventually, The Gnome couldn’t hold out any longer, the pull of the pint proving too much for him to bear.
‘What’s your poison, everyone? I’ll get the first one in.’
Relieved mutterings of ‘make it a pint for me’ and ‘a small white wine please’ filled the air. Conscious of the rumbling of my tummy after a day of little food and too much free coffee, I asked for a gin and tonic, then positioned myself next to Shelley – close enough to follow the conversation, but peripheral enough not to have to engage too thickly. I generally wasn’t one for small talk; I was never sure what adults talked about if not their kids.
I scanned the faces for Samuel. He was standing further away to my left, his back to me, deep in conversation with a man whose name I couldn’t recall. I tried to make out what they were talking about, but their voices were indistinct in the pub clamour.
‘Did you enjoy it? The course I mean?’ Shelley leaned in and whispered at my side. ‘I’m Shelley Low, by the way. We haven’t really been introduced properly.’ She was holding out a pudgy hand to me. I shook it firmly. Her grasp was limp.
‘Katherine Baxter.’ I smiled. ‘I did enjoy it. I’ve come away with a lot of great ideas, although I wish it could’ve been longer. I was essentially looking for validation that I can actually write more than anything else. I didn’t necessarily get that though. We spent so much time talking about everyone else’s work and perhaps we could’ve had more time working on our own stuff, you know? Maybe some more one-on-one time with Samuel?’
‘True.’ Shelley looked like she was dithering over whether to say the words forming behind her lips, then she ploughed in. ‘Please don’t take everyone’s criticism of your work to heart.’ She flushed. ‘I could tell by your face that you were hoping to hear something different.’ She shuffled her feet and avoided looking me in the eye.
‘Was it that obvious?’
Shelley smiled, just as The Gnome began to dish out the drinks. ‘I personally think your novel is really promising and we have to remember that there is an element of competition here.’ She looked at the others standing around us. ‘They’re all looking at each of us and seeing the books that may get published before theirs, so it’s self-preservation to tear others down before building theirs up.’
I felt myself exhale. ‘You know, you’re right, Shelley. We pour ourselves into the words on the page and to hear that the reader is left feeling complacent at best is disheartening. But I agree – they can say what they want because they won’t be the ones offering me a publishing deal.’ I looked pointedly at where Samuel was now holding court over the main group. He looked over and caught my eye. My cheeks warmed. I nodded my head subtly in his direction. ‘That’s who we should be impressing.’
Shelley followed my eyeline. ‘Yes, he’s lovely, isn’t he?’ she said. I watched him as he chatted, the way he used his slim hands for emphasis. ‘You know, they say his wife is quite a force to be reckoned with too,’ Shelley added, then took a sip of her drink.
I dragged my eyes back to her. ‘Really?’
‘Yes, she was the one who got him published in the first place apparently.’ Her voice was little above a conspiratorial whisper and I had to lean in closer to catch the syllables. ‘Viola Matthews?’ The name meant nothing to me. ‘Apparently, she supported him financially while he locked himself away writing failure after failure. He fell into the bottle and she propped him up, by all accounts, because she recognised a latent talent. Then he wrote Muses and Starlings, thought it was rubbish and threw the whole thing away in a drunken rage. She salvaged it, sent it to a publisher friend and the rest is history.’
‘How do you know all this?’ Of course he’d be married. But I never would’ve had him down as having struggled. He exuded such confidence when he spoke about his work. My glass was almost empty already and I could feel the gin fizzing in my veins.
Shelley pushed her glasses up her nose. ‘I did some background reading on him before the course and came across an interview he did years ago with the New York Times just after his third novel was published. Have you read any of his books?’
‘I’ve read Muses and Starlings, a long time ago now.’
‘I’ve read them all. He’s very good at the thinking man’s thriller, I guess you could call it. He writes with such lyricism and clarity when it comes to character definition. He won the lifetime achievement award at the National Book Awards recently, you know. They don’t give those out to just anyone.’
I narrowed my eyes at her wistful tone. ‘Ooh, Shelley, anyone would think you have a crush on our esteemed tutor,’ I teased.
She giggled lightly. ‘Well, I was rather star-struck when I met him on Monday.’ Her cheeks flushed to a deep beetroot shade. ‘He has a way about him, doesn’t he?’ She was gazing at him now. ‘Of course, it’s been a while since he published anything new. Rumour has it he’s close to finishing his next bestseller.’
I slurped at the last of my drink and looked at Shelley more closely. ‘So what about you? Are you married? Kids?’ I asked.
‘No, just me and my cat. I’m a spinster stereotype. You?’
‘Married, two kids: Lily and Jack. Writing is just a hobby for me.’
‘So, what do you do – I mean, for work?’
I was saved from answering by Samuel approaching us.
‘Ladies.’ He angled between us and I was amused to hear Shelley giggle again.
‘Samuel,’ I replied with a subtle smile.
‘Please, we’re all friends now – call me Sam, much less formal. So, what are your thoughts on the course? Worthwhile? Did you get what you wanted from it?’
Did I imagine his eyes tracking down my visage? I pulled at the open neck of my cardigan.
‘Shelley and I were just discussing that.’ I tried to project a more professional intonation onto my words.
‘Yes, we were.’ Shelley jockeyed herself in front of me and into his direct eyeline. I was amused at her sudden forthrightness. ‘I thought it was very worthwhile and certainly useful going forward.’
I stepped forward so that I was back in contention, the two of us like chess pieces manoeuvring around the king. ‘To be honest, I thought there could’ve been a bit more time spent on our own work – perhaps more one-to-one time?’
‘Well, I’m sure if there is more you wanted me to help you with, then we could arrange to meet outside of the course if it will help?’ he said to me.
‘Oh, that’s so nice of you, Sam. Thank you!’ Shelley gushed, her eyes wide and bright.
Sam tore his eyes away from me to flick a glance at her. ‘Oh, yes, you too Shelley.’
The insipid man whose name I’d forgotten earlier but I now remembered was Greg, interrupted us then. He offered another round and Sam moved away with him to help with the order.
I felt my phone vibrate in my back pocket and I excused myself from Shelley to move aside. A text from Paul asking where I was. I kicked myself for not phoning him earlier, but I had been focused on asking Helen to watch the kids first and foremost.
I texted him back to explain that the kids were sleeping over at Helen’s and that I would be home by around 10 p.m., then shoved my phone back in my pocket. I could deal with the fallout tomorrow.