I’m so excited to have Veronica (Vee) McGivney as my guest today. Her book Aftermath of a Party appealed to me instantly and I was totally absorbed by it. I can’t wait to find out what inspired her to write it.
Thank you very much, Katy, for inviting me to contribute to your Writing Coffee Shop. This is the blurb for Aftermath of a Party:
When a birthday turns out to be a death day…Hanna Walker wakes up in a hospital bed but has no memory of what has happened to her. When questioned by the police, she is devastated to learn that her lifelong friend, Stella, has been murdered and she herself left for dead, after Stella’s recent birthday party. During the murder investigation Stella’s ex husband and several of her former lovers fall under suspicion. When Stella’s own activities in the period leading up to the party come under the spotlight, Hanna is forced to revise her opinion of the woman she thought was her closest friend. But was Stella a real friend?
Although the two Aftermath novels are stand-alone, as with the first in the series, Aftermath of a Murder, Aftermath of a Party is more concerned with the impact of a dramatic or tragic event on the people most affected and their subsequent behaviour, than with a blow-by-blow account of a police investigation.
The idea for the second novel was prompted by my hearing about a man who’d been in a coma after being attacked at a party and eventually woke up with absolutely no recollection of what had happened to him, although his memory of earlier events was unimpaired.
For this aspect of the novel, I needed to research head injuries as well as post traumatic amnesia and retrograde amnesia. I was also able to draw on my own experience of a recent (non-head-related) operation and stay in hospital.
For the characters, Hanna and Stella – friends who had known each other from childhood – I drew partly on my memory of two girls I knew many years ago, although the aspects of them used in the novel are restricted to general physical descriptions and the dynamic between the two of them.
Apart from these elements, the details relating to Hanna and Stella – their home backgrounds, romantic entanglements, and what happens to them at the party – are all complete inventions.
In the novel I was interested less in the ‘whodunit’ aspect – although as it is a thriller, this is necessarily what drives the plot – than in portraying the sometimes ambivalent relationship between two women when one is more attractive and consequently more successful socially and sexually than the other.
As Hanna learns more about Stella after her death, she is forced to reflect on the relationship and reassess the nature of both Stella’s feelings towards to her and her own feelings towards Stella, and decide whether or not it was a true friendship.
However she is honest enough to recognise that, however subservient she has been to Stella in the past, she herself was instrumental in shaping the relationship between them. I was also interested in portraying how the psychological impact of early experiences can impact on later relationships and one’s ability to successfully “read” another person.
While Stella’s early experiences lead her to unconsciously choose a succession of almost interchangeable sexual partners, Hanna’s very different early experiences – albeit only briefly referred to – are intended to explain something of her timidity and social awkwardness. These themes form the subtext to the novel.
About the author
I spent my childhood in a small seaside resort on the Isle of Wight where my mother ran a terrible “Fawlty-Towers”-type guest house for holidaymakers during the summer months.
At school my main claims to fame were producing caricatures of the teaching staff and persistent truanting. Despite this, I perversely went on to gain degrees in modern languages and spent a number of years in France before pursuing a career in education, teaching in adult education centres and at universities in Sussex, Narobi and The Open University, before becoming a senior research officer at the former National Institute of Adult and Continuing Education.
In between painting, gardening and playing tennis, I have published four novels – Aftermath of a Murder, Inheritors of the New Kingdom, A Reluctant Hero and most recently (April 2019) Aftermath of a Party. I have also published a collection of short stories, Ghosts, Resolution and Revenge, several of which have been short-listed for awards.
My fiction is written under the name of VK McGivney to differentiate it from nonfiction books written under my full name.
I have three adult children and an eccentric cat called Noodles and live in a leafy area of Brighton on the south coast.
Aftermath of a Party is available to buy here:
Thanks so much for joining me today, Vee – I’ve added Aftermath of a Murder to my reading list and am looking forward to reading it.