Competition Special - Interview With Penny Batchelor

Please note this competition has now closed.

Thanks so much to everyone who entered last week's Thriller Women competition on Twitter to win a copy of EC Scullion's debut novel Intruders. The winner will be announced shortly.

This week's prize, as part of our fortnight festive giveaway, is a signed copy of Penny Batchelor's debut novel My Perfect Sister. Scroll down the page to find out how to enter!

Penny and Emma are the co-founders of Thriller Women. Watch this space in 2021 for details of when their second novels will be published. The ebooks of Intruders and My Perfect Sister are available from Amazon and Kobo. Buy the paperbacks from all good booksellers or from our Thriller Women list at bookshop.org. NB: if you buy books through this link we may earn a commission from bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookshops.

EC interviewed Penny about the how Thriller Women started out, where her ideas for My Perfect Sister came from and her favourite thriller - plus lots more!

Book cover of My Perfect Sister by Penny Batchelor


EC: So, Penny. We should start by telling everyone a little bit about Thriller Women and how it came into being.

PB: You and I are both with the same publisher and had been online students of a Faber Academy Writing a Novel course, although not at the same time. When I posted in the Faber alumni forum that my novel was going to be published with RedDoor you replied to say yours is too! My ebook launch was a few weeks before the publication of both our paperbacks. Covid-19 had mucked all the schedules up due to printing delays. We became writing buddies and, after our books launched, wanted to think of a way to carry on promoting our novels and the thriller genre in general, what with you and I writing in different subgenres: My Perfect Sister is a domestic noir thriller and Intruders is an action crime thriller. We both have found other female thriller authors to be very supportive, helpful and in the same boat as us. So we then came up with the Thriller Women blog idea! 


EC: Next, can you say a bit about your book My Perfect Sister and what it’s about? Why did you choose to write a domestic thriller?

PB: I think I chose to write a domestic thriller because it’s the sort of genre I love to read. Secrets, lies, what goes on behind closed doors – they all has great dramatic potential. ​In My Perfect Sister there’s a missing sister, a bedroom kept as a shrine and a dark family secret. When Annie returns to care for her mother, she's faced with the ghosts from her past. Long-held secrets surrounding her sister Gemma's disappearance in 1989 remain buried in her childhood house. Does a faded photograph in her sister's old room hold the key to the past? Desperate for clues, she delves deeper in search of the truth. But is it safer to be kept in the dark? Annie is about to find out ...


EC: I really enjoyed your book when I read it. Have you always wanted to write? What is your writing background?

PB: The short answer is yes! I’ve always been a voracious reader. As a child I spent a lot of time in hospital and my way of escaping was through reading books. I have a degree and MA in English Lit which actually put me off my own writing ambitions for a while because I’d been trained to think critically rather than creatively! In my day job I’m a freelance journalist and when I turned 40 I thought it was about time I took my ambition seriously and enrolled on a writing course. That’s where Faber Academy came in. Like you I spent years writing and rewriting, submitting to competition, agents and publishers, and I was thrilled when finally RedDoor Press said yes.


EC: 2020 has been an odd year, to say the least. What have been your highlights?

PB: The highlight has to be getting published. Holding my own book in my hand was, and still is, extremely exciting. There have been other smaller highlights such as seeing my novel in a bookshop, signing copies and getting to know other authors via social media. They really are a supportive bunch. You and I live in different countries and have never physically met but it’s wonderful to have a friend who is experiencing the same thing career wise.


EC: What’s been your favourite part of the process of publishing a novel?

PB: Seeing the finalized cover was a great thrill. I love it, the designer is very talented, and at that point it felt real that the words in my head were going to become a finished book product. I’ve also loved hearing from readers who have really enjoyed My Perfect Sister. Due to coronavirus my physical launch party was cancelled and went online instead. I’ve since taken part in a few zoom calls with book groups and meeting readers is lovely.


EC: Yes, so the first time I got to ‘see’ you was at your live Facebook launch. How did you find that experience?

PB: Very nerve-wracking! It was all new to me. Thankfully our marketing manager Lizzie talked me through what to do and we had a practice beforehand. I’d also been to a couple of other authors’ launches to get tips. Essentially though it was me talking to a computer screen and my husband hiding out of view to be the props man, pass me things when I needed them and pull a party popper at the end! I was very happy to see lots of people turned up online to the launch – many more than would have fitted in the bookshop I’d originally intended to hold the party in.


EC: Given that you and I have never actually met in person, how have you taken to ‘the new normal’, and have you made a lot of new ‘virtual’ friends this year?

PB: I’ve joined a few writers’ groups on Facebook and have networked with other authors on Twitter. The D20 authors group (@TheD20Authors on Twitter) has been a particularly friendly and supportive bunch of people. I have met a lot of people virtually and that has been a godsend. When you’re first published you don’t know what to expect and networking with other authors is a great way for us all to ask questions and share experiences. Coronavirus has forced everything online, what with face-to-face events being cancelled, and for me that has been beneficial because I have a physical disability which makes travelling difficult. I’m so pleased I met you Emma!


EC: Me too Penny! Where do you see yourself in a year from now, and what writing projects are you working on?

PB: I've finished my second novel and would like to find an agent and write book 3 in 2021. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the film and TV rights for My Perfect Sister were snapped up and it was going into production? Aim high, that’s my motto!


EC: (Laughs) Agreed! You’ve lived with disability all your life. How does that affect your motivation and your ability to write every day?

PB: I’m quite an ambitious person and disability has taught me to make the most of what I do have. I’d rather give something a whirl and not achieve it rather than not try at all. Unlike some other authors I can’t commit to writing 2000 words at the same time every day because I don’t always feel well enough to do that. So I write when I feel up to it and use the time when I don’t as thinking time to mull over ideas. I have so many novel plots written down that I’d need three lifetimes to write them all!


EC: What have you most enjoyed reading in 2020? Any recommendations?

PB: it has been a bumper year for novels but because I’ve been writing book 2 I haven’t had as much time as I usually do to read for pleasure. Of course I enjoyed your novel Intruders, AJ Campell’s Leave Well Alone (she was our first Thriller Women guest), Sara Collins’ The Confessions of Frannie Langton, Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key and Lucy Foley’s The Guest List. Outside of the thriller genre I adored Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet – such a great idea for a novel, and Madeline Miller’s Circe (although I was late to the party to read that).

Quick fire round:


EC: Your favourite thriller or crime novel? 

PB: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.


EC: Your favourite author?

PB: Too many to choose from!


EC: A novel you’ve read more than once?

PB: I don’t tend to reread novels unless it was for a uni course!


EC: A novel you’d like to see adapted on Netflix?

PB: Apart from my own I'd like to see Intruders with Tom Hiddleston as the main character.


EC: A book shop you love to browse in?

PB: My local independent bookshop Kenilworth Books. I fulfilled a dream of visiting Shakespeare and Co in Paris a few years ago but it’s sadly not wheelchair friendly at all!


EC: A novel you’ve never read but feel you should have by now?

PB: One of the big fat Russian ones like War and Peace.


EC: Thanks Penny, am looking forward to sharing that bottle of wine with you one day!

PB: I'll hold you to that :-)


Enter to win a signed copy of My Perfect Sister

Details of how to enter, along with the T&Cs, are on Penny Batchelor's Twitter account: @penny_author. The competition closes at 11.59pm on Tuesday 5th January. 



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