Meet Polly Phillips Author of My Best Friend's Murder

We hear a lot about destructive romantic relationships but what happens when your friendship with your best buddy turns toxic? Polly Phillips explores that tantalising topic in her debut novel My Best Friend's Murder, published this week in ebook and available from Amazon or your preferred ebook retailer. The  paperback will be published in July.

Polly told us all about her real life friendship (thankfully without a murder) that inspired the main characters and her best - and worst - bits of becoming an author.

The book cover of My Best Friend's Murder by Polly Phillips

TW: The title of the book really draws us in! What made you want to write about female friendship?

PP: I’ve read so many books with strong female friendships at their core – even in children’s fiction - and  there’s a real focus on having a best friend or being a pair. That made me really want to look at the darker side of it, the side we talk about less, which is the ways in which women can compete with each other and bring each other down. I went to an all-girls’ school and saw a lot of that there – it really stayed with me. Plus, it’s always fun coming up with deliciously bitchy characters.

TW: I bet! How did you come up with the idea for Bec and Izzy?

PP: I had a very close friend when I was a teenager well into my early twenties. We used to tramp up and down Northcote Road in London together. Sadly, we’re no longer in contact (our friendship didn’t bring out the best in either of us, shall we say?) and that friendship and its demise planted the seed for me. Later, when I lived in that area with my daughter, I used to see groups of well-dressed blonde women like Izzy meeting in the multitude of cafes and restaurants and I just knew I had to set the book in that area. 

TW: What do you think it is about female friendship that can potentially render it toxic?

PP: I think it’s the intensity. Women often tend to share and confide in their friends more than their male counterparts. Without meaning to, we can arm our friends against us. Team that closeness with the competition we seem to instinctively feel with each other, and you’ve got a recipe for toxic disaster.

TW: What drew you to thriller writing?

PP: Great thriller books! I’ve read so many fantastic page-turners – books by Adele Parks, TM Logan, Sophie Hannah, Louise Candlish, Gytha Lodge and so many other writers I admire. Reading those made me realise that was the type of book I wanted to write. What I love about thrillers is you can read them in any mood; if I’m feeling energetic and positive, I dive into them but even on the days when I’m feeling more sluggish or a bit low (especially in the current climate) the escape I find within the pages brings me back to life again. 

TW: Can you tell us please about your road to publication.

PP: It was definitely a winding one! I started writing my first novel in 2016. I signed up to a brilliant course run by the Faber Academy and optimistically thought I’d have a book contract within a year! While I did finish the novel, I realise now I was writing in a voice that wasn’t my own so it didn’t feel authentic. Nevertheless, I plugged away and entered it into the Emirates Literature Festival’s novel competition, as I was living in Dubai at the time. It didn’t place so I carried on working on it and submitted again the next year. It failed to place again. By this time, I’d lost the passion I had for the project and a writer friend suggested I try something else. I saw the second project as a bit of a palate cleanser – something fun to write before I got serious again. I decided to enter that book in the Emirates Literature Festival one last time in 2019 – and it won! I couldn’t believe it! 

Winning granted me a meeting with respected literary agent , Luigi Bonomi, who gave me some amazing advice and encouragement. I then won a competition on Twitter for a six-week course with Curtis Brown, which galvanized me even further. I finished the book six months later, submitted it to four literary agents, got four requests for full manuscripts and three offers of representation. I signed with Sarah Hornsley from The Bent Agency because she was so passionate about the book and had some great editorial ideas even on our first phonecall. We worked on the book together for about two months and then submitted it to publishers. Within about a month, we had two offers. I signed with Simon and Schuster. Some days I still have to keep pinching myself to believe it’s real. 

TW: What are your tips for writers trying to get published?

PP: The biggest has to be don’t stop trying. I know it’s a cliché but the road to publication can be a long one and most overnight successes have put in a lot of legwork first. Don’t be put off by rejection and if you really want to write, keep going.

Then there are all the standard ones; do your homework – investigate agents, sign up to courses or webinars, follow writers on twitter, keep an eye out for competitions and submissions and read widely in the genre you’re writing in.

But I think my best tip would be if you’re not enjoying what you’re writing, try something new. I slogged away for ages on a book that ultimately, I abandoned as I couldn’t make it work and I’d lost the love for writing it. I actually began My Best Friend’s Murder because I wanted to try something completely different, something that felt fun. But as the words started flowing and the ideas kept coming, I realized maybe I had something. 

TW: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

PP: A plotter – I’m not confident enough to be a pantser!!

TW: You currently live in Australia. How does your location inspire your writing?

PP: Currently my books have been set in London or Cambridge – places in the UK that I know like the back of my hand. That said, it’s so beautiful where I live that I’m itching to write about it. Maybe the sunnier climes of Oz will replace the mean streets of South London (!) in my heart.

TW: Which part of being an author do you like the best and worse - and why?

PP: I love story-telling, taking that original idea and spinning it out into a plot. The bit before you start writing a first draft is my absolute favourite. All the ideas are whirling about and the options for where you take them are endless. The bit I hate most is probably comparison, which is definitely the thief of joy. I’m very guilty of reading about these ten-way auctions, multiple foreign rights deals and huge sales and feeling that I’ll never live up to them.

TW: Can you give us an exclusive please on what's next for you?

PP: I’m just about to start editing book number 2 – I’ve been through structural edits so now I’m just working through my editor’s notes and developing some characters further. This book is not a sequel but it deals with many of the same themes, with a central narrator who feels she hasn’t lived up to those who are dazzling around her. It’s set at a university reunion, with the main character hellbent on getting revenge for something that happened there and everyone – including her - having something to hide…

Quick fire questions:

TW: Best female friend or male friend?

PP: Both.

TW: Barbecue or Sunday roast?

PP: Sunday Roast – with Yorkshire puddings! 

TW: Ebook or paperback?

PP: Paperback

TW: What is your favourite way to wind down?

PP: Definitely a cliché but you can’t beat a great book on the sofa with something sweet to eat and, ideally, a glass of good red wine.

Sounds perfect. Thanks Polly!

Photo of Polly Phillips, author of My Best Friend's Murder

More about My Best Friend's Murder:

There are so many ways to kill a friendship . . .

You're lying, sprawled at the bottom of the stairs, legs bent, arms wide.
And while this could be a tragic accident, if anyone's got a motive to hurt you, it's me.

Bec and Izzy have been best friends their whole lives. They have been through a lot together - from the death of Bec's mother to the birth of Izzy's daughter. But there's a darker side to their friendship, and once it has been exposed, there is no turning back.

So when Izzy's body is found, Bec knows that if the police decide to look for a killer, she will be the prime suspect. Because those closest to you are the ones who can hurt you the most . . .


Come back next week for another interview with a female thriller writer. We publish a new interview every Wednesday.


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