Meet Charlotte Levin Author Of If I Can't Have You

Why do good people do bad things? Charlotte Levin's novel If I Can't Have You, newly released in paperback, explores the theme in this gripping read. After the death of her mother, Constance moves to London to make a fresh start and meets a charismatic doctor at the medical practice she works at, but when the relationship ends her obsession doesn't ...

Download the ebook of If I Can't Have You from Amazon or buy the newly-published paperback from Thriller Women's list at NB: if you buy books through this link we may earn a commission from, whose fees support independent bookshops.

Read on for Charlotte's highs and lows of being published and why letting go of Constance was a hard thing to do.
Book cover of If I Can't Have You by Charlotte Levin

TW:  Congratulations on the paperback publication of If I Can't Have You. What was your inspiration for your debut novel?

CL Thank you! I’ve always been interested in psychology. And within that, I’m fascinated as to what makes good people do bad things. I’ve had my heart broken as have most people, and it’s awful. We may feel out of control or irritate our friends by incessantly going over it. But I was interested in the idea of that happening to someone so damaged and suffering so much loss that they cross lines that the average person wouldn’t. Most importantly, I wanted it to feel realistic.

TW: Constance is a particularly interesting character, a mixture of vulnerability and assertiveness. What did you love most about writing her?

CL: I loved writing Constance. She’s got that dark, almost cruel sarcastic humour, but is also so vulnerable and na├»ve. It’s hard to pick one aspect because, to me, she became an actual person, and I was sad to have to leave her behind.

TW: The novel is certainly a page-turner but it certainly pushes the boundaries of a thriller. How would you classify it?

CL: I never set out to write a thriller. It does have thriller elements and is rather dark and creepy, but I'd intended to write a realistic depiction of how someone could become a stalker and what would drive them to that. To create an anti-hero, who although does terrible things, the reader ultimately roots for. When submitting to agents, I really struggled to know how to describe it. Several liked it but then rejected because it crossed genre and was therefore hard to sell. And to be honest, I still don't really know what genre it is! It is marketed as a thriller because I guess that's the nearest genre, but it also has humour and is quite emotional. Someone recently referred to it as a 'Book Club' read, which I think basically means books that no-one knows how to categorise!

TW: Which character/s do you love to hate?

CL: Well, I frequently swore at the screen when Samuel was being awful! But I thoroughly enjoyed that. Dale almost became so real to me that I found I was squirming as I wrote him.

TW: Did the plot change after you were taken on by an agent and publisher? If so, why?

CL: Not hugely, although things were added that brought the whole thing together. The book was already written in Constance's POV and directed at Samuel (the object of her affection), but my agent thought it would be a good idea to ground this in some way, so I made it in the form of a letter. Just before it was submitted to publishers, I added another letter at the end. This adds a whole other level to the story, and it's quite scary how these things just happen at the last minute and yet can be so vital. My publishers suggested I change the ending a bit as it was too dark. They wanted it to be more hopeful, and they were absolutely right.

TW: What are your highs and lows of being published?

CL: Oh, goodness, how long have we got?! Getting an agent and then getting the deal was just so exciting. You have a dream, then that dream comes true, and I'm not sure when it will ever feel real! People, strangers, reading my book and enjoying it is such a great, surreal thing. In terms of lows - the whole thing is a lot more stressful than I anticipated! And I hadn't accounted for how vulnerable having a book out makes you feel.

TW: Tell us about your writing life. Do you have a routine?

CL: I am a disorganised shambolic mess. I either struggle to write at all or becomes so obsessed that I realise I haven’t eaten all day and can’t sleep because I can’t stop thinking about the book. I look at writer’s posts on Instagram where they’re hugging a hot chocolate at their neat desks and want to cry.

TW: Are there any other genres you'd love to give a whirl?

CL: I’d love to try my hand at writing for TV. A dark comedy perhaps.

TW: Do you have any exclusives on what your next novel is going to be about?

CL: I really need to find a way of pitching it without giving it away. But it’s about a grieving mother involved in a train crash who is hailed a hero for saving a child. It’s less ‘thriller’ than If I Can’t Have You but has a similar moral dilemma and dark themes of good people doing bad things.

Quick fire questions:

TW: Fish and chips or curry? 

CL: Chips and mushy peas (I’m vegan)

TW: Netflix or BBC?

CL: Netflix (but rarely)

TW: Read in one binge or a chapter a night?

CL: I love getting into bed to read at night, then I fall asleep. So, it starts out as wanting to be a binge, but ends up one chapter.

TW: Your favourite book?

CL: Oh, I don’t like this question because there are too many! I always say Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates and Lolita by Nabokov. Purely for the sheer brilliance of the writing.

TW: Cats or dogs?

CL: Cats (though I do like dogs as well)

Thanks Charlotte. We're looking forward to reading your next novel.

Photograph of Charlotte Levin

More about If I Can't Have You

My name is Constance Little.

This is my love story.

But this isn't the way it was supposed to end.

After fleeing Manchester for London, Constance attempts to put past tragedies behind her and make a fresh start. When she embarks on a relationship with the new doctor at the medical practice where she works, she's convinced she's finally found the love and security she craves.

Then he ends it.

But if life has taught her anything, it's that if you love someone, you should never let them go.

That's why for Constance Little, her obsession is only just beginning ...


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