Tuesday, November 10, 2020

D S Butler

Born in Kent, D. S. Butler grew up as an avid reader with a love for crime fiction and mysteries. She has worked as a scientific officer in a hospital  pathology laboratory and as a research scientist. After obtaining a PhD in biochemistry, she worked at the University of Oxford for four years before moving to the Middle East.

Butler's new novel is House of Lies.

My Q&A with the author:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I think titles are hugely important. Along with the cover art, they are the first thing to grab a reader’s attention. Every book I’ve written has undergone title changes along the way. Coming up with the most fitting title is a joint effort with my publishers, who I have to admit, come up with better options than me most of the time! House of Lies was one of many possible titles we considered. Chidlow House is important to the storyline, and I think the title House of Lies both conveys the sinister setting and duplicitous nature of some of the characters in the book.

What's in a name?

The individual character names in this book don’t have underlying meanings, but I had fun naming the house. In the area the book is set there are numerous old country houses and manors, and I enjoyed making up my own and naming it. I picked Chidlow House as the word Chidlow is thought to be derived from an Old English name meaning burial mound, and I thought that was a suitably eerie fit for the story.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

Of all the books I’ve written, House of Lies is probably closest to the stories I read back then. As a teenager, my favourite crime books were Agatha Christie’s and I also loved gothic novels. The creepy old manor house with the mysterious Lord Chidlow in House of Lies fit in well with the type of books I liked to read then, so I think my teenage reader self would not have been surprised at all by this novel.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I find endings harder to write than beginnings now. Trying to tie up every loose thread and get to a satisfying final conclusion can be a struggle. I think of mystery plots as a series of questions. It’s
easy to come up with the questions. It’s not so easy to make sure they are all answered at the end.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I do share some similarities with the main character. We live in the same location and have similar tastes in music and books, though thankfully my life hasn’t been as hard or tragic as the main character’s in this series. They are also far braver than me and more sociable! They are out there meeting people every day, while I’m usually indoors hunched over a computer.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Probably the biggest inspiration has been places, both urban and rural. Setting is the key to a book for me when I’m writing and when I’m reading. Soaking up the Lincolnshire landscape helps me come up with new settings and new plot concepts. People watching is another inspiration. Sitting in a coffee shop and inventing backstories for other customers gives me plenty of ideas for characters.
Visit D.S. Butler's website.

The Page 69 Test: House of Lies.

--Marshal Zeringue