22nd July 2018
Another exciting guest! This month, I welcome psychological thriller writer Annie Weir to An Author’s Mind. We’re grateful to all our authors for taking time out to discuss their craft with us and no less grateful to Annie who in addition to writing her novels also runs a training company, IVITA Learning, in Cumbria. This is proof that if you want to write that novel, you’ll find the time! So, welcome Annie!
Annie: Thank you, Lizzie, and thank you for asking me along!
Lizzie: You’ve chosen to discuss your debut novel. Can you briefly describe the story of Judith Wants to be Your Friend?
Annie: It’s all contained in the strap-line, of course. If Judith wants to be someone’s friend, she makes it happen. This is the story of how she does that, with what results.
Lizzie: JWTBYF is your first novel and the product of a lifetime’s secret ambition So which three words describe how you feel, having published ‘Judith wants to be your friend’?
Annie: Yes of course.
- Proud – that I was able to bring 85000 words into a story that people have enjoyed reading.
- Thrilled – to see it in print.
- Ready – to writer another psychological thriller
Lizzie: How would you describe the genre of this book, if any?
Annie: My tutor at University of Cumbria described it as a ‘literary novel with psychological undertones’. I thought that sounded wonderful, but I soon learned that Waterstones doesn’t have a shelf for that type of book. I was advised by someone at The Literary Consultancy to call it a ‘psychological thriller’ so I took the advice of the experts.
Lizzie: Were you influenced by other writers or novels you’ve read? What’s the same? What’s different?
Annie: I was most influenced by four books in this genre:
- Notes on a scandalby Zoe Heller
- Enduring loveby Ian McEwan
- Englebyby Sebastian Faulks
- When will there be good news?by Kate Atkinson
They all involve people who behave strangely and who impose themselves on other people’s lives, affecting them profoundly. In each of the books, the person acting strangely has been influenced by different things causing them to be the way they are. In the case of Judith wants to be your friend, it isn’t clear why Judith behaves the way she does. There are hints about her relationship with her parents being different to that of her sister as they were growing up, and also hints about a good friend who had moved away suddenly. I have been asked for a prequel to make it clearer.
Lizzie: Is there an important theme that this story illustrates?
Annie: The theme is that unless we reflect on our past experiences, and especially mistakes, that our personal history can repeat itself.
Lizzie: Who are the heroes? Who are the villains? And why?
- Judith, herself, is the obvious villain although you do wonder why she is the way she is. Some reviews have said that they warmed to her through the story and felt sorry for her at the end.
- Chloe’s friend, Louise, lets local gossip influence her feelings towards Judith and influences Chloe who is nervous of relationships.
- Judith’s sister is the obvious hero. She is endlessly patient and trying to care for all the members of the family. Having said that, she isn’t a ‘goody-goody’, and I like her.
Lizzie: Do the characters change?
Annie: Judith finally changes, but it is a difficult journey that leads to her accepting herself and trusting her family. I am confident she won’t make the same mistakes again…
Lizzie: What is the most significant event for you in the story and why?
Annie: When Judith is having dinner with her boyfriend, one of the managers at the supermarket, he starts to talk about what has happened at work. Judith realises that she has taken her eye off the ball and landed a work colleague in a lot of trouble. She suddenly realises how much she has started to enjoy her life for the first time in a long time, and how much she has got to lose.
Lizzie: What moment in the novel do you like best?
Annie: My favourite moment is when Judith’s recent past catches up with her, and she has nowhere to hide. I love how the strands of the story come together and the personalities of the people in the store manager’s office come through clearly. It is also what pushes her to make changes in her relationship with her sister and niece.
Lizzie: What are the ‘unanswered questions’?
- To me, the main unanswered question is about why Judith is the way she is. I hinted at it rather than explained. There may be another book there!
- A review on Amazon suggested there was a line of police enquiry that hadn’t been completed but an accountant-friend of mine assured me that the money wouldn’t be able to be traced.
Lizzie: People say all fiction is autobiographical. How much of Annie Weir is in Judith Dillon?
Annie: There’s a story I tell at the start of giving an author talk. It goes something like this:
I had a phone call from my twenty-something son about two months after Judith wants to be Your Friend was published.
Him: So, Mum – I mean so, Mam, have you ever been in the situation where you were so fed up with a conversation at work that you made up a lie about yourself? Then had to carry it on?
Him: Have you ever been really cross with someone at work and did something to them that you later regretted?
Him: Have you ever used someone at work to get what you want – just to spite someone else?
Me: (Getting worried about what on Earth he had been doing and saying at work) Look, darling, just tell me what’s happened, and we’ll come up with how you can sort it out.
Him: I’m not talking about me. I’m asking you if you’re Judith!
When I denied it, he started listing the similarities between us, starting with my southern upbringing which meant he wasn’t allowed to call me ‘Mam’. He does, by the way, to wind me up.
Anyway, I say again, no, I am not Judith.
But I do have a very dry sense of humour, and although many people don’t find the book funny, I think that it comes out in Judith’s private thoughts.
Lizzie; Thank you, Annie. I suspect that’s got us all wondering about everything!
Annie Weir’s first novel, Judith Wants to be Your Friend came about after many years of writing in secret. Then, in 2009, she decided to give writing ‘a proper go’, and in 2011, completed an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Cumbria. She is very proud of the fact that Judith Wants to be Your Friend, set mainly in Carlisle, has sold over 5000 copies. And she continues to write books, to support people starting their own business in Cumbria, and to run her own training company, IVITA Learning.
To find out more about Annie Weir, see
To buy Judith Wants to be Your Friend:
19th July 2018
Coming soon – psychological thriller writer Annie Weir will explain when literary fiction is not literary fiction. In short, it seems, it’s when a bookshop says it isn’t! But Annie will give us this and other insights in her interview for our An Author’s Mind blog! Watch this space!