I Never Lie by Jody Sabral ** Blog Tour Author Post**
I am thrilled to be taking part in the celebrations for the publication of Jody Sabral's psychological thriller, I Never Lie. Jody has written a marvellous guest post for us on Gender clichés and character which is thought provoking and insightful. Before we hear from her, I am sure you would like to find out a little about the book:
Is she the next victim? Or is she the culprit…?
Alex South is a high-functioning alcoholic who is teetering on the brink of oblivion. Her career as a television journalist is hanging by a thread since a drunken on-air rant. When a series of murders occur within a couple of miles of her East London home she is given another chance to prove her skill and report the unfolding events. She thinks she can control the drinking, but soon she finds gaping holes in her memory, and wakes to find she’s done things she can’t recall. As the story she’s covering starts to creep into her own life, is Alex a danger only to herself – or to others?
Welcome to Books, Life and Everything, Jody. Over to you!
Gender clichés and character
Alex South, my heroine, is a high-functioning alcoholic who is using dating sites to get pregnant after a miscarriage ended her long-term relationship with her fiancé Greg. This is a hard premise to swallow for many people. It instantly makes you want to hate her, if you’re a man. And if you’re a woman I suppose it depends how you might see her plight. Most people judge her. They can’t help it because she’s going against the norm, against what is and isn’t acceptable by our own moral standards. She’s a tricky customer because she’s so dysfunctional which makes her tough to empathise with, but I NEVER LIE is not supposed to be a comfortable read because Alex lives in a permanent state of denial about her drinking, which has a knock effect on every aspect of her life.
In the early days of writing I NEVER LIE, I work shopped the opening chapters endlessly trying to strike the right tone with her to draw out her character. The male readers hated her, they thought she was morally bankrupt, which she sort of is because of her decade old drink habit, but the women thought she was a renegade, taking control of what she wanted unashamedly. It was an interesting response to Alex’s dilemma. My agent even said he found her difficult to empathise with and that in itself was making it hard to place her with a publisher, even though he absolutely loved the book. In the end, after much rewriting, Alex found her rightful home with Canelo, where the entire team were utterly spellbound by her and were sad to say goodbye as the last page drew near. A mostly female team, they found her to be independent, modern and reassuringly flawed.
Seeking out dates to get pregnant is not a great decision, any way you look at it, but then she can’t afford fertility treatments and she’s running out of time at thirty-nine. She’s isolated but resourceful. So she does what any man might do in a similar situation, she takes action and takes what she needs from life. I do wonder sometimes that if Alex South were a man whether she would be judged the way she is. Alex challenges the gender clichés of men and women because she’s looking at this from a purely practical place, a financial one, not an emotional one. Of course wanting a child is emotional, but the means to get that isn’t. The idea that someone might do this exposes the nature of meeting people online and the secrets they can withhold from you.
I did my fair share of Internet dating when I moved back to London five years ago, which is in part how this thread of the story was created, and for the most part it was a fun experience, but you never really know who you’re meeting and more importantly why they have come to be there. It’s pretty widely accepted now that Internet dating is a fantastic way to meet people from outside your social circle, many of whom will go on to become friends, and I agree wholeheartedly with this, but there’s always an element of not knowing exactly, who you’re dealing with as there is with Alex South.
She’s not your every day woman. She’s hardened over time from the booze, which means her moral compass isn’t what you or me would deem okay. Her brain hasn’t developed emotionally the way it should have done by her age of maturity because she’s been drinking for so long. She’s lacking on empathy. It’s why she can do what she does. Readers say they are equally frustrated with her as they are sorry for her. She provokes outright disgust and yet you want her to weirdly sort her shit out because she has a potential that is untapped because of the booze.
I wanted to write a character whose entire personality was affected by her addiction, not have it as a mere prop to tell us something about her lifestyle. The reader has an involved experience of what the voice in her head is like which I think does go someway to offset the moral judgment you will inevitably level on her. She is a modern flawed woman, who challenges the very essence of what someone in her position should be, which was half the fun in writing her. She’s not someone you’re going to immediately like, but you may come to understand. She treads a fine line between success and failure, which I think makes her someone you can root for, but I’ll leave that up to you the reader, be prepared for an uncomfortable ride.
Thank you for this insight into your writing and thoughts on Alex South and good luck with the rest of the tour.
About the Author
Jody Sabral is based between the South Coast and London, where she works as a Foreign Desk editor and video producer at the BBC. She is a graduate of the MA in Crime Fiction at City University, London. Jody worked as a journalist in Turkey for ten years, covering the region for various international broadcasters. She self-published her first book Changing Borders in 2012 and won the CWA Debut Dagger in 2014 for her second novel The Movement. In addition to working for the BBC, Jody also writes for the Huffington Post, Al–Monitor and Brics Post.
Thanks to Jody Sabral and Ellie Pilcher of Canelo for a place on the tour.
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