Richard and Judy ask Debbie Howells

Richard and Judy ask Debbie Howells

This is your debut novel. What gave you the idea for the plot?

It came from an interest in what makes us who we are, in particular the influence of family, and the line between what we loosely classify as ‘normal’ and what’s considered dysfunctional. It’s a line that isn’t always clear, and extreme relation¬ships exist that can be enormously damaging to those caught up in them. They can also be incredibly well hidden.

There’s also the way we form judgements of people and how unreliable first impressions can be, based as they are on minimal information from the briefest of interactions, because we mostly only see what people want us to see. Not everyone is who they appear to be; no one knows what really goes on behind closed doors. It leads on to the question of how well you can ever really know someone.

For some reason, we find the fact that you are a florist intriguing. Do you think your profession helped you write the book?

My wedding flower business was built on a love of plants, gardens and the countryside. My designs are very natural-looking, simple and with movement, created from seasonal flowers and foliage reflecting the time of year. Nowadays, when you can buy most flowers all year round, there’s something special about English scented roses and herbs in summer; narcissi, scented firs, twigs in winter . . .

I think my writing draws on this same passion in its observation of the seasons, how the landscape changes throughout the year. In The Bones of You I wanted to use nature and seasonal imagery to add an element of beauty to what is essentially a dark story.

This definitely has echoes of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, not just in the title but also because Rosie, the murdered girl, has a narrator’s voice in the story. Were you inspired by Sebold’s book?

Alice Sebold’s book is a masterpiece, which I didn’t read until I’d written The Bones of You, though I’d seen the film. It’s exceptional, though I wouldn’t say I was consciously influenced by it. I was inspired to tell Rosie’s story ‘as her life flashed before her eyes’, as well as how it was pieced together by the community in which she lived. It took some experimenting to work out how I was going to do that.

But what I also wanted to do was to realistically portray the damage caused by emotional abuse. It is more common than a lot of people realize and its consequences are far reaching. I don’t think Rosie’s narrative is far off the mark. What I find most disturbing is how invisible this kind of abuse is; how the scars can’t be seen. How it becomes so engrained in a relationship that even the victim can’t always see it for what it is.

‘The Bones of You’ is actually the name of a song, written by Elbow, which I felt perfectly fitted the book.

‘The Bones of You’ is actually the name of a song, written by Elbow, which I felt perfectly fitted the book.

My next book is called The Beauty of the End. It’s about an ex-lawyer, Noah, who leads a reclusive life in the West Country, until he receives a call telling him that the woman he once loved is suspected of murder.

April Moon was the love of Noah’s life and he absolutely knows she’s innocent. It’s been years since he last saw her, but when he discovers she’s on life support, with evidence pointing to her guilt, he finds himself compelled to help her.

Meanwhile, Ella tells her own story. At fifteen, she’s the same age April was when Noah first met her. Burdened with secrets that are tearing her apart, what she knows is key to uncovering the truth.

As Noah endeavours to prove April’s innocence, he’s forced to confront a past he’d rather forget. But as his story converges with Ella’s, at last the truth emerges – or so everyone thinks . . .

It’s a story about obsession, delusion and revenge. But it’s also about love.