Colette McBeth Talks Writing A Dead Character

Colette McBeth’s writing gives me the chills. In her new book, The Lift I Left Behind, a dead character plays a very big part in the plot. I’m delighted to have Colette on my blog today to discuss how she found the writing of Eve..

Confession; I have never wanted to write a supernatural thriller. The idea of ghosts and apparitions and hearing voices from beyond the grave is well, not in my natural comfort zone. And yet Eve is essentially a ghost, she’s been murdered, and she recounts her story. So what on earth was I doing? Why did I think I could write Eve? The answer is I didn’t. Not for a long time. I struggled with her voice, getting it right, doing her justice. I questioned how on earth my two characters, one dead, one alive, were going to communicate with each other without it turning in to a farce, or at the very least a story that I wouldn’t want to read myself. But even amongst all those doubts I knew I wanted to tell Eve’s story, that without her there wouldn’t be a story at all.

I had lots of false starts. Not even starts. I had a whole book, 90,000 words, before I decided Eve still wasn’t right and threw all but a few thousand of those words away. Because at the heart of it I knew there had to be a deal between myself and the readers; that before they could suspend disbelief in Eve’s situation, they first had to believe in her as a character. She had to jump off the page, spark in their minds. I wanted them not to look on her first and foremost as a victim, but see her as someone they could party with until the small hours, make you laugh when you thought you’d lost the power to laugh forever.

Anyone else thinking she looks like Emma Willis? 

The breakthrough in writing Eve came late, a few short months before my deadline, and it came thanks to a question from my husband. I complained she still wasn’t right. ‘What does she do?’ he asked.

I’d been looking at it from the wrong angle. Until then Eve was only a victim, she didn’t have a purpose. No wonder she had been unwilling to play the game. As soon as I put her in the driving seat of the story, gave her the role of investigating Melody’s attack, everything else fell into place.

The Life I Left Behind

In the end I wrote her exactly in the way I would have if she were a living character, with a few exceptions. Her rare references to the after world were added once I had the confidence I knew her inside out, I knew how she would react. I could hear her voice, even from beyond the grave.

I know readers have had doubts initially that they wouldn’t like the novel because of the dead narrator. My favourite comments are those that say their concerns were dispelled, that Eve, a victim maybe, is also (and I quote) ‘one sassy ghost.’

Twitter: @colettemcbeth
Website: www.colettemcbeth.com