Earlier this year, British author Fiona Barton kept readers on their toes with her debut thriller, The Widow, about a woman who may or may not be harboring some dark secrets about her husband, and the reporter, Kate, who’s trying to uncover those secrets. (If you missed The Widow, get a taste of it here.) Now, Barton is gearing up to continue not the Widow’s story, but Kate’s, with another creepy mystery called The Child.
EW is thrilled to reveal the cover for The Child, which won’t hit shelves until May 30, 2017 — and a Q&A with the author herself about just what pulled her back into Kate’s world, and why the story made her feel like she was “wrenching it out of my body with bloodied fingernails.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why did you want to continue Kate’s story? Was that always the plan from when you wrote The Widow?
FIONA BARTON: I honestly had no plans to write about any of the characters in The Widow again, but the reaction to Kate has spurred me on. I thought the readers would focus on Jean and the idea of a marriage with secrets but there has been a surprising fascination in the reporter’s thread. So Kate has stayed. In The Child, she spots a snippet of news about the discovery of a baby’s body, buried on a building site. She decides to investigate the story and her hunt for the identity of the child changes the lives of three women, forever.
Where did the idea for The Child come from?
Exactly the same place that Kate finds it. As a journalist, always looking for stories, I tore interesting items out of newspapers as I spotted them and shoved them in my handbag for later. They were often just a few lines — the basic facts — but it was the unanswered questions that drew me in. The Who? or the Why? A paragraph about an infant’s skeleton found in a garden was squirreled away by me many years ago. Like Kate, I wanted to know who the baby was and why someone had secretly buried it. I was drawn by the desperation of the act and the human tragedy behind it. The newspaper cutting is long gone — discarded in one of my ritual handbag clear-outs — but the idea has stayed, waiting for its moment to be unearthed.
How are you feeling about this second book? Is there a pressure to follow up such a huge success?
Huge pressure fueled by the legendary second album paranoia. The thing is, no one knows you are writing the first book so you can pootle along, letting it all cook in your head, move sentences around a hundred times and leave it for weeks on end. But Book 2 is a whole other story (in every sense…). The success of The Widow meant there were expectations for the second book from the first word and it has created a completely different writing experience. Not to say I haven’t enjoyed writing The Child but I confess there were times when I felt as if I was wrenching it out of my body with bloodied fingernails! But it is done and I am off to lie down in a darkened room for a while.
What has been your favorite reader response to The Widow?
The reader who asked me the name of a relatively minor character’s new baby. It made me realize people were completely immersed in this world I’d created. To my shame, I had no idea what the baby was called and had to make it up on the spot.
When did you first realize The Widow might end up being huge?
When Stephen King tweeted about it. Totally overwhelming…
Are your friends and family a little more frightened of you than before, knowing the creepy stories you can create in your mind? What was their reaction to The Widow?
I hope not… I suppose they are used to me being deeply involved in horrifying stories, as a reporter. They are as thrilled as I am with the success but I do catch my children sometimes, looking at me and wondering if this is their mum people are talking about.