Beautiful Malice – author interview – Rebecca James

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An international sensation that The Wall Street Journal called a “publishing phenomenon,” this layered, poignant, and chilling novel of psychological suspense is the year’s most stunning American fiction debut. From its wrenching opening to its shocking climax, Beautiful Malice unfolds a haunting story in which people, motives, and circumstances are never what they seem.

Who is Katherine Patterson? It is a question she hopes no one can answer. To erase her past, Katherine has moved to a new city, enrolled in a new school, and even changed her name. She’s done the next best thing to disappearing altogether. Now, wary and alone, she seeks nothing more than anonymity. What she finds instead is the last thing she expected: a friend.

Even more unlikely, Katherine’s new friend is the most popular and magnetic girl in school. Extroverted, gorgeous, flirtatious, and unpredictable, she is everything that Katherine is not and doesn’t want to be: the center of attention. Yet Alice’s enthusiasm is infectious, her candor sometimes unsettling, and Katherine, in spite of her guarded caution, finds herself drawn into Alice’s private circle.

But Alice has secrets, too—darker than anyone can begin to imagine. And when she lets her guard down at last, Katherine discovers the darkest of them all. For there will be no escaping the past for Katherine Patterson—only a descent into a trap far more sinister . . . and infinitely more seductive.
You can find Rebecca at


Hi Rebecca,

Welcome to Paperback Writer

PBW: Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book?

RJ: I wanted to write a story about a toxic friendship between two girls. I think most of us have experienced a dysfunctional relationship of one sort or another and I find the dynamic of such relationships fascinating.

PBW: Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?

RJ: Apart from the idea of a toxic friendship I had no idea what was going to happen in Beautiful Malice. I started with the first sentence ‘I didn’t go to Alice’s funeral’ and went from there. It was a true journey of discovery!

With the book I’m writing now, Cooper Bartholomew Is Dead, I had a much clearer picture of the entire story in my head as I started writing. It has changed a little – evolved, become more complex – but fundamentally it’s still the same story.

PBW: Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?

RJ: With Beautiful Malice I had no idea of the ending until I wrote it, with Cooper Bartholomew Is Dead I knew what was going to happen at the end quite soon after starting it.

PBW: Do you have a process for developing your characters?

RJ: I don’t know that I have a process, as such, but I do try to make the characters consistent – by which I mean that what they say and do has to match the kind of personality I’m trying to convey throughout the entirety of the book. I have to admit that I struggle with trying to make each character stand out as being different. Sometimes, in an early draft, I realise that I have two characters with very similar voices.

PBW: It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be?

RJ: I don’t think I could single out any particular character in my books that is very much like me – but of course they all have some similarities, in that they are all human and all feel a range of emotions – anger, frustration, rage, grief, envy – and I suppose I tap into my own experience of these emotions to portray them realistically.

PBW: What is your most favorite part about this book?

RJ: I mostly like the dramatic bits (but I can’t say what they are without giving too much away!) and I think that’s because I find emotionally charged scenes much easier to write than the more reflective, quieter bits.

PBW: When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?

RJ: I didn’t look for a publisher but I started querying agents when I was very close to finishing the book. (You’re definitely supposed to wait until you’ve finished the book before you start querying, but I got impatient!)

PBW: What struggles have you had on the road to being published?

RJ: I queried a LOT of agents with Beautiful Malice before it was picked up by Jo Unwin from Conville and Walsh in London. I was rejected by over 70 agents (from Australia, the US and the UK) before being offered representation. The rejections weren’t all negative though…I had several agents seriously consider Beautiful Malice before ultimately passing on the grounds that they thought it would be too hard to sell. So I knew I had a decent book on my hands, I just had to find someone who thought they could sell it.

PBW: What has been the best part about being published?

RJ: Receiving nice feedback (whether it be via email or face to face) from readers who have enjoyed the book is most definitely the best bit!

PBW: What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel?

RJ: I would really be thrilled if they enjoyed the book and were touched by the story and the characters. It would be a bonus if they also looked forward to reading my next book.

PBW: Do you have plans to write another book?

RJ: Yes, and I’ve almost finished the second one in my contract.

Thank you Rebecca, for sharing your book and characters with us today. It has been a pleasure and I wish you success on your virtual book tour.

My pleasure and thank you!

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