Pushkin Vertigo are showcasing their excellent female crime writers and asked if I'd be their champion for Maxine Mei-Fung Chung's The Eighth Girl! I absolutely loved reading about Alexa's journey unraveling the secrets surrounding a seedy new club in her city. Along with the use of accurate mental health representation, stemming from Maxine's day job as a psychotherapist, 'The Eighth Girl' creates the ideal psychological thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout.
Maxine has been wonderful enough to do a Q&A with me via email so we can give readers an insight into her writing process and what she's reading right now!
You've gone from a scientific and logical day job as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist to a very imaginative project with 'The Eighth Girl', why did you decide to step into the world of creating instead of analysing?
M: I don’t see the two aspects of working life as entirely different. Both are creative and both require a gentle listening to the unquiet mind — whether that’s with patients or with the subjects we might want to address and inquire in the writing of them. But it's certainly been interesting to explore both!
Did you find that your job and experience in the field helped or hindered your writing process? Did you ever want to go a certain way with the novel but having your knowledge of the subject stopped you as it wouldn't be a realistic approach?
M: I felt that it really informed my writing, in a way it gave me a head start in terms of research.
What do you enjoy most about being a psychotherapist, compared with what you enjoyed most about writing a novel? Are there any similarities in what you enjoy most about each?
M: I enjoy the commitment, attachment and rigor that are required in exploring some of the most profound questions about what it means to be human. And writing, for me, is similar. They compliment one another.
'The Eighth Girl' is such a clever book; did you know from the start that you'd throw in the big twist at the end or did it come to you as time progressed?
M: I’m a shoddy plotter, truth be told but thank you. The book simply evolved, much like the characters. There were no intentional end of chapter hooks, no big revelations in my mind. I simply invited the characters to show me the way.
How important do you find accurate representation of mental health and disorders in our cultural content like books, TV shows and movies? Have you ever come across anything that did another incredible job in helping represent people with disorders?
M: Incredibly important. Accurate representations in the culture of those living with a mental health diagnosis are frequently misrepresented by way of tropes and bloated stereotypes. 'The Shock of the Fall' by Nathan Filer was an extraordinary novel about a young man living with mental illness— breathtakingly insightful without being sentimental.
Where did the original idea of 'The Eighth Girl' come from? Was it inspired by a particular experience?
M: It came about from a desire to represent with more compassion, and accuracy, those who are living with mental illness, particularly Dissociative Identity Disorder. As a psychotherapist and writer I wanted to write a love letter to those who had previously been misrepresented.
Do you think you'll write another novel?
M: Perhaps. Most likely; yes.
Finally, what do you have on your TBR (to-be-read) list?
M: There are so many, but here are my summer reads: Unsettled Ground By Claire Fuller The Second Woman By Louise Mey This Too Shall Pass By Julia Samuel Consent By Vanessa Springora Cult Following By Bexy Cameron
A huge thank you to Maxine for answering my questions! I find it fascinating to read about how authors create their work and the mindsets they have throughout the process. Maxine's passion for accurate representation is one of the reasons I loved 'The Eighth Girl' so much, it came across so clearly in her writing and it's definitely something we need to see more of with novels depicting mental health disorders. Maxine was also lovely enough to provide us with a picture of her TBR pile (middle picture below)!
Pushkin Vertigo will be spotlighting a female crime writer everyday this week in collaboration with four other excellent bloggers! Check out the full schedule below:
Monday 12th July:
The Eighth Girl by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung with Naomi @readtheweek
Tuesday 13th July:
Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke with Steph @bookishsteph1
Wednesday 14th July:
Pretty as a Picture by Elizabeth Little with Shalini @bookrambler
Thursday 15th July:
The Others by Sarah Blau with Jenn @bookmarkonthewall
Friday 16th July:
The Second Woman by Louise Mey with The Book Slut
If you want the chance to win a full set of these books (all of which I definitely recommend you pick up if you're looking for some intense crime-thrillers) you can enter on our Instagram pages! A few goodies are being thrown in as prizes by Pushkin Vertigo as well!
As always I am blown away by the fact I get to do this kind of work for authors and publishers, I cannot thank Elise at Pushkin Vertigo and Maxine Mei-Fung Chung enough for including me in this fantastic week of celebration!