By Melanie Solari
Rachel Sargeant is a bestselling author known for writing The Good Teacher, The Perfect Neighbours and her most recent novel, The Roommates.
The Roommates is a psychological thriller about four girls in Fresher’s Week who find themselves sharing a flat. However, their excitement for their new university lives spiral out of control as they all hold secrets from their pasts.
When did you first realise that you wanted to be a writer?
Rachel started writing in school in Germany. She recalled a party that she went to in 1999 where there was a palm reader who told her she should be a writer. At first, Rachel did not take it seriously, but the palm reader was adamant about her future. She moved to the UK shortly after this and participated in a creative writing workshop where she had to write a short piece of fiction. The judges were impressed with what she wrote. Having that in mind, she saw an advert for a crime-writing competition and decided to submit an extended piece of writing she had previously written. She won the Writing Magazine’s Crime Short Story competition.
What inspired you to write The Roommates?
When Rachel’s children were in Sixth Form, they were at a point in their lives where they had to decide where they would like to study for university. Rachel visited university open days with her children and was brought back memories of when she was at university. It took her two years to write the book.
Is there a character in The Roommates that you could relate to and were the characters inspired by real people?
The characters in The Roommates were not based on real people. Rachel observed people out and about which gave her ideas of how she should approach and develop her own characters. A character Rachel could relate to in the novel was Imogen, who tries to fit in at university and is worried about other people’s opinion on her. Rachel was dealing with similar things to Imogen at university.
I’ve noticed in your other books that the most prominent genres are thriller and mystery. What is it about those genres made you want to write your books in that style?
Rachel always liked thriller. This started when she was in year 7 when she pulled A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christi from the shelves at her secondary school. Rachel enjoyed the twists and turns in the novel and incorporated those techniques into her writing, hence the twist and turns that are apparent in her novels.
When writing The Roommates, did you need to research beforehand or is it completely fictional?
Rachel did not need to research much, but she did want an authentic university setting. She had her own university experiences, but she didn’t want to write The Roommates thirty years out of date. She asked her children about current affairs concerning student life so that the book could be more modern and catered to today’s generation of students. When it came to the personal lives of the characters, they had problems in their lives that were of a serious topic so this is where more of the research took place.
When writing, do you try to write books that are unique, or do you always try to consider what the readers want to read?
Rachel found that it was a hard balance between the two as she wanted to write books that she would enjoy writing, but she also hoped that the readers would like it too. The company that published her book, Harper Collins, have a brand in mind in terms of the target audience that the books should be targeted at and the kinds of readers that would be interested in her books.
What is your creative process?
Rachel will tune her ideas six months before they can develop into an actual plotline. She likes to write a chapter by chapter plotline alongside with detailed backstories for the characters. Rachel will then work on the first draft which she often finds tricky. Year by year, she would re-draft and edit her books.
How do you deal with criticism and negative feedback?
Rachel believes that critical feedback is important as it helps you to become a better writer by constantly re-writing and going back on your work. Rachel would write early drafts of her book with three other writers. Her drafts would then go to her agent and the editor. They would ask for a re-write of the drafts to improve them.