When Louise and I first came up with the idea of writing a novel together, we had no idea that it would be the start of such a long and strange journey from conception to eventual publication. Over ten years have passed since a slightly-drunken night out in London during which we dreamed up the idea of a stalker novel, told alternately from the points of view of the stalker and stalked, with a big twist in the middle. It was one of those ideas that could easily have died at birth, lost in the fog of a hangover, a good idea that we’d get round to one day.
But we both woke up the next morning full of enthusiasm, and over the coming days hammered out a basic premise by email. There would be two main characters: a male stalker called Alex, who I would write; and his female quarry, Siobhan, written by Louise. Both sides of the story would be told in the form of journals or diaries, using a device whereby Siobhan sets Alex, a student in her creative writing class, the task of keeping a writing journal, and she keeps her own handwritten diary. This meant we could really get deep inside the heads of our characters, who reveal all their feelings and secrets on the page.
In Alex’s case, the topic he feels compelled to write about straight away is how he feels about the woman who set him his writing task. For Alex – lonely, misguided, stuck in a crap job – the intensity of his feelings for Siobhan, building rapidly from attraction through lust to what he calls love, give him a reason to get up in the morning. He pours his heart into his journal, and soon we see exactly how far he is prepared to go to get close to the object of his obsession; we watch as he crosses one line after another, his actions justified in his mind by the strength of his feelings.
This is love. And there are no rules.
Siobhan, meanwhile, uses her diary to talk about her failed relationship, her hopeless writing career and her students. Alex doesn’t really stand out from this small crowd. She has no idea how closely he is watching her and how much he wants her. Like many victims of stalkers, she is aware of strange things happening around her and to her, but cannot see the shark swimming through the dark water towards her.
Until, halfway through the book, when the shark swims into view and everything changes…
It is the twist at the heart of the book that made it so much fun to write. The woman who stalks her stalker. The calamitous mess into which our protagonists fall, tying each other in knots and creating a danger zone for anyone else who strays too close. At its core, Killing Cupid is a love story. A story about the crazy things we all do when love strikes, when Cupid’s arrow pins us together. We’ve all been there – if we’re lucky. How many of us have emerged, dazed and bleeding, from an intense, burning love affair and looked back at the things we did and said with embarrassment and horror? How many of us have fallen for that boy or girl who all our friends warned us about; those warnings making our loved one even more irresistible? And what about the things we’ve done when the person we love – the person we know is meant to be with us – rejects us, spurns us, chooses another?
Think of all those things and then ask yourself, how far would you go if you were lonely or desperate enough to listen to the craziest voices in your head and not have the ability to ignore them?
All this makes Killing Cupid sound far more serious than it is. Because when we started writing the novel, we soon found that, while we had set out to write a straight thriller, it was impossible to ignore the black comedy of the situation. Alex creeping around Siobhan’s flat and whispering ‘I’ll be your daddy soon,’ to her cat. Siobhan jumping on and off of tube trains dressed like a bag lady. The tube of Preparation H lurking in Siobhan’s bathroom cabinet. All of these things made us laugh. A lot. It is possible to read Killing Cupid straight, but those people who enjoy it the most are those who connect with the humour. Our warped sense of humour.
Back in 2002, when the book was half-written, we showed the book to a BBC drama producer who loved it, and optioned it. But for years, the book languished unread, until we rewrote it and published it ourselves, sending it to No.2 on the Amazon Kindle chart. After that, it was picked up by HarperCollins. And this summer, Killing Cupid will finally be available in paperback.
If you want a love story that follows all the rules, if you prefer crime novels that follow all the genre conventions with a straight face, if you have never known what it feels like to be madly in love (and we really mean madly in love) then maybe Killing Cupid isn’t for you. But if you know how it feels to be crazy about someone (and yeah, we really mean crazy about someone) and you want to see what happens when two people push all the boundaries to their limit, you might just like it.
We hope people enjoy reading Killing Cupid half as much as we enjoyed writing it.