Welcome to Alice Feeney, author of Sometimes I Lie.
Thank you, Ruby, for inviting me to share some of my favourite reads for My Life in Books. I’ve been a bookworm ever since I was old enough to read, so it was very difficult to choose just ten! So difficult that I might have had to cheat. Here are the ten (ish) books that I think were the most influential on me as a writer and reader.
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
I was named after my Nana, which I’ve always been rather pleased about. I can remember having this book read to me and then re-reading it myself as soon as I was able to. I found Alice in Wonderland fascinating, and I distinctly remember sometimes thinking, as children do, that the story was about me. As an adult, I still frequently feel like I have fallen down the rabbit hole. The imagination in the stories by Lewis Carroll captivated me and I think this kind of storytelling is nothing short of magic.
- Matilda by Roald Dahl
My parents owned a shop when I was a little girl, and when they were working I would sit in the little room at the back, reading stories as well as scribbling my own on folded up pieces of photocopy paper. I loved pretty much everything by Roald Dahl, but Matilda was always my favourite. I think that love of books at a young age and the way I used them to travel somewhere else, sparked something inside me to want to write stories of my own one day. A book can take you anywhere if you let it.
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I read this book for my English Literature A-level. I realise we’ve skipped a few years since the little girl sitting in the back of her parent’s shop, but if I’m only allowed ten books it seems necessary. This book had a profound effect on me for so many reasons. The story, the writing and my reaction to it, both at the time and since, mean it has to have a place on this list. Animal Farm was a very close second for this spot.
- On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
I read a lot of books by Stephen King when I was a child, and I think that may have influenced the dark nature of what I write about now. I’m a huge Stephen King fan, but the book of his I’m going to choose for this is On Writing. When I turned thirty (quite some time ago now), I decided to try and write a novel for the first time. I had a great job working for the BBC, but it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. I bought this book and I’ve read it many times since. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to be a writer. It will teach you many things, including how important it is to never give up.
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I love this book. I love everything by Gillian Flynn. I saw my novel next to hers on a shelf in a bookshop the other day – I was so happy I almost cried. That is all I have to say about that really. She is the queen of this genre for me. If you enjoyed all her books as much as I did, check out her short story – The Grownup. It is just as brilliant.
- Room by Emma Donoghue
I can remember devouring this book. It is so dark, but so very beautiful. And that was the lesson that I think I needed to learn – that it’s ok to write from that dark place that lurks inside us all. For me, this book is a classic, with a narrative voice that is both beautifully written and impossible to forget. Emma Donoghue also wrote the screenplay for the film of her book. I think it’s quite rare for authors to do a great job of adapting their own novels for screen, but she nailed it. She is an amazing writer.
- The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell
This was the first book by Maggie O’Farrell that I read, I’ve read plenty more since. There is something about the way she writes that captivates me as a reader long after I’ve turned the final page. I recently read This Must Be The Place which was equally spellbinding. Maggie O’Farrell is one of the authors I would love to meet one day, if only in the hope that some of her greatness might rub off on me.
- The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
I loved this book too. I still clearly remember turning to the last page and reading that Paula Hawkins had been a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to fiction. I had been a journalist at the BBC for exactly fifteen years when I read those words and it gave me hope. It felt like a sign to keep going, despite the failed attempts and growing collection of rejection letters. Another year of writing, and a new novel later, I got my agent. The best agent. So this book will always mean something special to me.
8.5. Marley & Me by John Grogan
I love my dog. He is my writing companion and keeps me sane (enough). This is my favourite book about a dog. If you have never read it, you’ll need tissues.
- I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
This was the last book I read before starting the Faber writing course. I was completely blown away by this novel and I remember thinking at the time, if only I could write a twist as good as that one day. When my agent got in touch to say that Clare had read my novel, I cried. To have a writing hero read your book is amazing, to have them say something kind about it and have their quote on your front cover is just the best thing ever!
- My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
I read this last year and I’m still thinking about it now. I’ve fallen completely head over heels in love with Elizabeth Strout’s writing since, gobbling up as much as I can. I think she is an amazing storyteller, and this might just be my favourite book of all time. Given I live in a house full of books that I love, that’s quite something. When I grow up, I would very much like to write like Elizabeth Strout.
Sometimes I Lie is Alice Feeney’s debut thriller and is being published around the world in 2017 and turned into a TV series by Legendary Entertainment.
Alice Feeney is a writer and journalist. She spent 16 years at the BBC, where she worked as a Reporter, News Editor, Arts and Entertainment Producer and One O’clock News Producer.
Alice is a Faber Academy graduate from the class of 2016. She has lived in London and Sydney and has now settled in the Surrey countryside, where she lives with her husband and dog.
You can find out more and follow Alice on twitter: @alicewriterland