Laure Van Rensburg is a French writer living in the UK and an Ink Academy alumna. Her stories have appeared in online magazines and anthologies such as Litro Magazine, Storgy Magazine, The Real Jazz Baby (2020 Best Anthology, Saboteur Awards 2020), and FIVE:2:ONE. She has also placed in competitions including 2018 & 2019 Bath Short Story Award.
Her debut novel, Nobody But Us, follows Ellie and Steven who take their first trip away together, but what starts as an idyllic weekend soon takes a darker turn, as it quickly becomes apparent that each of them harbour secrets – and that one of those secrets is deadly.
Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?
I wanted to write a story where I could play with the trope and the clichés of older man, younger woman relationship. I also got heavily inspired by stories in the media at the time, women’s experiences, and the question of how far we would go as people to right a wrong.
What came first the characters or the world?
Ellie and Steven came first. I toyed with ideas where it should all unfold and what their exact story would be for a long time. One day, I had this vivid image of a house in the middle of nowhere, woods and lots of snow. It just felt right.
How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?
I’m lucky I’ve had a really positive experience getting my debut published, although I have a first novel in a drawer which I queried and never got past nice rejections from agents. I’m blessed to have signed with my dream agent, and we did a couple of rounds of editing before going on sub. We got quite a lot of interest UK and overseas within 24 hours and ended up going to auction in the UK and the US. So far NOBODY BUT US has sold in 16 territories. However, I have been writing seriously for around the last 6 years. So it didn’t all happen overnight.
How long did it take to write?
It took 18 months from starting the first draft to submitting to agents, the majority of that time spent editing (I lost count of the number of drafts I went through)
Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?
I can’t listen to songs as I find lyrics distracting so I have a massive playlist of film scores which I listen to when I write. Anything from John Williams, to Clint Mansell, Max Richter, Hans Zimmer, Michael Giacchino, etc…
How many publishers turned you down?
I only know of a couple. Because things started to happen quickly after we went on submission my agent never really told me about the no’s.
What kind of reactions have you had to your book?
For someone who initially hoped at least one agent would request the full manuscript the initial reactions from agents and publishers have been overwhelming in the best way. I love the fact that a few people have referred to NOBODY BUT US as savage!
What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?
I hope he won’t mind me sharing, but Chris Whitaker who is one of my favourite authors got a proof of my debut. I got a message from him one day which just said “I’m reading your book. It’s so fucking good”. I might have sworn too when I read that message!
What can you tell us about your next book?
It’s another psychological suspense this time taking place during a heatwave on a fictional island off the South Carolina coast. It involves a cult living in an old disused hotel and opens with the leader and his wife who have just died in a fire, and their sixteen-year-old daughter who escaped physically unscathed but with no memories of what’s happened.
Do you take notice of online reviews?
At the start I kept refreshing NetGalley all the time, waiting for reviews to pop up. It’s so weird to imagine complete strangers reading your book. I’ve stopped now and I haven’t checked in weeks. I think the good reviews will find their way to me through social media (I’m sure a few people will tag me in their negative reviews too!)
Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?
Absolutely. I’ve had an idea for a few years ago for an urban fantasy novel. I also have a first draft in a drawer of a dystopian retelling of the sirens myth so I’m not excluding broadening my writing horizons in the future.
What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?
I currently work as a Team Administrator/Coordinator. The dream though is to become a full-time writer — one day.
Which author(s) inspire you?
Gillian Flynn’s writing has been a big inspiration for me, especially her portrayal of women damaged by deep trauma. I love Sylvia Plath and Joan Didion too. I tend to gravitate towards authors with evocative, beautiful prose. Recently, authors like Catriona Ward and as I previously mentioned Christ Whitaker have inspired me too.
Which genres do you read yourself?
I try to be an eclectic reader, but I mostly read contemporary, crime, suspense, literary, some YA, fantasy, romance. From the moment it’s a good story I’m not really fussed what genre it is.
What is your biggest motivator?
What will always distract you?
Strangely I can find being at home pretty distracting that’s why I tend to go write in cafés a lot especially when writing a first draft.