‘I could kill them for what they’ve done to me.’ I said those words. And I meant them at the time. But what would you do, what would you say if your husband was accused of something terrible and the accuser is someone you trusted with your life? That doesn’t mean I wanted this to happen. I didn’t want anyone to get hurt. And I didn’t want to be scared that every knock on the door is going to be the police, coming to take me away. What’s going to happen to my children? What’s going to happen to me? My name is Tamia Challey and this is my story.
What the blurb means
Here’s more about the book in this Q&A.
Tell us about The Rose Petal Beach
The Rose Petal Beach is my eighth novel and it tells the tale of Tami whose life is completely upended when her husband, Scott, is arrested in front of her and their two children. Tami has no idea why this has happened, but when she discovers what he’s been accused of and by whom, she realises nothing will be the same again. As the book goes on Tami’s situation becomes more and more complicated until she ends up as the main suspect of a serious crime that she may or may not have committed . . .
What was the inspiration for the story?
I suppose I was inspired by the number of headlines there have been over the years about prominent, powerful married men who have been accused of hideous crimes. I’ve always found myself fascinated about how their other halves coped with such scandal in their lives and have wondered how I would cope in a similar situation. Maybe not so publicly, but even if it was a ‘scandal’ on a smaller scale, what would I do? The wives of men involved in scandals often seem to be judged whether they stand by their man or whether they leave. That’s the main theme I wanted to explore – how would an ordinary woman cope if this sort of situation came crashing into their lives?
What was the hardest thing about writing the novel?
For me, it was the destruction of the marriage of Tami and Scott because I’d ‘been there’ in the early days when they first met as children and then when they got together. It sounds strange, but they become almost real to me and watching them suffer – even though I was the cause of the suffering – is difficult. It was also a challenge to write from three different people’s perspectives. I had to spend time being Tami and almost ‘living’ as her, then step away from the book for a few days before I could start the story from another character’s viewpoint.
What was the best thing?
I enjoyed creating the start of Tami and Scott’s relationship, it felt sometimes like I was falling in love at the same time as they did. Having said that, I enjoyed creating what happens after Scott is arrested, too. That’s a bit sadistic-sounding after saying how hard I found it to watch them fall apart. The Rose Petal Beach is probably my most complicated novel because of the three different main characters as well as all three characters’ stories being told in the past and present. I pushed myself as hard as possible to tell the story as clearly as possible, and to portray their different emotions and experiences as faithfully as possible. Pushing myself like that is one of the best things about being a writer.
What do think would surprise people most about the process of writing The Rose Petal Beach?
In the book, there’s a painting of the Rose Petal Beach that hangs in the house of one of the characters. To help externalise the image, which was very vivid in my head, I asked an artist friend to sketch his interpretation of it to see how it would come across to people who don’t have access to my brain. I then adjusted the way I described the painting accordingly.
How much planning do you do?
I’m not very big on planning – which often horrifies other authors. I have an idea of where the book will start and where it will end and I just need to fill in the bits in between. I don’t write in sequence, either, so will write down the scenes in my head as and when they occur to me – be it at the end or at the beginning. Once all those scenes are down, I’ll use Post-it Notes/Stickies to order the rest of the book. After that, it’s a matter of going back to the start and then rewriting the whole book and editing the already written bits to flow together. I found this part quite challenging with The Rose Petal Beach because I had three people’s stories to tell and I had to get the balance right. I remember looking at one character’s set of Stickies at one point and realising it was substantially less than the other two so I had to go back and see why I’d skimped on her. Then I had to give her more time to reveal her story. After that, there’s the editing process where I ruthlessly cut out the parts of the book that don’t move the story along. It’s often your favourite pieces and scenes that have to go at this point because they don’t move the story along enough. In the Rose Petal Beach there’s a scene between Tami and Scott in their kitchen which was one of my favourite scenes in the book, but it was cut when I put my ‘Does It Add to the Story’ head on.
How did you research the book?
My books are mainly character based so my research often constitutes talking to people to find out their experiences of the subject matter. That means, although I rarely physically go out to conduct my research, I do talk to people. And read about their lives. People are very generous with their time and stories, as long as you can guarantee them anonymity and a listening, non-judgmental ear. With this book hearing how people recover from the things that could destroy their marriages, and also how they suddenly realise that there have been signs all along that they have been ignoring, was a real eye-opener. I hope I’ve managed to convey those emotions in the book.
What is the story of The Rose Petal Beach?
The legend of the Rose Petal Beach is a magical tale about a woman who spent her life searching for the man she loved when he was lost at sea. She hadn’t answered his question about whether she would marry him before he left, thinking she had all the time in the world when he returned. As the woman walks around the island near where her beloved was last seen, her feet are cut by the sharp pebbles of the beach. Because it is a magical island and her love is so deep, her blood turns to rose petals until they cover the whole beach and island. The legend feeds into my novel because it shows that sometimes we’re willing to do anything for love – even if it’s not necessarily the best thing for us.
Any other thoughts?
I so adored writing this book. It was difficult but really rewarding if that makes sense? I never find writing ‘easy’ in the sense that I think I can knock a book out without trying, but I do think I have the best job in the world and I’m grateful everyday that it’s what I do for a living. I hope you enjoy reading the book, too.