Local author Jenny Quintana was due to visit Wokingham Library this week to talk about her writing career and her new novel “Our Dark Secret” as part of our celebrations for World Book Night.
To whet you appetite, Jenny describes her new book below. It is available in our digital library as an ebook at https://wokingham.rbdigitalglobal.com/book/9781509839490 and is available digitally and on audio at : https://amzn.to/3bdSZVA
Our Dark Secret is a mystery, but it is also a coming of age story which focuses on the unlikely friendship between two very different teenage girls. When I began to write the novel, I knew that I wanted to explore the psychological effects of how an action or decision taken at a young age could impact on a whole life. I love a good mystery – having grown up devouring Agatha Christie as well as gothic tales such as The Woman in White and stories by Edgar Allan Poe, so the story involves a crime – a crime that haunts the protagonist, Elizabeth, her entire life. A crime that she knows must stay hidden if her life is not to unravel.
In my first novel, The Missing Girl, I also explored the relationship between teenage sisters. So, what is it that is so compelling about writing about this age group? Like most people, I can remember my teenage years, the worries and insecurities, the need to be liked and most of all to fit in. At a time when you are physically and psychologically changing so rapidly, it is difficult to deal with such intense emotions. Close friendship can be wonderful, but at the same time it can be turbulent, competitive and heart breaking. At a young age, minor issues such as wearing the wrong clothes, or having spots, or not being allowed out by your parents become magnified. Emotions are heightened and wrong decisions are made. What if one of those decisions was so terrible it was to haunt you for the rest of your life? This question was the starting point for Our Dark Secret.
When I wrote The Missing Girl, the characters drifted into my mind almost fully formed. The same thing happened with Our Dark Secret. It’s 1978. Elizabeth Constance Valentine is fifteen years old, frumpy, overweight and clever, destined for Oxford or Cambridge and a perfect target for the bullies. Yet all Elizabeth wants to do is to fit in and to have friends that she can talk to about boys and make-up and magazines. When the bright and beautiful Rachel moves to her town, Elizabeth is drawn to her, and as Elizabeth’s own family life starts to break down, her admiration turns into obsession until eventually a chain of events takes place which ends with the two girls bound together by a terrible secret.
Twenty years on, Elizabeth has moved away from her home town and lives in Oxford. Never having made it to Oxford University, she works in a cafe. When a neighbour from home calls to tell her about the discovery of a body hidden in the dip of the wasteland where Elizabeth once had a den, Elizabeth knows exactly who the body belongs to and why it is there. She believes it is only a matter of time before the body is identified. What should she do? Should she come forward and confess what she knows? Elizabeth gives herself a day to decide, to remember the story and to get things straight in her mind. Gradually through her narrative the dark secret of her teenage years is revealed.
Jenny Quintana grew up in Essex and Berkshire, before studying English Literature in London. She has taught in London, Seville and Athens and has also written books for teaching English as a foreign language. Her first novel, The Missing Girl, was published in 2017 and chosen as a Waterstones Thriller of the Month. She now lives with her family in Berkshire. Our Dark Secret is her second novel.