Her Perfect Twin
September 27, 2022
During pandemic lockdowns, many readers looked to thrillers to offer comfort and diversion. First-time author Sarah Bonner used that time to write a thriller of her own. Her Perfect Twin tells the story of a murderess twin forced to live a double life during lockdown. Bonner shares her writing journey and offers insight into the development of Her Perfect Twin.
AUTHORLINK: Your bio mentioned that the pandemic spurred you to follow your dream of becoming a writer. Tell us how you worked toward that dream and fit writing in with your work in finance and project management.
“Writing became my sanctuary, my escape…”
BONNER: At the start of 2020 I was working long hours in an intensive role, writing in the evenings, and dreaming of having more time to concentrate on completing my first novel. Then the pandemic hit and—like they did for everyone—things changed overnight. The company I was working for was effectively shut down and I was made redundant in the middle of the greatest employment crisis I’d ever seen.
Writing became my sanctuary, my escape, and I began to experiment with new projects, working prolifically over the next two years. I have been incredibly lucky and now write full-time.
AUTHORLINK: Where did the idea for Her Perfect Twin come from?
BONNER: Her Perfect Twin started as a short story about a woman trying to decide if she should go on a second date with a guy who thought she was her identical twin. Although it was originally a romance story, the thriller-lover in me couldn’t resist asking ‘what if she’s pretending to be her twin because she killed her?’! Then a few days later I remembered a conversation from the start of our first lockdown about how difficult the restrictions would have made living a double life. That was when I realized Megan’s story couldn’t be told in a few thousand words, she deserved an entire novel!
AUTHORLINK: Do you read lots of thrillers? What authors and stories influenced your writing of these stories?
“I’m a huge reader and read across a wide range of genres…”
BONNER: I’m a huge reader and read across a wide range of genres. But thrillers have been my ‘go to’ for as long as I can remember. I particularly love stories that feature strong casts of characters with compelling plots full of twists and reveals. I’m a huge fan of Samantha Downing, Alice Feeney, Catherine Ryan Howard, and Gillian Flynn; all of whom have this incredible ability to weave wonderfully complex narratives without shying away from exploring the darker side of their antagonists’ psyches.
AUTHORLINK: How long did it take you to develop and shape Her Perfect Twin?
BONNER: I wrote Her Perfect Twin in a flurry, taking 14 weeks from original idea to a polished manuscript! Now, I must caveat this by explaining it was the autumn of 2020 and in the UK we were facing more and more covid restrictions as we headed towards another lockdown. I wasn’t working and we don’t have children so I was able to devote huge swathes of time to the project. In fact, I think burying myself in writing the novel kept me sane during a very turbulent time.
AUTHORLINK: Megan’s journey is complicated by her secret and lockdown. Talk to me about how you approached character development and getting your character in trouble.
BONNER: I tend to be a bit of a ‘panster’ when I write, so I develop a high-level outline of where I think the plot should go, and then I just start writing. I prefer to explore my characters on the page, putting them into situations and seeing what they do. With Her Perfect Twin, Megan came to me with such a strong and fully formed voice from the beginning and so I felt confident to immediately throw her into the central predicament: having killed her twin, how is she going to get away with it?
AUTHORLINK: What do you think makes for an ideal plot twist and what are some of your favorites from literature and movies?
“Personally, I have two favorite types of plot twists…”
BONNER: Personally, I have two favorite types of plot twists: those that spin the story off in a different direction to where you thought things were going, like the ending of Season One of The Good Place; and those that reveal something which completely turns what you thought you knew on its head. Alex Michaelides’s The Silent Patient is a brilliant example of this, I immediately wanted to reread the book to unpick just how he had pulled it off! In films, the best example has to be The Sixth Sense.
AUTHORLINK: What were the greatest challenges when writing Her Perfect Twin and how did you overcome them?
BONNER: The greatest challenge was something I didn’t realize until I was about 25,000 words into the first draft; that was when I had the lightbulb moment I was writing a book where the reader has to root for the killer; I need you to want her to get away with it. So I went back to basics and read a stack of books with morally-gray characters and killer protagonists: Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter, Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister the Serial Killer, and Samantha Downing’s My Lovely Wife to name but a few. Seeing all these brilliant authors approach a similar issue with aplomb gave me the confidence that it could be done!
AUTHORLINK: How did you find your agent?
“I found my agent (Hannah Sheppard at DHH Literary) via a pitch competition…”
BONNER: Once I had my final polished manuscript, I started to research which agents might be interested, and as a former accountant, I obviously made a huge spreadsheet! I spent a lot of time on this stage, looking carefully at the MSWL of potential agents to ensure they repped this type of novel.
I found my agent (Hannah Sheppard at DHH Literary) via a pitch competition being run by the agency. I was extremely lucky as I found out about the competition the day before it closed and managed to squeak in my application. Hannah loved the sample and offered me a pitching slot during which she requested the full. She read it over that weekend and called me on the Monday to offer me representation.
AUTHORLINK: Talk to me about your revision process when working with your editor. What sort of changes did you make? Any tips on revision for apprentice writers?
BONNER: The main editorial focus for Her Perfect Twin was to really make the scenes leap off the page, layering additional detail to add more color and contrast. My editor, Sara, is an absolute master at finding the moments to draw out to help balance the pace and adding descriptive elements to dialogue-heavy scenes to help readers feel central to the action.
“…remember that your characters are not living in a vacuum.”
My main tip for apprentice writers (especially writers of fast-paced plot focused stories) is to remember that your characters are not living in a vacuum. Take a moment to describe what they can see, or hear, or smell; this can give your reader a moment to breathe while adding to the overall atmosphere of the scene. Plus it’s a great opportunity to aid character development as the things they notice say so much about who they are (the parent of a missing child might notice the scent of candy floss on the air that reminds them of happier days at the seaside, a fashion-conscious influencer might be drawn to the ‘it’ coat of the season on a passing stranger).
AUTHORLINK: Discuss what you are working on now.
BONNER: I am currently in the final editing stage for my second book. It’s a psychological thriller about a woman seeking revenge for her best friend’s murder and it’ll be published in the UK next spring and the US later in 2023. I’m very excited about this one, and it features the most diabolical mother-in-law who was hugely fun to write!
Sarah Bonner lives in Sussex with her husband and very spoiled rescue dog. She’s worked in finance and project management for the last fifteen years, but the pandemic gave her the opportunity to revisit her teenage dream of writing. Her Perfect Twin is her debut novel and she’s brimming with ideas for more twisty psychological tales.
Buy this Book: Amazon (Kindle)