A Conversation with Lexie Elliott, Author of HOW TO KILL YOUR BEST FRIEND
Tell us about HOW TO KILL YOUR BEST FRIEND! What inspired you to write this story?
HOW TO KILL YOUR BEST FRIEND is a psychological thriller, told through the eyes of Georgie and Bronwyn, who, together with Lissa, have been inseparable since dominating their college swim team. But Lissa, the strongest swimmer they know, has somehow drowned off the coast of the fabulous island resort she owned with her husband. Gathering together with Lissa’s closest friends on the island for her funeral, the two women find more questions than answers, and as the weather turns ominous, trapping them on the island, nobody knows who they can trust… The idea came to me whilst I was on holiday and I really liked the juxtaposition of the beautiful, sun-drenched setting with the inner darkness within the friendship group.
HOW TO KILL YOUR BEST FRIEND finds a group of college friends reunited in a tropical paradise to attend a memorial service. But it’s well known on the island that something sinister lurks beneath the blue waters. What made you choose this setting for the book? Is it based on a real place?
It is based (loosely) on a real island resort in Southeast Asia, but I won’t be spilling the beans on exactly where! The idea came to me whilst on holiday there; we were fortunate enough to be staying in a beautiful eco-resort, which was just heavenly, but it occurred to me that, despite the sunshine and the luxury, it could actually be quite terrifying if you were somehow stuck there, with the staff gradually melting away…
The story explores changing relationships between friends over time. What do you think is a key takeaway from the interactions in the book?
The characters all met when they were much younger, and much more careless and reckless—but time and circumstances have changed that, and they have to take responsibility now for their actions, both those in the present and those in the past. To me, responsibility is really the key theme of the novel: both responsibility for oneself and to what extent one should take responsibility for friends and loved ones.
Each character in this novel has something to hide. Do you think everyone has secrets?
I’m not sure everybody has secrets of the magnitude of the characters within my novel, but I do think everyone has secrets—or at least, some part of them that they want to keep private. Nobody is an entirely open book; it’s part of human nature to present a curated facade. And that’s okay—the demands of society are such that we can’t display every little annoyance and irritation. Our curated facades allow us to have a civil, functioning relationship with the friend that we harbor some lingering resentment toward. Of course, in extreme cases, it might also allow us to consider killing that same friend!
Your two protagonists, Bronwyn and Georgie, are very different from each other. Do you relate to either character?
I relate to both, actually; more than that, I like them both very much. I think there’s a lot to like in both of them: Bronwyn is both a loving mother and a bright, practical woman who is trying to find some balance for herself now that family has overtaken career in her life, and Georgie is an extremely resilient young woman who has dragged herself out of desperate circumstances and is trying, in the face of all obstacles, to be a loyal friend.
Your characters are bonded by their love for swimming – tell us about your hobbies, and what you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Spare time—hah! There’s not a lot of that in my schedule! Exercise is important to me, though; I try to run most days, and I usually enter a marathon every year or so. Swimming has long been a passion of mine, both in the pool and in open water (I swam the English Channel solo in 2007), and I have a lovely group of like-minded friends with whom I used to go on swimming holidays, back in the days when travel was possible… As a family, we like to go on bike rides together and then snuggle up to watch a movie afterwards, and when we have the chance to travel again, anywhere with either surfing or skiing will be top of our list.
If HOW TO KILL YOUR BEST FRIEND became a movie, who would you cast as its main characters?
I always struggle with this question. The characters are exactly who they are in my mind, I can’t really think of them as anyone else—though I dare say if you gave me some suggestions, I’d have an opinion!
What are you working on next?
I’m working on my fourth novel, but it’s very early days and not fully formed in my head at present, so I can’t say too much about it for now. It will definitely be another psychological thriller, though.
Lexie Elliott, Photo © Nick James Photography