Today it’s my turn to welcome author Nikki Owen and her excellent book The Spider in the Corner of the Room to my blog. Read on to find out more about The Spider in the Corner of the Room, including my review and a fantastic Q&A with Nikki Owen.
About The Spider in the Corner of the Room
What to believe
Who to betray
When to run…
Plastic surgeon Dr Maria Martinez has Asperger’s. Convicted of killing a priest, she is alone, in prison and has no memory of the murder.
DNA evidence places Maria at the scene of the crime, yet she claims she’s innocent. Then she starts to remember…
A strange room. Strange people. Being watched.
As Maria gets closer to the truth she is drawn into a web of international intrigue and must fight not only to clear her name but to remain alive.
As addictive as the Bourne novels, with a protagonist as original as The Bridge’s Saga Norén.
About the author
Nikki Owen is an award-winning writer and columnist. Previously Nikki was a marketing consultant and a University teaching fellow before turning to writing full time.
As part of her degree, she studied at the acclaimed University of Salamanca – the same city where her protagonist of The Spider in the Corner of the Room, Dr Maria Martinez, hails from.
The Spider in the Corner of the Room is Nikki’s debut international novel – the first in a trilogy – and will be published in several languages. In 2014 the trilogy was optioned by NBC International Televison for a one-hour returnable TV series.
Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call ‘Breaking the Ice.’
The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms want to know)
Normal by Graeme Cameron – creeped out that I liked the protagonist (who happens to be serial killer!) Currently reading my 13-year old daughter’s copy of Paper Towns by John Green (before we go to watch the film). Talk about diverse genres…
The last movie you watched, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet…you name it)?
The Fault In Ours Stars – I cry every time I watch it with my daughters. Amazing character presence and such an emotional, poignant story,
Are you more of a Game of Thrones or Outlander gal? (Combinations are possible)
I’m an Outlander gal. Would like to time-travel please
Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet?
I’m going to say two: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, hands down.
They are my heroes.
Something you treat yourself to, now and again? (Cream éclairs totally count)
Say it quietly…Green and Black creamy milk chocolate – like, the ENTIRE 100 gram bar in ONE sitting with a good book/film/TV box set series online. This is why I race triathlons…
I have got to say the aspect of the story I found most fascinating was the Asperger Syndrome element of your main character. Fictional books, especially crime and psychological thrillers tend to shy away from uncomfortable, awkward main characters or main characters deemed ‘different’ by society. So, this is not only a breath of fresh air it is also a big step away from the norm. Personally I applaud the idea, and think it is innovative. Do you have a personal connection to Asperger’s?
I’ve met and know a few people, throughout my life, with Asperger’s – some on the lower end of the autistic spectrum, others on the opposite side who cannot communicate via language – and the common thread I have noticed is that still there are misperceptions about what Asperger’s (and autism) is.
In my writing, I wanted to confront not only these misperceptions, but the way in which society misunderstands anyone who they label ‘different’. Teachers, for example, need to better comprehend that the boy in class who obsessively reads is not ‘being rude’ when he doesn’t put his book down in class – he simply has Asperger’s; adults need to get their heads round the fact that, when a mum with mild Asperger’s in the park says, in reaction to a question from another mum about her weight gain, ‘Well, you do have fat ankles,’ the Asperger’s mum’s not being rude – she’s just speaking as she sees it, because her brain does not have the social filters we do to dust the truth with white lies.
I deliberately focussed on Asperger’s because there is so much misunderstanding out there, and I wanted to, in some small way, challenge that.
Was it important to you to show readers the inner mind-set, emotional turmoil and boundaries of someone with Asperger’s?
100% yes. And for so many reasons, the main one of which was to foster more understanding of what it is to have Asperger’s – especially as a female (female experience of Asperger’s can be very different to that of males). But also, no matter what my writing subject, it is important for me to try and get into the mind of a character, to try and say something that signifies something not only about that person, but about society as a whole. It’s only when we hear inside someone’s brain do we truly begin understand what makes them – and, in a wider context, life – exist. As a writer (and a nosey parker!) that is fascinating. For me, the germ of a story always starts with a strong character voice.
I would love to know whether the choice to make Maria so multi-dimensional, whilst highlighting such an important issue was a choice or was the idea of a character with Asperger’s something you were planning on writing about anyway?
A bit of both. I always wanted to create a strong, thought-provoking character, while, at the same time, I had a desire to really challenge common misperceptions. As far as I see it, we are all different, right? I’m different from you, you from me, and so on. It’s just logic. So, I definitely wanted to create something that would blow those misperceptions out of the water and force people to consider celebrating individuality.
I really enjoyed the way you managed to filter in important information about AS, despite the overall scenario and plot being quite complex. You make the reader aware of the distinction between Asp. Syn., learning disabilities and the Autism Spectrum Disorder. In the new DSM all the subgroups are considered to be on the autism spectrum. You disagree with this…why?
Great question. I, personally, believe the danger with the new DSM doing away with the term ‘Asperger’s’ and slotting everyone in on the same scale is that it could make the misperceptions worse, and this can only be a bad thing. I think a lot still has to be done to create greater acceptance in society of people on the spectrum, whilst, at the same time developing a deeper understanding of the wide ranging complexities involved. I hope The Spider in the Corner of the Room, in some small way, generates a conversation point that may help with that.
Getting back to Maria: Why do you think she was able to make such an intimate social connection to Patricia?
Love this question! I think, bottom line, Patricia understands Maria. The thing I enjoyed about writing Patricia, is that she is such a pure character, and this is against a back drop of deceit and lies and corruption. Patricia, unlike mainstream society, doesn’t judge and, as is inherent in her nature, just accepts people for the way they are. That’s why she is so good with Maria, so calm, patient, understanding. Writing the scenes between those two was quite an emotional time.
Where do you think you can take Maria from here and are you going to keep some of her story focused on her Asperger’s?
The Spider in the Corner of the Room is part one of the Project trilogy, so, excitingly, books two and three of the series are due out in spring/summer 2016 and 2017 respectively. So, yup, we get to see Maria and her story grow, and most certainly, there is a continuance of a focus on her Asperger’s. After the trilogy, who knows? It would be amazing to take Maria’s character and story even further, if the Project trilogy became a huge hit. I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed!
Lastly I would like to thank you for answering all my questions, both the bizarre and the more story focused ones.
Mighty welcome! An honour (and thrill!) to be asked questions about Spider – I love a good natter.
I thought this book was a breath of fresh air with an innovative premise. It highlights an important issue in our society, how our misconceptions about autism and other syndromes on the spectrum still define the way we treat people who fall into those categories.
It was a bold move on Owen’s part, to create a character with Asperger’s, and weave this quite complex and fast paced psychological thriller around it. I enjoyed and was intrigued by the choice. Authors tend to stay away from awkward or characters ‘deemed’ different by society.
It not only gives an insight into the mind of a person with Asperger’s and in doing so may help others understand the difficulties they deal with on a daily basis. In this case the prison setting exacerbates the Asperger’s, which in itself is quite an interesting read.
I think the most fascinating parts of the story are the ones dealing with both the limitations and advantages of Maria’s Asperger’s. The moments when the reader gets a really vivid insight into the mindset, the decision process, the fears and the very distinct processes she applies to her surroundings and people.
Maria finds herself accused, convicted of and imprisoned for murder. She is convinced of her innocence and confused by all the events that have brought her to this point. Initially she is confined to solitary, a grave mistake on their part, especially in combination with her syndrome.
A cat and mouse game ensues between Maria, her mind and whoever is sitting in the interview/therapy room with her. Suddenly everyone is part of her ‘imagined’ conspiracy theories. She starts to doubt her innocence, perhaps she really is a brutal killer. Maybe everyone is right and she is losing touch with reality. Or are her theories not just figments of her imagination.
An unusual friendship blossoms between Maria and an inmate. Unusual because her social filters and skills usually make such a connection difficult.
Maria’s biggest battle is with herself, there is no doubt about that. She can’t trust her instincts, her perceptions or any interactions she has with any person. Any one else would probably go completely insane, so I guess there must be something really special about Maria, right? I’ll leave you to find that out for yourself.
The Spider in the Corner of the Room now has a new title, it is now Subject 375 and part of The Project series.