Today, I’m really excited to be celebrating Lock the Doors by Vincent Ralph, which releases tomorrow. The lovely Harriet Venn at Penguin sent me a copy in exchange for an honest review and even allowed me to interview Vincent himself.
Q & A:
Emily: Thank you so much for joining me on my blog today to celebrate Are You Watching? and the upcoming Lock The Doors. Could you possibly start by telling me a little bit about yourself?
Vincent: Thank you so much for having me. I am Vincent Ralph, the author of two YA thrillers, and seeing my books in print really is a dream come true. I have wanted to be an author most of my life so this is the culmination of a lot of work and plenty of luck.
How would you describe Lock The Doors in five words?
Things aren’t what they seem.
Both Are You Watching? and Lock The Doors are such tightly plotted tales, so I’d love to know how you construct and keep track of all the twists and turns?
I don’t plan everything out in advance with post-it’s on the wall and pieces of string linking one clue to another. Honestly I just start writing and see what happens. What I love about writing thrillers is that often, the mystery unfolds for me at the same time as the characters. I have an end point in mind but I write the first draft without too much planning, then go back and tweak in the edits. But a lot of the twists and turns happen as I’m writing and the story just goes a certain way.
What was your biggest struggle with writing Lock The Doors and what was your favourite part?
The biggest struggle was wondering if I could do it again. I had a two-book deal but the second book didn’t exist yet. So starting from scratch with the pressure of expectation was scary. My favourite part was seeing these characters come to life. Tom and Amy mean so much to me so I’m delighted that I (hopefully) did their story justice.
Are You Watching? delved into the power and pitfalls of social media and Lock The Doors explores grief and domestic abuse, but both share the theme of the lasting impact of trauma. I was wondering why you chose to tackle these complex themes and the running motif of trauma across your books?
That’s a great question and it’s tough to answer. Life is too often painted as good or bad; light or dark, but in reality there are a thousand shades of grey. I want to write stories with family at their core. However, not all families are happy and I don’t want to shy away from that.
What’s a piece of advice you’d like to give to any aspiring authors reading this?
Read widely. There are so many great stories out there so immerse yourself in them. And write as much as you can. I see the imagination as a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it becomes.
Who would be your ideal cast for a film or TV adaptation for Are You Watching? and/or Lock The Doors?
For Are You Watching? I think Millie Bobby Brown would make a great Jess.
Which books inspire you as a writer?
Gone Girl was a huge influence on me. Gillian Flynn’s books made me want to write thrillers. The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Stargirl inspired me to write for teenagers while all John Irving’s books (especially A Prayer for Owen Meany) taught me how big and bold stories can be.
Finally, could you possibly give us a hint of what you’re working on next?
I am working on another thriller but this one is a bit different. It’s part mystery, part dark-comedy, and includes a character you might have met before.
Well I certainly know I’ll be needing to get my hands on that intriguing new thriller, if it’s anything as addictive and heart-racing as Lock the Doors! Speaking of which, I’d now like to offer my honest thoughts on this YA mystery.
LOCK EVERY DOOR
Tom’s family have moved into their dream home. But pretty soon he starts to notice that something is very wrong – there are strange messages written on the wall and locks on the bedroom doors. On the OUTSIDE.
The previous owners have moved just across the road and they seem like the perfect family. Their daughter Amy is beautiful and enigmatic but Tom is sure she’s got something to hide. And he isn’t going to stop until he finds the truth behind those locked doors. . .
Will their dream home become a nightmare?
TW: kidnapping, death, grief, violence, domestic abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse
It’s often said with thrillers that they’re heart-stopping, adrenaline fuelled reads that you can’t tear yourself away from, but with Lock the Doors it rings true. Similarly to Are You Watching?; I was utterly addicted, staying up into the early hours to race towards the conclusion.
Right from the start, Ralph had me in the palm of his hand. I was instantly intrigued and sucked into the story, knowing I wasn’t leaving until I’d discovered exactly what had happened. Every time I thought I knew where this story was going, I had everything flipped upside down once again. For me, that’s the hallmark of a stand-out YA mystery – which Lock the Doors definitely is. It makes you want to discover every last secret and figure out how all the details fit together. The twists were well-executed and genuinely took me by surprise, upending expectations and taking narrative turns that were unexpected but paid off brilliantly.
I really liked Ralph’s exploration of the long-term effects of grief and trauma, something which has carried over from Are You Watching? It’s handled sensitively, but with real pathos in how past experience informs your current reality. I liked how Ralph made it all more grey rather than Though it may be a cliched statement, you really do never know everything that happens behind closed doors and I appreciated the nuanced take Ralph had on this. There’s different forms and guises of monsters that often hide in plain sight.
Tom was an interesting protagonist, with an arresting voice that was also so deeply troubled and fractured by the events of his past. He is just trying to fit in, both at school and within his family. The residual effects of his trauma means that he questions himself and the safety of his family constantly, creating an intriguing dynamic where you question the limits of his reliability. Without spoiling anything, I also want to quickly say that I really liked how nothing was easily resolved or tied up in a nice neat bow. Real life and humans are messy and impossible to easily categorise, which I felt like Ralph really captured.
Nothing is as it seems in this fantastic thriller that weaves hard-hitting topics into a morally complex mystery packed full of emotion.
Thank you again to Harriet Venn and Penguin for sending me an early copy in exchange for an honest review. Also, thank you to Vincent for answering my many, many questions.