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Q&A  •  5 February 2024


How the characters from Abbey Lay’s Lead Us Not came to her in an imagined conversation

The debut author also shares the fictional character she’d most like to meet and why she loved Lemony Snicket’s writing as a child.

What was your writing process like? Did you have a writing routine or any regular rituals?

My process for Lead Us Not was all over the place, with little forethought or structure. 

I wrote whenever I felt like I could, wherever I felt like I could, with a focus on following the energy of the story as though I wasn't the one writing it. 

There were times when I placed no pressure on myself to produce anything, and other times when I said to myself, ‘You’re not going home until this draft is finished.’ – whatever it took to drive the narrative forward at the moment. Similarly, the only ritual I can think of is that I always go for a walk before I begin writing.

How did you first come up with the idea for the book? 

It began with the prologue and the first line of the novel. 

I was on a bus in Mexico and could hear a voice inside my head and then another one responding. Those voices came from characters with names who were in a bedroom and had a strangely charged dynamic. I was curious enough about what that scene would look like on the page that I went home and wrote it, and when I read it back, I began to understand the central tension between Millie and Olive. It wasn’t until I had about 35,000 words that I realised I was writing a book.

If you could have dinner with any fictional character, who would it be and why?

An adult Violet Baudelaire. When I was younger, I loved Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events  – a rare example of dark mystery and philosophical nuance in (what was marketed as) children’s literature. Because of the time of life during which I read it, the unanswered questions have endured vividly in my imagination along with the childlike desire to have them resolved (unlike now, where my favourite novels are those that feel perfectly unresolved).

If you were a character in a novel, what would be your character's signature quirk or catchphrase?

Compulsively nicknaming other people.

What's your go-to karaoke song, and how well do you perform it?

'Left Outside Alone' by Anastacia. I’m a terrible singer, but I commit fully. So maybe I perform it well by karaoke standards?

Where is your happy place and why?

Conversing with the people I love, ideally around the dinner table with pasta and red wine, and ideally with an unspoken agreement that we’ll go out dancing afterwards.

Feature Title

Lead Us Not
An emotionally charged novel of female friendship, for readers of Elena Ferrante and Diana Reid.
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