Monday 17 February 2014

Don't Stand So Close by Luana Lewis

A lingering, compulsive debut novel that will keep you tightly in its grip. 
What would you do if a young girl knocked on your door and asked for your help? 
If it was snowing and she was freezing cold, but you were afraid and alone? 
What would you do if you let her in, but couldn't make her leave? 
What if she told you terrible lies about someone you love, but the truth was even worse? 
Stella has been cocooned in her home for three years. Severely agoraphobic, she knows she is safe in the stark, isolated house she shares with her husband, Max. The traumatic memories of her final case as a psychologist are that much easier to keep at a distance, too. 
But the night that Blue arrives on her doorstep with her frightened eyes and sad stories, Stella's carefully controlled world begins to unravel around her.

I'm delighted to be taking part in the BLOG TOUR for Luana Lewis' debut novel Don't Stand So Close today.

Don't Stand So Close was published in hardback by Bantam Press on 13 February 2014.

This is at times, a very disturbing and often unsettling story, but it is written so well, with a really authentic feel, that I found myself turning the pages so quickly in a desperate need to discover just what is the truth.

It's a cold and snowy night when a young girl knocked on Stella's door.  Stella is loathe to let this stranger into her house, she has enough problems of her own, and can't bear the thought of having to deal with someone that she doesn't know.    However, Stella does care about people and can't let this young girl sit outside in the freezing cold.  She opens her door and lets her in.   This is the start of the night that will change Stella's life forever, and the start of this gripping story.

The story is centred around the hours of that long night and the interactions between Stella and the young girl, who we discover is called Blue.   Flashbacks to Stella's previous life and Blue's connection to that life are cleverly interwoven into the plot, which gives the reader a great insight to why Blue has arrived.

Despite this, I found that I just didn't know who or what I could believe.  Don't Stand So Close is the ultimate in the unreliable narrator; not one, but two or three, if we include Stella's psychiatrist husband Max who plays a massive part in the story.

Luana Lewis has used her professional expertise to create a gripping psychological drama that deals with many issues including post-traumatic stress, agoraphobia and the delicate balance of the doctor/patient relationship.

This is an excellent debut novel, I was well and truly hooked from page one, right up to the undeniably shocking ending.

I am delighted to welcome the author, Luana Lewis here to Random Things today, she has kindly answered some questions.  I hope you enjoy the answers.

Do you read reviews of your novels? Do you take them seriously?  
My book is only just about to be published – so there aren’t very many reviews to read yet, and yes, I do read them. Much to my delight and intense relief, the reviews so far have been positive. After years of writing and editing a book, it is so encouraging to read a positive review where someone has enjoyed the novel and taken the time to write a thoughtful piece. Sometimes the reviews are so insightful and readers see things I hadn’t even articulated for myself. So on dark days…I can always go back and read those!

But inevitably, I’m sure there will be people who don’t like the book and I’m steeling myself to deal with that feedback. I’m not sure if it is good for a writer’s soul or confidence to read really negative reviews. Of course people are entitled to their opinions, and I’m not criticizing the reviewers in any way – just questioning if it is the author’s interests to read them.

I thought hard about the second part of your question about whether I take reviews seriously as I think it’s an important point, especially for a new writer where confidence is easily knocked… I did a bit of research on the internet to see what other authors thought about the topic, and came across a wonderful blog post by author Thomas Taylor (  He commented that he reads reviews selectively and ultimately he believes that ‘In the end, reviews are surely meant for readers first and foremost. Authors should get on with writing their next book.’

I am very grateful to people who have taken the time to read and review Don’t Stand So Close. No doubt the worst thing for a writer would be not to be reviewed at all. If no-one knows about the book, then no-one will read it!

How long does it take to write a novel?     
My first published novel, Don’t Stand So Close, took around six months to write a first draft, and then a further year or so to edit and re-write.

Do you have any writing rituals?    
I tend to write wherever and whenever I can, but if possible I spend an hour or two first thing in the morning right after school drop off, writing at a café. I find that a very productive time.

What was your favourite childhood book?
The Chronicles of Narnia, followed closely by the Famous Five.

Name one book that made you laugh?
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Jumped Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. I was reading it on the underground and I kept laughing out loud which is unlike me but it was just so hilarious and I adored the writing style. People were looking at me like I was insane.

Name one book that made you cry?

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.  I started crying about a third of the way in and didn’t stop until the end. It’s unusual for me to cry that much in a book -  I found it exceptionally moving .

Which fictional character would you like to meet?
Aslan from Narnia, without a doubt.  In terms of adult fiction, I wouldn’t mind a meeting with Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole!

Which book would you give to your best friend as a present?
Post Office by Charles Bukowski, my favourite book of all time.

Are you inspired by any particular author or book?
There are so many authors I admire. In terms of psychological suspense, I thought Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane was genius, and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is one of my all time favourite novels.

What is your guilty pleasure read?    
Nothing – I think any and all reading is good!

Who are your favourite authors?
There are so many – but to name a few:  Peter Carey, Philip Pullman, Mordecai Richler, Antje Krog, Dalene Matthee, Marlene van Niekerk, Charles Bukowski, C.S. Lewis, Robert Harris, John Le Carre, Stieg Larrsen, Johan Theorin, Dennis Lehane…I could go on and on!

What book have you re-read?
Post Office and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz  by Mordecai Richler.

What book have you given up on?  
Despite finding the beginning possibly the funniest thing I have ever read, in the end I gave up on The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Jumped Out of the Window and Disappeared  - it became a series of ever more unlikely events and the characters and plot weren’t developing in a way that held my interest.

S.L. Lewis

Luana Lewis is a clinical psychologist and author of two non-fiction books.  As well as writing for several newspapers, magazines and journals, and contributing to various discussions on mental health, Luana has recently completed an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.

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