Gina Blaxill on the creation of Love You to Death
What if you had an obsessed stalker? One who seeped into every aspect of your life, and squeezed your world smaller and smaller? And what if the way to get answers was to solve a murder?
This was my starting point for LOVE YOU TO DEATH. I’d wanted to write an obsession story for a while. Obsession has always struck me as uniquely creepy because it’s so very intimate, with the stalker knowing every tiny detail about their victim’s life – even ones we ourselves think nothing of. Little things can become incredibly sinister, and there is a constant sense of threat, even if the victim’s life isn’t under threat directly.
So, if I was writing an obsession book, who was stalking whom, and why? I had a very clear sense early on of what my antagonist was like, and their motivation, and how they regarded what they were doing. I then turned to who might be being stalked. It felt important that my protagonist, Mia, should be an ordinary girl. She can’t imagine why on earth someone would be obsessed with her and keeps thinking she must be to blame in some way, whether it’s because of her kind and friendly nature, or her clothes. Here, I wanted to draw parallels with violence against women more generally, and how some people believe that women invite trouble if they behave and dress a certain way. Of course, the unusual factor in LOVE YOU TO DEATH is that the person obsessed with Mia is a girl – one who has taken the extreme step of effectively turning herself into Mia. I did this because I wanted the story to have an edge – something readers might not have encountered before.
It felt natural to me too that as an obsession book, LOVE YOU TO DEATH should also explore healthy/unhealthy relationships more broadly, especially in a romantic sense. It’s so hard to be able to tell if a relationship is good for you once you’ve caught feelings – doubly so if you’re a teenager and you’re only starting to figure this stuff out. For that reason, I decided that Mia should be a romantic at heart – someone who’s been influenced by depictions of love in films and books, and desperately wants that perfect relationship. When the book opens, she has a boyfriend who ticks all her boxes. It appears as though she has everything she wants – but is it really, when Aaron is clearly hiding secrets from her?
Once I’d figured out my emotional core, I turned to the nuts and bolts of constructing a thriller – a murder, suspects, red herrings, a police investigation, twists, misdirection and an atmospheric setting. There were road humps along the way, like always (including resurrecting a character I killed off mid-story). The finished book, however, is true to the original inspiration, and does what I intended it to – exploring some dark and relevant themes wrapped up in a pacy murder mystery!