Tuesday, 1 October 2019

ASK ME NO QUESTIONS – and why write about identical twins?

The germ of the idea for Ask Me No Questions started at a supermarket late at night. I imagined a woman walking the aisles, followed by a mysterious man in black. He thinks she’s someone else, in a case of mistaken identity. But why? I wondered. Perhaps he’s confusing her for her identical twin? And where is this identical twin now?

This woman became Thea Patterson and the man became Mortimer. From this tiny scene, Ask Me No Questionswas born.

So why twins? At the end of the day, I like to write about what I’m interested in. After all, writing and researching a book (and editing, and editing again…) takes the best part of a year, so why not write about something you’re fascinated in?

I read every news article and watched every documentary I could get my hands on. I studied Psychology at university and was always especially interested in twin studies. Scientists love to examine what happens to the same thing under different conditions, so identical twins who have grown up separately are ideal. How much of an influence does nature (their DNA) versus nurture (their families and home life) have? Even when identical twins have never met, they have similarities in their lives. From the small, such as driving the same type of car, to the more significant, like the same body language and gestures. These can’t be explained by mere coincidence, surely? There’s something incredible going on in those cells and neurons.

Strangely, many of my friends are identical twins, and I interviewed them to get insight into what it was like. While most of them talked about how annoying it was to be asked the same old questions (‘can you read each other’s minds?’ ‘can you feel each other’s pain?’) they did mention a few things that made me take note.

My friend told me about a game he played when they were teenagers. Taking a stack of cards, he held up one by one, while his twin had to guess what was on it. He got the first ten completely right. It freaked them out so they stopped, and they haven’t been able to replicate it since. My other friend, based in the UK, knew exactly when her twin sister was going into labour. In New Zealand.

It’s phenomenon like this that keeps me interested, that made me sit up a little straighter in my seat. The unknowable creates a fascination. It gives us something to wonder about.

But my friends also talked about the unique bond they had with their twins. One pair described viewing themselves as a collective, not as individuals. There was no sense of self outside the other. My other friends weren’t quite so connected, but all discussed the closeness, and being two halves of a whole. Fights were moved on from and quickly forgotten without saying sorry. After all, you’re fighting with yourself, so where’s the need for apologies?

They all talked about their mannerisms being similar; all could predict what the other would do in any given situation. And all had an innate sense of protection, at any cost.

So I followed the story to its next conclusion: if you take two sisters who look identical, with an unbreakable bond across eighteen years of their life, what happens when one does something unthinkable? Is it possible to forgive? And what if they both fell in love with the same man? What then? It’s these dilemmas I had so much fun exploring in Ask Me No Questions, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading what happens in the book.

Ask Me No Questions by Louisa De Lange (Orion Publishing)
Twins have a special bond someone will kill to break.  As children, Gabi and Thea were like most identical twin sisters: inseparable. Now adults, Gabi is in a coma following a vicious attack and Thea claims that, until last week, the twins hadn't spoken in fifteen years. But what caused such a significant separation? And what brought them back together so suddenly?  Digging into the case, DS Kate Munro is convinced the crime was personal. Now she must separate the truth from the lies and find the dangerous assailant - before any more blood is spilled 

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