Fresh Blood

Name: Stephanie Wrobel

Title of Book: The Recovery of Rose Gold

'Wow! What a brilliant book! I couldn’t put this one down.'

Rose Gold Watts believed she was sick for eighteen years. She thought she needed the feeding tube, the surgeries, the wheelchair…

Turns out her mum, Patty, is a really good liar.

After five years in prison, Patty Watts is finally free. All she wants is to put old grievances behind her, reconcile with her daughter and care for her new infant grandson. When Rose Gold agrees to have Patty move in, it seems their relationship is truly on the mend.

But Rose Gold knows her mother. Patty won’t rest until she has her daughter back under her thumb. Which is I convenient because Rose Gold wants to be free of Patty. Forever.

Only one Watts will get what she wants. Will it be Patty or Rose Gold?

Wow! What a brilliant book! I couldn’t put this one down. The story focuses on the relationship between Rose Gold and her mother, Patty. What follows is a breath-taking psychological battle between mother and daughter.

We know that Patty is damaged – through gradual flashbacks we get insights into her troubled childhood and start to understand what drove her to poison her own child. Clearly, Rose Gold is damaged too. The one person she loved more than anything else in the world had spent her whole life hurting her.

Yet why, after everything Patty has done, is Rose Gold so willing to forgive and forget? Or are there other, darker reasons she lets her mother move in with her?

As the novel switches between Patty and Rose Gold’s perspectives, the reader is left not knowing which character to trust. Or which one of them will survive the inevitable clash between these two complex women.

‘The Recovery of Rose Gold’ is a stunning exploration of love, revenge, and the devastating impact of childhood trauma. It’s dark, disturbing and utterly gripping.

Reviewed by: S.B.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) I absolutely loved this book. The story is so real, it feels as if it’s based on an actual case. Can you tell us what the inspiration was for the story and these characters?
Thank you so much! I learned about Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) from my best friend, who is a school psychologist. The more research I did, the more fascinated I became. The perpetrators of MSBP are usually mothers - interesting in itself since the mother/child bond is supposed to be sacred. Perpetrators act out of a need for attention or love from authority figures within the medical community, a motivation I find both intriguing and heartbreaking. I wanted to get inside the head of one of these mothers, to try to understand whether she knows she’s lying or if she believes she’s doing what’s best for her child. Along came Patty Watts, the mother in my story.
2) Did you have to do a lot of research, particularly into Munchausen syndrome by proxy, before writing the book?
I did. While the book isn’t based on any single case, I studied a number of real-life cases to help me compose Rose Gold’s medical history. I read short- and long-form first-hand accounts of survivors; the most helpful book was a memoir by Julie Gregory called ‘Sickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood’, which I highly recommend if you’re interested in the topic. I also read news articles and a medical textbook.

I started by researching the illness (MSBP) in broad strokes, then began to build profiles of both perpetrators and survivors. From these general profiles I was able to establish a few traits my main characters, Patty and Rose Gold, had to have but then fleshed them out to make them my own. I also researched commonly faked illnesses, rigged lab tests, harmful substances to put in the bloodstream, and how real-life perpetrators trick doctors. Not exactly light reading!
3) Patty’s attempts to hurt her own child were really awful. Yet, somehow, you manage to make her a sympathetic character. Can you say a little about how you brought this complex character to life?
Patty has done some truly heinous stuff, but in order to get inside her head I had to ignore or downplay the awful elements and focus on what mattered most to her: fitting the image of the perfect mother. In real life, perpetrators with MSBP can be very manipulative and charming—often how they fool so many people—so Patty had to be the same. I focused on the relatable parts of her character: her own horrible childhood that was not her fault, the constant anxiety of being a new parent, her ability to find light in the darkness. Also, as a reader I’m willing to follow a monster nearly anywhere if they make me laugh. I tried to imbue Patty with a little wit.
4) It’s a great plot with a cracking twist. Did you know, from the beginning, how the book would end?
My first draft of the book had the same main characters, Patty and Rose Gold, but a different (not good) premise. Once I began the second draft, effectively starting over, I planned out the new plot before writing. It’s so much easier to plant clues that way!
5) Like many writers, you’ve had other careers before you started writing. What made you want to try crime fiction?
I have always loved writing fiction but didn’t think it was a practical career choice, so I went into advertising, where I wrote TV and radio spots, print ads, etc. Advertising may have been creatively limiting but at least there was a salary and benefits! It wasn’t until a long period of unemployment that I felt I had nothing to lose and decided to go for it. I’m not sure I would have tried writing my first novel if I was gainfully employed.

I don’t think I necessarily chose to write crime fiction. I’ve always loved reading the genre, love the fast pacing and psychological deep dives, so those craft elements have heavily impacted my writing. That said, some readers have told me the book doesn’t feel like part of the crime/thriller genre, and I can see why. There’s no dead body or traditional mystery to solve. The book is more of a slow burn, a deep character dive. I didn’t really set out to write a thriller; I just wanted to write a book about these two characters. Because of the topic, I think in publishers’ minds, it naturally slots in with domestic or psychological suspense.
6) What bit of advice would you give to anyone starting out writing their debut? Are you working on anything else at the moment? If so, can you tell us a little about it?
I have three pieces of advice for debut writers!

1) Set a measurable goal. It can be words/hours/scenes per day/week/month, but come up with something so you can watch yourself make progress. The idea of writing 90,000 words is daunting but less so if you break it down into bite-sized pieces. If you write 1,000 words a day, you’d have a first draft in 3 months! It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you do it—work as your schedule allows. The important thing is to chip away and keep to your schedule. I also find it really rewarding to keep a spreadsheet of chapter word counts so I can watch the total word count climb.

2) Get qualified constructive feedback. You read a lot about the importance of practice—getting and keeping your butt in the chair—which is true! But in order to get better at anything, you also need someone to tell you where you’ve gone wrong. A family member or friend isn’t going to cut it unless they’re an author or work in the publishing industry. This doesn’t mean you have to commit to a two-year course or pay an editor tons of money, but there are plenty of starter courses where you can dip your toe in the water and receive feedback from a qualified professional.

3) Treat the business side of writing as part of the job—because it is! Start writing first drafts of your query letter months before you’re ready to send your manuscript out. Same goes for the synopsis. Research agents and take the time to find a list of twenty or thirty that fits your book really well. Do all of this alongside writing your novel—or, if you can only take on one project at a time, don’t rush this part of the process. You will learn a ton along the way, and the final result you send out will be much more polished.

I’m working on the second draft of my second novel now. It’s about a wellness center with cult-like tendencies and is told from three perspectives: the leader, a member, and a concerned relative.
7) Are you a fan of crime fiction? If so, which three crime novels would you like with you if stranded on a desert island?
I’m a big fan of crime fiction, particularly psychological suspense! Three of my all-time favorites are:

We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson

Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane