She's driven by his desire...
It took all of Alexia's courage to leave her abusive boyfriend and strike out on her own. When she lands a job at a glamorous sports agency, she thinks she finally has it made. But shy, blonde and beautiful, Alexia is totally unprepared for the fast sexual politics of rich men and ambitious women that is waiting for her. Most of all, she is totally unprepared for her dazzling but damaged new boss, Nathan Fallon.
Keira: It takes a lot of strength to walk away from domestic abuse. How does Alexia, in your book Substitute, gain her courage to do just that?
Isobel Rey: The kind of bullying that Alexia experiences is not obvious and overt, it’s the kind of drip, drip low grade bullying that builds gradually and erodes a woman’s confidence. It’s insidious and creeps on her. She gets the courage to leave when she realises how far she’s fallen, how he’s got into her head and under her skin to undermine her. She looks at the closed door, determined to sear the image in her mind to reinforce her decision to leave. The decision to leave in these circumstances is often made after a small incident, it’s not the incident itself which prompts the action, but the cumulative effect of the bullying. Something snaps in her head, and she knows she has to go.
Keira: Glamorous and sports? Isn't that an oxymoron? Unless we're talking about figure skating... are we?
Isobel: Well actually, having been around the world of sports promotion I can say that it is most definitely a glamorous world. The world of Premiere League Soccer sees players who are paid millions, drive eye-wateringly expensive cars and sign multi-million pound sponsorship deals. The world of tennis, Formula One racing, Soccer and now even Golf attract huge money, with the accompanying glamorous women and money hungry agents. It’s a high octane world of partying, champagne and bed-hopping.
Keira: So what's office politics like in Substitute and does it differ from normal life?
Isobel: The office politics in Substitute is typical of the type of business that attracts big money in any capital city in the world. Any workplace where the stakes are high and naked ambition rubs up against huge egos is going to look like this. I’ve worked in these workplaces!
Keira: Tell us about Nathan Fallon, her new boss? How is he damaged?
Isobel: Nathan is a soldier, an officer. So many veterans suffer quietly with Post Dramatic Stress Syndrome because they don’t talk about their experiences. In order to operate in the theatre of war, like Iraq or Afghanistan, they have to put some of their emotions away in a box in order to survive some of the horrors they see or the violence they are forced to commit to survive. Nothing can prepare you for killing other human beings, not even in battle. They also suffer from a condition called Hyper-Vigilance, having been in threatening situations for 24 hours a day. They then come home and find it difficult to reconnect with loved ones or new relationships. Some cope better than others. But Nathan has been rejected by the woman he thought would be there for him. The thought of her kept him going during the fighting, but he feels a deep sense of betrayal when he comes home. He’s an officer and a gentleman and has a huge sense of honour, loyalty and integrity. He finds it very difficult to let that go.
Keira: Did your advertising experience help in the writing or publishing of this novel?
Isobel: Yes it did. The world of advertising brings you into contact with all types of industries, including sports promotion. I witnessed this world first hand, and let me tell you it’s no exaggeration!
Keira: How do you define love?
Isobel: Love is about complete trust and acceptance. If you find the right person, they will be the best company in the world, and the one person you want to talk to first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. They allow you to fly like a kite, but they anchor you, so you don’t get blown off course.
Keira: What makes a great Happily Ever After? What's required?
Isobel: A great happily ever after has to be realistic. There’s no guarantee that the prince will love the princess in 5 years when the kids are screaming and the nannies have handed in their notice. But if the two people involved are grounded enough to understand each other and want to accept everything about the other person then that happy ending is believable.
Keira: Any advice you'd give your younger self now that your first book is published?
Isobel: The personal advice I would give myself is never worry what other people think of you, the only people that count will accept you as you are. And I’d give myself some professional advice as a writer – spend more time observing people and what makes them tick.
Keira: What are your favorite writing rituals that help put you in the writing mood?
Isobel: I like to take the weekend off and go to the coast, and sit in cafes by the beach with my laptop and headphones. Listening to great music by the ocean really lets me switch off and get writing.
Keira: What's up for you next?
Isobel: This is my first book in this genre, and I was encouraged to write it because of the types of world I get a window into from my job. The book has been so well received that I think the next book will focus on a different world. Haven’t decided which one yet!