As part of the featured author Q&A sessions, I am very pleased to announce that the featured author for the current session is Sarah Hilary.
Sarah Hilary has worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. Her debut, SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN, won Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year 2015 and was a World Book Night selection for 2016. The Observer’s Book of the Month (“superbly disturbing”) and a Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller, it has been published worldwide. NO OTHER DARKNESS, the second in the series was shortlisted for a Barry Award in the US. Her DI Marnie Rome series continued with TASTES LIKE FEAR and a fourth book, QUIETER THAN KILLING, is out now.
Hi Sarah, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background? I grew up in the North of England, but moved down south to study and now live in Bath. I’ve worked as a bookseller and also did a stint with the Royal Navy.
What are your ambitions for your writing career? Oh to keep writing my Marnie Rome series as long as it has fans and readers. And to write standalone thrillers, too. Maybe even a ghost story, one day …
So, what have you written? Someone Else’s Skin was my debut, and the first in my Marnie Rome series which continued with No Other Darkness and then Tastes Like Fear.
What is your most recent novel? Quieter Than Killing is the fourth in my Marnie Rome series. Investigating a string of vigilante assaults, Marnie discovers that the case has very personal and dangerous implications for her and her foster brother, Stephen.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special? Marnie is a first-rate detective who is also struggling to solve the mystery of why her brother, Stephen, murdered her parents six years ago. She’s compassionate and courageous. She’s also very human, and often falls short of her own high standards. She’s quite secretive too; in fact, even I don’t know all her secrets yet.
What genre are your books? Crime.
What draws you to this genre? Fear and curiosity about human nature at its worst and its best.
When did you decide to become a writer? As a very young child, listening to stories my grandmother told me and realising the strong magic of the storyteller.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured? I prefer to write in the mornings, but I will write whenever and wherever necessary to get it done.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day? During a first draft, I’ll aim to do no less than 2,000 words a day.
Where do your ideas come from? Everywhere. The real world. People. Landscapes sometimes, although more often cityscapes. History, but more usually the present. The here and now.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? I don’t plot. I let the characters and story lead me.
How long on average does it take you to write a book? A year, from start to finish, but that includes editing. A first draft? Usually four months.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively? I’ve learnt to value story above words. I used to be in love with words, and my early stories were full of beautiful phrases or descriptions. Now I concentrate on people, on the forward momentum of the story, and on getting under my reader’s skin emotionally rather than intellectually. I do still have the occasional beautiful phrase and description, of course.
Do you read much and if so which writers inspire you? I read as much as I possibly can. It’s essential for a writer. Don’t believe any writer who says he or she doesn’t read. My favourite writers at the moment are Mick Herron, Sabine Durrant, Alex Marwood and (deceased) Celia Fremlin.
What is your favourite book and why? The Collector by John Fowles. It’s creepy and unforgettable.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why? Any of the Tom Ripley books by Patricia Highsmith. Because then I could still be writing them now …
What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Read widely, and critically. Write every day, even if it’s just a diary entry or a blog.
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.