Sarah Hilary is my author of the month, her DI Marnie Rome crime series from Headline Publishing is one of my favourites, and I get way too excited when I know the next book is due. Her series starts with Someone Else’s Skin, which simply blew me away. It won the Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year in 2015, and is followed by No Other Darkness, Tastes Like Fear, Quieter Than Killing, and her latest Come and Find Me which for me is quite possibly, her best yet.
I recently saw Sarah talking at ‘Cream of Crime’ held at the Steyning Festival, she chatted alongside Erin Kelly, Mark Billingham, and William Shaw. It was a fabulous evening and gave me a real insight into the way Sarah writes and thinks about her books. Sarah said that she particularly enjoys writing about the psychology of a crime, she really doesn’t want to write about good and bad, and questions who the monster really is. To write about darkness you also need light, and she doesn’t ever want to feel numb about what she is writing about. Sarah doesn’t like to plan, she just jumps off and starts to write, letting the plot surprise her. She has a friend who keeps a spreadsheet detailing every character in her books so she doesn’t get lost, as her fear is writing herself into a corner.
Liz – What is your first book memory, is it a happy one, does it have any reflection on, or link to what you write today? What were your childhood must reads.
Sarah – My first is a very happy memory: my grandmother reading a book called ‘Helen’s Babies’ to me and my siblings as we rolled around with laughter. We were a great family for books. All my earliest reads were recommended by my mother who introduced me to Georgette Heyer, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe and Mary Stewart. As a small child, I love the Faraway Tree and Malory Towers by Enid Blyton, but also the Greek myths and short stories by Eleanor Farjeon some of which have really disturbing themes. I loved being scared by stories, even then.
Liz – For how long were Marnie, Noah, and Stephen in your mind before they escaped onto the page? In which order did they appear and did they exist first or the story?
Sarah – Marnie had a walk-on part in an earlier story where I needed a detective. The first time she appeared she was undercover in biker boots and a punk wig, which I’ve always thought oddly appropriate. In fact, that might be why I gave her such a spiky vibe, and the backstory about her teenage years as a rebel. Noah came much later, and made a far calmer entrance. There’s a solidity and a happiness to Noah which readers love (and I love, too). Stephen was the last to appear. He likes to stay in the shadows, as you might expect for a double murderer who’s keeping terrible secrets.
Liz – I’m rather taken with Stephen as a character, what is it like to have Stephen prowling around in your mind, how often does he knock at the door of your consciousness and how does he speak to you?
Sarah – Stephen is one of my favourite characters to write, although it’s really all about the tension in the scenes between him and Marnie. Stephen doesn’t speak to me much, but he has a habit of standing at my shoulder as I write, or else watching me with his dark eyes from across the room. I find him quite frightening, but I do love writing (and reading) these very dark characters.
Liz – I love your integrity on social media, if something riles you, do you wait, strategise, or launch straight in?
Sarah – Oh blimey ..! Sometimes I don’t wait, although I always try to because it never helps to just add fuel to a fight. There’s an awful lot of bullying and bigotry online. I cannot bear bullies so I find it hard to ignore that sort of thing. It’s becoming harder and harder to be on social media, though. Trump and Brexit have both had the effect of giving nasty people a sense of validation – I’m constantly staggered by the malice and ignorance I see online.
Liz – Who would have the best social media presence and why… Marnie, Noah, or Stephen?
Sarah – Noah, for sure. He would post pics of him and Dan dancing, plus Jamaican recipes and sunny words of wisdom. I don’t think Marnie would go near social media. As for Stephen, can you imagine his Twitter account? “Mood: murderous”. Maybe an Instagram account with photoshopped pictures of him and Marnie as siblings …
Liz – Is there a question you’ve never been asked and wish you had?
Sarah – I love to be asked who I think the real monsters are in my books. Stephen is many things, but I don’t think of him as a monster. There’s a woman in ‘Someone Else’s Skin’ who works in a refuge. She’s one of the worst monsters I’ve ever written.
Liz – Thank you Sarah, fabulous answers – and just to let you know, I now really want to see Stephen’s instagram account!
You can find Sarah at http://sarah-crawl-space.blogspot.com
Sarah can be found on twitter as @sarah_hilary she has a strong social media presence, and is wonderfully approachable.
Come and Find Me was published in hardback and eBook on the 22nd of March and will be published in paperback on the 4th of October 2018.
Book six in the series, Never Be Broken, is due to be published in May 2019 and so now is the perfect time to discover this fantastic author if you haven’t done so already.