Thursday 9 March 2017

A Conversation with Sarah Hilary

Sarah Hilary has worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. Her debut novel, Someone Else's Skin, won the Theakston Old Peculier 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 published in 2015. The Marnie Rome series continued in 2016 with Tastes Like Fear. Sarah lives in Bath. She will be appearing at this year's CrimeFest and the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival.

Sarah, returns with a new DI Marnie Rome novel, Quieter Than Killing

Marnie and Noah are investigating a series of assaults. The attacks appear to be random, the targets young and old, men and women, but all were convicted of violent crimes and recently released. They are on the perpetrator's trail when outside events come to the fore. 

'Sarah Hilary goes from strength to strength with the Marnie Rome series, writing with great empathy and unerring psychological precision about the darkest corners of the city and the human heart. Tastes Like Fear is a truly chilling exploration of control, submission and the desire to step out of a normal life.' - Eva Dolan

It's winter, the nights are dark and freezing, and a series of seemingly random assaults is pulling DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake out onto the streets of London. When Marnie's family home is ransacked, there are signs that the burglary can have only been committed by someone who knows her. Then a child goes missing, yet no-one has reported it. Suddenly, events seem connected, and it's personal.

Someone out there is playing games. It is time for both Marnie and Noah to face the truth about the creeping, chilling reaches of a troubled upbringing. Keeping quiet can be a means of survival, but the effects can be as terrible as killing. 

We would like to thank Sarah for taking part in A Conversation With... and wish her much success with the latest Marnie thriller and her future writing.

Tell us of your journey as a writer.

I’ve been a writer as long as I can remember. As a teenager, I regularly sent script ideas to places like Warner Bros, fully expecting replies. When I was older, I wrote flash fiction, short stories, everything but poetry. Then, around six years ago, I knuckled down to the business of writing a publishable novel. It took a long while to get it right but, when I did, one of the UK’s top agents signed me up and, within twelve months, my debut Someone Else’s Skin was being sold at auction. I had a book deal! I’d summarise the journey as two parts pure obsession, stamina and hard slog to one part luck. But luck doesn’t just happen; it has to be worked for.

How do you see your role as a writer and what do you like most about it?

To entertain, first and foremost. Unless that happens, I’ve failed. But if I can get that right then I can succeed in the other goal which matters to me: what Arthur Miller described as reminding us of what we’ve chosen to forget. A good writer pricks our conscience, and our curiosity. I hope I do that.

Have you ever created a character who you dislike but find yourself empathising with?

All the time. Writers have to empathise with every character, otherwise they won’t convince the reader. Every character I write feels real to me, and that’s vital.

What has been your experience of writing about diverse characters?

In one sense, I don’t treat these characters any differently. When I made the decision that Noah Jake (my detective sergeant) would be black and gay, I also decided that this wouldn’t be a big deal, either to Noah or to the story I was telling. Of course homophobia and racism exist - I don’t pretend they don’t - but I wanted Noah’s story to be independent of his race or sexuality. That’s true for all my characters. At the same time, I want to tell the truth about the challenges people face - internal and external - so I don’t shy away from exploring these. But “black gay detective” isn’t a story, or it shouldn’t be. Noah is Noah. I’ve been told that this is more controversial than if I’d made an issue out of his colour and sexuality. Well, good. I like to be controversial.

If you could be transported instantly, anywhere in the world, where would you most like to spend your time writing? And why?

Somewhere cold, and bright, and sunny. Maybe Copenhagen. Somewhere I could walk every day, by water, which is the best creative stimulus.

What is the one book you wish you had written?

Any of the Tom Ripley books. Then I could be writing a new one, right now. Or a prequel.

What advice do you have for would be novelists/writers?

Read, read, read. Widely, critically and with curiosity. And write, every day, even if it’s just a diary entry.

What are you currently working on? What can we look forward to reading?

I’m working on two new books. The fifth in my Marnie Rome series, and a standalone psychological thriller. I’m very excited about both!

Who is your favourite literary character from childhood and why?

So many to choose from ..! If I have to pick just one, I’d say Steerpike from Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast books. He has a complicated and very complete character arc, from bullied kitchen boy to a position of unrivalled power. He has shades of Dracula about him, who’s another of my favourites, but at the same time he’s very human, entirely made of flaws.

Thanks to Headline for the review copy.

Follow Sarah, on Twitter: @sarah_hilary

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