In Conversation with Holly Seddon

In Conversation with Holly Seddon

Today I’m delighted to be joined by best-selling psychological thriller writer and fellow Corvus Books author, Holly Seddon. Holly’s first book, was Try Not to Breathe, and her latest, Don’t Close your Eyes, has just been published.

Don’t Close Your Eyes tells the story of twins Robin and Sarah who were torn apart in their youth. Now in her early 30s, Robin lives alone in Manchester. Too scared to leave the house, she spends her days pacing the rooms or watching. Watching the street, the houses, the neighbours. Until one day, she sees something she shouldn’t…

And Sarah? Sarah got everything she always wanted, only to be accused of the most terrible thing. She can’t be around her new family until she has come to terms with something that happened a long time ago. And to do that, she needs to track down her twin sister.

I enjoyed reading Don’t Close your Eyes. I had no idea where the story was going or what the twists would be, and loved the portrayal of 1990s England and the pin-sharp characters.

Thank you so much!

How did you get the idea for Don’t Close your Eyes?

The initial idea was to focus on someone who was once very successful and outgoing, but who now lives in seclusion, watching the neighbours and licking their wounds. I also really liked the idea of looking at siblings – those born and those created through blended families – and how friendship can be a more powerful link than blood.

It’s such a nostalgic book in many ways – you’ve got the details for the 1980s and 90s spot on, from the Joyriders travel sickness tablets, to the SodaStream, back in the day when we thought an en suite was the height of sophistication and our mums sunbathed, coated in oil, whilst eating a Twix!

Are you nostalgic for the 1990s?

Ha, thank you! I think books with a recent but historical setting have to walk a fine line between detailing and overdoing it. It can feel a bit like a flashback episode of Friends which, while hilarious in a sitcom, can pull you out of a story in a novel.

I think I am a bit nostalgic, even though I love my life now. I compare my tweens and teens to those of my older children, and there was a certain simplicity that I now find comforting. I went to see my best friend of 26 years the other day and she dug out a tub of letters from when we were teenagers. That was our social media, writing each other letters at night and swapping them the next day. I realise I sound like a right old codger!

Did you find this era hard to research?

I researched to be sure of dates and details. Although I was born in 1980, and the landscape of the recent past feels very fresh to me, I couldn’t tell you by memory when certain shows were on TV or in which order a band’s singles were released.

You’re now living in Amsterdam, and I notice, every so often, Instagram posts of Marmite, chips in Ketchup and red phone boxes. Apart from your friends and family, what do you miss most about the UK and what do you like best about Amsterdam?

I love Amsterdam. It’s so small I can cover it all on my bike, and I have so much on my doorstep compared with where we lived in semi-rural England. But yes, you’ve noticed that food plays a large part in my nostalgia for the UK! Every few months we order a huge box of food from an expat online shop!

I think what I miss most is the seamless understanding of situations though. Not just language (because Amsterdam has a really high percentage of English speakers) but more the unspoken stuff. The expressions and unwritten etiquette. I love it here, but I don’t fit in the way I do when I’m in Britain.

I love the idea of the main character, Robin Marshall, being a female rock star! There’s some gorgeous descriptions of music and guitars – ‘‘Caribou Narvik Blue’, a cross between a mad cowboy’s shirt and a tropical bird’. Are you a musician?

I wish. I’m a music nut and music was a huge refuge and obsession when I was growing up and naturally I wanted to write and play music. But it just never happened. I slogged away for years trying to learn guitar and I wrote the most pretentious lyrics you could ever imagine, but I’m all thumbs. I’m a music consumer rather than producer! I started out as a journalist by launching my own music website – I don’t run it any more but it’s just turned fourteen!

I’m always loved guitars though. My husband has several (my daughter has inherited mine) and we have a lovely guitar shop in the next street so I went in there for inspiration.

How did you go about creating Robin’s fierce, feisty, loyal and sometimes exhausting character?

She came to me fully formed, that’s the only way I can describe it. I originally had the idea for the housebound character to be a man, called Rob. But that only lasted in the ideas stage and as soon as I started to properly outline, I realised Rob was Robin and I could picture her so clearly, I could have painted her. She’s a pain in the bum at times, but I know I’d like to have her on my side.

Do you plot your books in advance, or feel them unfold as you write?

With each book, I plot more. Never in exhausting detail as I’d get bored doing the writing, but the shape of it, the main characters, the beginning, middle and end.

Your debut novel, Try Not to Breathe, was a national and international success. Did you feel pressure to live up to that book and even to surpass it and how did that influence your writing of Don’t Close your Eyes?

Yes! From myself, mainly. It did get in my head a little. When I wrote Try Not to Breathe, I didn’t have Goodreads reviewers picking my previous work apart! Although the reaction to Try Not to Breathe was amazing, you can’t please everybody and in the end I just thought “f*** it, I have to write the book I want to write”.

I did have some false starts, I rushed a little at first, which cost me more time in the end because I just had to redo it. As soon as I calmed down, shut out the noise and just let the book take the form it wanted to take, it fitted into place. I’m very proud of it.

You have a bundle of small people – how do you juggle writing and children? Do you treat it as a job and go to an office, or do you fit it in around your family? What’s your typical writing day like?

It’s a juggle, but one I feel privileged to do. I have an office in my house but I mainly work at the dining table or on the sofa. I write when my youngest is in part-time daycare, or when he’s napping in the afternoon before the others come home. When my husband travels, I work all night. It’s not punitive, I don’t really have to, I just relish the chance to carry on. I really do feel lucky that I get to have this career. I want to give it my all, whenever I can.

I’m feeling slightly discombobulated as my second thriller, The Stolen Child, has just been published, I’ve handed the third one in, and I’m plotting the fourth. My head is somewhat crowded with characters from my books! What are you working on next?

I know exactly what you mean and I can’t wait to read your third! I’ve just sent back the latest edit of my third book, which will be out next year. I’m excited to see what people think of it, it’s new ground for me as a writer – although friendship and the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s feature prominently. I should probably have said “I’m very nostalgic” earlier.

Now I’m at the first draft stage of book four and I’m totally in love with it as it’s still mostly an idea!

 

Thank you, Holly, I look forward to reading your next novel ! And if you want to hear Holly, Gillian McAllister and I chatting on  Holly’s Honest Author’s podcast, here’s the link.

 

 

Reading from The Stolen Child

Reading from The Stolen Child

I find that reading out loud really helps me edit my work – plus, it’s good practise for book launch readings! Here are a couple of extracts from the antagonist’s point of view, and one (read when I was writing The Stolen Child) from Zoe’s point of view (she’s the main character).

 

 

 

Book Club Questions for The Stolen Child

Book Club Questions for The Stolen Child

 

If anyone would like to discuss The Stolen Child in their Book Club, do get in touch, as I’d be very happy to FaceTime with your group! I’m sure you’ll have your own questions, but if you want some suggestions, here are some Book Club questions:

Book Club Questions – The Stolen Child

And if you’d like to know any more about the inspiration behind The Stolen Child, do have a look at the Q&A:

The Stolen Child Q&A

Or the video Q&A:

 

 

Let me know  how you get on!

The Inspiration behind The Stolen Child

The Inspiration behind The Stolen Child

If you were with me, I’d take you to the Doubler Stones, where thousands of years ago, Neolithic peoples carved channels in the rock to drain away the blood from their sacrifices. I would show you where the plover nests, and the green hairstreak butterfly lays its eggs. I love this place. I love this land. It’s part of me, it’s part of who I am. But it’s no place for you: a seven-year-old girl in a princess costume. 

If you’d like to find out a bit more about what inspired me to write The Stolen Child, I’ve created a Pinterest board and answered a few questions here:

The Stolen Child Q&A

I grew up on either side of Ilkley moor, from the age of 8 to 18. I’ve set the novel in Ilkley, with some of the key scenes taking place on the moor, and bringing in a few chilling elements, such as the Doubler Stones, which may have been used for blood sacrifices…

 

Let me know what you think!

One Week to Go!

One Week to Go!

The Stolen Child is out in a week’s time, on 6 April 2017. I’m excited, and frankly, a little nervous!

 

 

Today I have a blog on my publisher’s website about how my Irish roots have somehow ended up in this modern day thriller. The title comes from a WB Yeats poem (The Stolen Child) about a child who is sprited away by the little people…

Here’s the link if you’d like to find out more! Fear and Faeries

 

 

Book Launch Party for The Stolen Child

Book Launch Party for The Stolen Child

If you’re in Bristol and you’d like to come and celebrate the launch of The Stolen Child, please do come along to:

Waterstones, the Galleries at 7pm on Friday 21 April

It’s one month today! More details are on my Events page, but if hearing about The Stolen Child isn’t sufficient incentive, there will be prosecco and beer from Grape and Grind, and a Stolen Child inspired Bourbon and coffee cake made by Ahh Toots!

 

See you there!

 

Q&A about The Stolen Child

Q&A about The Stolen Child

I’m thrilled to be able to share this conversation about The Stolen Child with you. It’s a bit about what inspired the story, where it’s set and where the title came from. Enjoy!

 

 

If you have any more questions, do let me know. And if you sign up to the newsletter, I’ll send you some free extracts from The Stolen Child before it’s published.

 

 

Behind the scenes: Filming The Stolen Child trailer

Behind the scenes: Filming The Stolen Child trailer

I thought you might like to see what went on behind the scenes when we were filming The Stolen Child trailer! The crew and I all live in the south-west, and it was going to be too tricky to get us all to Ilkley, West Yorkshire, where The Stolen Child is set…so we decided to use Porlock common, a heathland in Somerset, to stand in for Ilkley moor.

 

 

Here’s our actor, Ela Chia Gutierrez, playing Evie, being filmed by Director of Photography, Rob Franklin.

We wanted to start with Evie, who is a happy contented child, until she receives a sinister card… We planned to film this in a playground in Porlock – but when we arrived, it had been closed the night before as a piece of equipment was unsafe to use. Ah, the best laid plans.

We ended up filming next to some toilets in a car park… So glamorous!

 

 

Here’s Ela being lit by our camera assistant, Zoe Masters. Evie has just spotted a card left for her.

Hello my darling, 

I’m your real father. I’ve been searching for you ever since you were stolen from me. I love you so much. 

Daddy 

 

When we filmed on the common, aka, Ilkley moor, Ela dressed in a Princess Elsa dress and had to run across the heath –

 

 

– with my mobile taped on her back so we could tell her when she needed to STOP, and come back to us. We used a drone camera, operated by Jack Stevenson, to try and capture the feeling of isolation, wilderness and fear that Evie must have felt when she was lost on the moor…

 

 

I love this place. I love this land. It’s part of me, it’s part of who I am. But it’s no place for you: a seven-year-old girl in a princess costume. 

 

 

Here’s Rob and Jack operating the drone, filming Ela as she sprints across the moor.

Rob and Zoe then drove up to Ilkley moor and filmed a few shots to drop into the trailer to give that feeling of authentic wilderness.

 

 

The dark edge of the moor and the Cow and Calf rock are crisp against the blue-black sky. I can’t see anyone outside, watching us. As I shut the door behind me, I hear a noise. It came from the hall. I feel the hairs rise on the back of my neck. 

 

Let me know what you think! Here’s the finished trailer:

 

 

 

 

 

The Stolen Child Trailer

The Stolen Child Trailer

 

The Stolen Child trailer is live! Here’s our fabulous actor, Ela Chia Gutierrez playing Evie, being filmed by DoP Rob Franklin. We were also joined by Zoe Masters, our camera assistant, and Jack Stevenson, the drone pilot. Ela had to run across the moor in a Frozen dress being pursued by a drone camera! We bought her a slap-up ice cream afterwards!

Let me know what you think of the trailer!

 

 

 

 

Peter James on The Stolen Child

Peter James on The Stolen Child

Two of my writing heroes, Peter James and Peter Swanson, have kindly given me a quote for the book cover of my next thriller, The Stolen Child.

 

 

And two of my favourite psychological thriller writers Holly Seddon, and Amanda Jennings, have also said nice things:

‘Grips to the very last page… I couldn’t put it down.’ Amanda Jennings

‘The Stolen Child captivated me, terrified me and left me deeply moved.’ Holly Seddon

 

You can pre-order The Stolen Child here

 

 

 

Coming Soon – The Stolen Child

Coming Soon – The Stolen Child

My second thriller, The Stolen Child, is out soon: 6 April! And I’m delighted to be able to reveal the cover to you!

 

The Stolen Child is set on Ilkley moor, where I grew up. It’s about a couple, Zoe and Ollie, who long for a baby but are unable to have one. They adopt a child from birth, a little girl called Evie. A few years later they have their own child, a boy called Ben. The story begins when Ben is two and Evie is seven. Evie’s starting to realise that she’s different from the rest of her family, and beginning to understand what it means to be adopted.

One day she receives a card addressed to My Daughter. Inside it says:

                           Seven years ago, you were stolen from me. 

                           Now I’m coming to get you back. 

                                                              Love, your Daddy.

 

I’ve been fortunate to have had some wonderful pre-publication comments:

 

‘The Stolen Child captivated me, terrified me and left me deeply moved.’ Holly Seddon

‘Beautiful terse writing and the build to the shattering climax is palpable.’ Peter James

‘Gut-wrenching… The Stolen Child succeeds as both a fast-paced thriller and a haunting tale of a fragile family.’ Peter Swanson

‘Grips to the very last page… I couldn’t put it down.’ Amanda Jennings

 

I hope you enjoy it! It’s available for pre-order from Amazon.

 

 

 

 

Amazon Rising Star!

Amazon Rising Star!

category_icons03I’m so delighted that Bone by Bone has been selected as an Amazon Rising Star for 2016! These are the most promising debuts of the year.

I’m in stellar company: fellow Corvus author, Catharine Ryan Howard with Distress Signals, multi-million bestseller, Hideo Yokoyama with Six Four, and Behind Closed Doors by BA Paris.

 

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There’s some incredible-looking book covers and titles – I’m intrigued by Fen by Daisy Johnson, You Have Me to Love by Jaap Robben, with its eerie image of a seagull’s head, and  Jihadi: A Love Story by Yusuf Toropov.

 

Needless to say, we’ve been celebrating!

 

Bone by Bone is picked as one of The Guardian’s best books of 2016

Bone by Bone is picked as one of The Guardian’s best books of 2016

category_icons03I’m so delighted – Bone by Bone has been picked by Mark Lawson in The Guardian as one of the best crime books and thrillers of 2016!

 

Mark calls Bone by Bone a noteworthy and unnerving debut. I’m in good company – Val McDermid, Ian Rankin and Ann Cleeves are also must-reads, as well as one of my favourite thrillers of the year, Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall.

 

Who would you recommend for 2016?