What other writers are saying about My Mother’s Secret

What other writers are saying about My Mother’s Secret

Six weeks to go until My Mother’s Secret comes out! For an author waiting to see how her book will be received, this is a tense phase to be in!


For anyone interested in how the process works, once the book is finished, edited, copy edited, proof read and type-set with a draft cover design, an ‘uncorrected bound proof’ is created. It’s nearly the final version, but the cover might be tweaked slightly, and there could still be errors that we’ve all missed. The proofs are then sent out to magazine journalists and authors kind enough to say they’ll do their level best to read it before it goes off to the printers.

So far, I’ve had some amazingly kind comments from my fellow writers. Thank you!!


The next step is that early copies will be sent out to bloggers, who are really the most important people. They are readers who, in their own free time and without being paid, will read and post reviews of books on their websites. Waiting to hear back from them is even more nerve-wracking!

In the meantime, here’s what some of my favourite authors are saying about My Mother’s Secret:

This gripping story about families and secrets takes the meaning of ‘deception’ to a new level.

         Jane Corry, author of My Husband’s Wife and Blood Sisters




A well written story that is so compelling you have no choice but to race through it to uncover the secrets. Twisty, tense and chilling until the very last page. Brilliant!


         Sam Carrington, author of Saving Sophie, Bad Sister and One Little Lie coming in July


Sanjida has nailed it again. A claustrophobic, unpredictable thriller that I couldn’t get enough of. You’ll be holding your breath until the last page

        Jack Jordan, author of My Girl and Anything for Her. A Woman Scorned and Before Her Eyes coming soon



And more from LV Hay, Luana Lewis and Peter Swanson…



I hope that’s whetted your appetite! If so, the kindest thing you can do for an author (apart from give them wine and chocolate), is to buy their book and post a short review on Amazon, Audible and Goodreads. It’ll keep them in coffee and Hobnobs. Thank you!







Mothers & Daughters II

Mothers & Daughters II

Happy Mother’s Day! This blog is dedicated to those very special women in our lives, without whom, we would not exist.

My first thriller, Bone by Bone, is about that unbreakable bond between mothers and daughters. It features Laura, her mother, Vanessa, and Laura’s daughter, Autumn. Now that my third psychological thriller is coming soon, I’ve realised that all three of my thrillers feature mothers and daughters.



I wrote a blog about mothers and daughters when Bone by Bone came out, and included this passage in it:

The bond between mothers and their children, particularly their daughters, is usually the strongest one that exists in human beings. Mothers shape their daughters, but daughters often rebel against being moulded. I was interested in exploring this tight and intimate bond; how some women raise their daughters to be like them, and their daughters then reject their values, but in doing so, may make mistakes of their own with their daughters – a tale familiar to some of us!

As Oscar Wilde so glibly said,

All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.



What I was interested in exploring in my latest thriller, My Mother’s Secret, is how that bond keeps loosening and tightening as the child grows older. Emma Taylor’s oldest daughter, Stella, is now fourteen. Like most teenagers, she needs to be loved and cared for, but she pushes back against her parents, particularly her mother, in her desire to become independent. Stella and her little sister, Ava, are in a more extreme situation than many young people, as their parents are paranoid about their safety. For example,  when Jack, their father, works in his office at the bottom of the garden, he sets the burglar alarm on the house so the children can’t leave without setting it off. I’ll let you judge whether the Taylors are fruitcakes or pretty sensible and how wise or damaging their behaviour is to their children!

Those chilling words seared in my heart: if you give evidence against me, 

I will kill you . . . I will hunt down your family and I will kill them . . . I am nothing if not a man of my word. 

        Emma Taylor



Obviously, in a thriller, what could happen to an child provides some of the tension the story requires, and this is what I’ve been playing with: how do you protect a child who is at risk, when you can’t tell her what the threat is, and she’s perfectly capable of operating independently and making decisions that are not in her best interests?

My voice bounces around the old stone walls, and the echoes make me even more scared. I’m crying properly now. How could he just go and leave me? The pain drowns out my shame. I take out my phone, but there’s no signal here. I’m starting to feel really frightened. I’m on my own in the dark, and no one knows where I am.

         Stella Taylor


In real life, how much do we really know about what children and young people are thinking and doing? And by not knowing every last detail, are we neglecting our duty of care, or are we giving them the freedom to grow, make their own mistakes and become responsible adults?

So here’s to mother’s, who have the toughest job on the planet!








First Lines

First Lines

Did you know that many publishers won’t read past the first few lines of your manuscript? Harsh but true. Agents may read a page or two. And let’s be honest, if you’re browsing in a bookshop, what makes you pick up a book, and then buy it? For me, and I suspect most other people, what propels me into purchasing a book is if a) I have read and liked the author’s other books; b) someone I respect has recommended it to me; c) the cover looks good (this is 70% of the reason why books get picked up); d) the blurb sounds interesting and intriguing and then e) when I read the first few lines, I know almost instantly whether this book will be for me.

Obviously, there are a whole host of other reasons at play that you may or may not be consciously aware of: for instance, has the publisher been promoting this book (if so, you may have already seen subliminal images and read endorsements by famous authors); has the publisher paid the bookseller to place this particular book on a prominent table or are they paying a supermarket to stock it in prime position; does the author have a name that allows them to be shelved in a good location (and not the bottom shelf at the back of the store)?



In the past, when there was less competition, authors didn’t have to nail their audience in the first two or three sentences and could ease into the story and begin with things like the weather (apparently some agents will chuck your work straight into the slush pile if you start like that now!). However, many classics are notable for their fantastic, and now famous opening lines:

The story had held us, round the fire, sufficiently breathless, but except the obvious remark that it was gruesome, as on Christmas Eve in an old house a strange tale should essentially be.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like… and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

All of which is quite daunting when one is writing a novel! It’s actually pretty daunting whatever one is writing, and you’re facing a blank computer screen or piece of paper. My solution is not to start at the beginning (and my suggestion to any students and aspiring writers!). I generally have an idea about what should go in the first chapter or the prologue, but to stop myself having jitters, procrastinating or becoming overly angsty, I don’t start there.



My third thriller, My Mother’s Secret, will be out in two months, on 3 May. I started writing it in October 2016 and I finished the first draft in March 2017, which is when I wrote the prologue. Here’s my first line, written last:

‘Did you know my name means God?’

A year on, and I’ve just completed the first draft of my fourth thriller and this time, I did start at the beginning. I heard the central character’s voice speaking in my head and I wrote down those first two lines straight away:

As far as I know it happened like this. Obviously, I wasn’t there when it mattered.

Let me know what you think! Do you begin at the beginning?



My Mother’s Secret Coming Soon!

My Mother’s Secret Coming Soon!

I’m delighted to share with you the cover of my next thriller, My Mother’s Secret. It’s out on 3 May and is now available to pre-order.




Here’s what it’s about:




Lizzie Bradshaw. A student from the Lake District, forced to work away from home, who witnesses a terrible crime. But who will ultimately pay the price?


Emma Taylor. A mother, a wife, and a woman with a dangerous secret. Can she keep her beloved family safely together?


Stella Taylor. A disaffected teenager, determined to discover what her mother is hiding. But how far will she go to uncover the truth?


And one man, powerful, manipulative and cunning, who controls all their destinies.


I’ll be uploading a Q&A with me about the book, what inspired me, the process of writing it, as well as some short video clips, and some of the behind-the-scenes photos on my Pinterest board, so do check back. We’ll also be running a couple of competitions to win copies, and there will be a launch party on 11 May, invitations to follow!






How to create the perfect villain!

How to create the perfect villain!

Today is World Book Day! To celebrate I’m going to talk to the children in Year 3 at Sefton Park School, in Bristol, about villains! Seems like a suitable topic for seven year olds! Actually, though, it’s a pretty critical topic for any writer.

So why do you need a villain? Well, without a baddie, basically, your story lacks drama. There will be no uncertainty, excitement or tension. An antagonist can provide conflict, which will help create this drama. The antagonist will also elevate your protagonist, the central character in your story, by stretching him or her because they’ll need to grow, change, and summon deep inner resources to defeat the villain – as long as your baddie is a worthy opponent.

However, an antagonist need not be a person: if you’re writing a supernatural or  horror story then your villain could be a creature or a ghost or a wizard. But in other genres, your villain could be a force, a concept, a trait or a psychological state. For instance, in 1984 the antagonist is ‘the Party’, the human (or inhuman) face of ‘Big Brother’. In spy thrillers, there is often a conspiracy or a government cover up; in LA Confidential, the hero is battling his own alcoholism; in Sense of an Ending, the opponent, seems to be Vanessa, but it’s actually the anti-hero, Tony’s, own character flaws; in Solar it’s global warming.

My two tips on creating a decent villain are first, have empathy. Get inside your baddie’s head. Almost no one thinks they’re doing the wrong thing or that they’re immoral – everyone can justify their actions.

And secondly, the villain isn’t always who you think it is. Check out my thrillers – in all three, Bone by Bone, The Stolen Child and My Mother’s Secret – the bad guy isn’t who you think it is.

For more on villains and for some writing exercises, please sign up to the Arvon Foundation’s newsletter and look for my writing tips on Antagonistic Antagonists.


How do I write?

How do I write?


Well, I start the day with a large black coffee and some dark chocolate!

Writing a novel feels like being an ultra marathon runner. It’s going to be a gruelling slog to reach 80 – 100,000 words and I will be unable to pause, to breathe properly, to take in the view until then; I know I’ll have to keep going, unsure if I’m going to make it, or make it in time. And then, when I cross the finish line, I’ll be doubled over, sucking in air, celebrating how far I’ve come, before, – quick breath – I’ll start the first full read through, and the edits.

So I begin my writing day by reading through what I wrote the day before, and I end my day by making notes on what I’m going to write, so I don’t waste time trying to get in the zone.

I write a book a year – for the thriller that’s just about to come out, My Mother’s Secret, that meant 2,500 words a day, for three days a week during school hours. If I didn’t hit my word count, the walk to school to pick up my daughter would be filled with figures – I’d calculate that tomorrow, I’d need to write 3,500 words, and if I didn’t hit that word count, the day after would be… tricky!

Before I begin a novel, I spend a couple of months plotting my novel, scene by scene, until I have an outline of between 6 and 10,000 words. Even if some scenes are pretty sketchy – Scene 52: Stella and Adam getting closer.

And I’m going to come back to this and talk more about plot in the future…

The full answer to this question has been recorded by the Royal Literary Fund and will be available shortly. In the meantime, I’ve recorded other podcasts for the RLF, and there are many, many wonderful writers you might like to listen to via iTunes or their website.


What’s your writing process like?


Why do I write?

Why do I write?



The short answer, is because I have to! I’d write if I was shut in an attic at the top of a dark castle –  but I also want to be read. I don’t just write for myself. I want someone out there to read what I’ve written, to see what I’ve seen in my mind, to experience what I felt, to be immersed in another world and other lives…

F Scott Fitzgerald wrote,

‘You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.’

I believe I have something to say. And I want to share it.

Stephen King said,

‘Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends.’

But actually I do want all those things! More than anything else though, I agree with him when he wrote,

‘[Writing is] about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting happy.’

And in the end, that’s true. I write to make myself happy.


The full answer to this question has been recorded by the Royal Literary Fund and will be available shortly. In the meantime, I’ve recorded other podcasts for the RLF, and there are many, many wonderful writers you might like to listen to via iTunes or their website.


Why do you write? Or if you don’t, why not?!

How adoption can be a force for good

How adoption can be a force for good

‘Shall I tell you the story of you?’ I say, hugging my knees to my chest and wishing my daughter would let me cuddle her.

She nods, barely perceptibly.

‘A long time ago, before you were even a twinkle in anybody’s eye, your daddy and I really, really wanted a baby girl. We tried and tried to have a baby but we just couldn’t.’

The more I tell this tale, like a fairy story instead of an offering from the Brothers Grimm, the easier it gets.

‘Then we met a kind young woman who was pregnant with a baby girl and she said we could have her baby because we didn’t have one of our own. And so we waited and waited, and you grew bigger and bigger inside her and, one day, we got a phone call to say that you were ready to come out. So we rushed to the hospital—’

This is Zoe, the mother in my thriller, THE STOLEN CHILD, telling her adopted daughter, Evie, where she came from.

Adoption throws up so many difficult and complex issues: the child may experience a sense of loss, and a confusion about who they are and how they fit into their new family. The may feel a dislocation between their own identity and the adopted family’s culture, class and race. But adoption can be  positive – about giving hope and love to a child.

‘Evie is our beautiful, dark-haired, green-eyed child,’ I say. I can hear the tremor in my voice. ‘Like many seven-year-old girls, she’s obsessed with princesses. We think she looks more like a fairy. She loves Lego and painting…Please find her. Please bring her back to us. We miss her beyond measure. She is the love of our life.’

These Ted talks on adoption have been collated by the charity Adopt Together.

But what really inspired and moved me was this Ted talk by Christopher Ategeka, who was originally from Uganda. His parents died when he was young and he grew up in excruciating poverty, before he was put in an orphanage and eventually adopted by an American family. He says,

‘These strangers showed me true love. These strangers showed me that I mattered, that my dreams mattered.’

He went on to get two degrees in engineering. As he says, ‘Talent is universal, but opportunity isn’t.’

He ends his talk with words that I hope will resonate with all of us:

‘We may not be able to solve the bigotry and the racism of this world today, but certainly we can raise children to create a positive, inclusive, connected world full of empathy, love and compassion.’


Adoption Stories

Adoption Stories


I think about the story I always tell her – of the kind lady who gave her to us. I suppose that must be how she imagines her father – as a kind man who gave her away too, as if she were a gift. Only now he wants her back.

Evie, the little girl in my thriller, The Stolen Child, was adopted at birth. At seven years old, she suddenly realises that she looks different from the rest of her family and starts questioning what it means to be adopted. In the UK, around 3,000 children are adopted each year, but the number adopted at birth is low (around 60) and the number in care is much higher.

The Stolen Child is about whether nurture or nature is more important, and what adoption means for a child’s sense of self, their identity, their place in the world and how much they believe they are loved.

The Adoption, a Radio 4 podcast, charts the real life story of two children taken into care. There are no dramatic twists and turns, just everyday heartbreak in what is, sadly, not a unique tale.


Do let me know if you have a story you’d like to share about adoption.



Children in Crime Fiction

Children in Crime Fiction

I’m heading up to Granite noir, a crime fiction festival in Aberdeen in one month. I’m going to be talking about children caught up in crime fiction with two incredible psychological thriller writers, Mel McGrath, author of Give Me the Child, and Colette McBeth, who’ll be talking about An Act of Silence.

All of our books feature a mother as the central character and their child, who is in peril. There is nothing our characters would not do to protect their child – although in Mel and Colette’s stories, the situation is more complex. Linda, the protagonist in An Act of Silence, has an adult son whom she has never truly trusted: will she believe him now, when he’s been accused of murder?

As for me, my character, Zoe, in The Stolen Child, would go to the ends of the earth for her daughter, Evie – if she knew where to find her. Arguably, Zoe inadvertently put her daughter in danger by falling for another man, an artist called Haris, who is darkly fascinating. This goes to the heart of what it takes to be a good mother: you obviously need to love and care for your child or children, but to do so well, you need to be happy too.

Where do we draw the line between our needs and those of our family?



Book recommendations to beat the January Blues

Book recommendations to beat the January Blues


Struggling with winter blues and dry January? Me too. I’ve got some book recommendations: curl up on the sofa, wrap yourself in a cosy blanket and read one of these with a hot mug of chai. Happy 2018 and here’s to more reading!

And if you like the sound of these, do sign up to my Book Club for more suggestions and advanced news about my forthcoming thriller.


 The Dry by Jane Harper

Flies swarmed as the blood pooled black over tiles and carpet. A child’s scooter lay abandoned on the stepping stone path. Just one human heart beat within a kilometre radius of the farm.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to his hometown of Kiewarra for the funeral of his best friend. Luke Hadler is thought to have committed suicide after murdering his wife and six-year-old son. Australia is in the grip of the worst drought for a century and the town is like a powder keg: it hasn’t rained for two years and tensions are running high. Aaron Falk is unwillingly drawn into the investigation, but Falk may not be as innocent as he looks, for he and Luke share a twenty-year old secret. You can feel the crackle of the heat from the pages in this blisteringly well-told tale.


The Girls by Emma Cline

I looked up because of the laughter, and kept looking because of the girls.

It’s 1969, California. Evie Boyd, the daughter of a wealthy woman going through a turgid divorce, is fourteen, sad, lonely and unloved. When Evie sees the girls in the park and, at their centre, Suzanne, black-haired and beautiful, she’s drawn to them, desperate for affection. She follows them back to the decaying ranch and their cult, led by the charismatic and amoral Russell. The consequences will be savage and haunt Evie for the rest of her life. The prose is achingly poetic; The Girls is based on the serial killer, Charles Manson; at its heart it’s about young women’s desire for love and acceptance and how the response can often be casual and cruel abuse from men.

(Thanks to my sister, Sheila Fox, for recommending this one).

Behind her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

The past is as ephemeral as the future – it’s all perspective and smoke and mirrors. You can’t pin it down, can you?… The truth is different to different people

Louise is a single mother and a secretary at an upmarket clinic for drug addicts. On a night out she meets and falls for David – who turns out to be her new boss. Life becomes even more complicated when she is befriended by his beautiful, but seemingly fragile wife, Adele. This is a story told by two potentially unreliable narrators, Adele and Louise, and at face value, is about the secrets husbands and wives keep from each other… Although it’s relatively slow-paced, I enjoyed the glimpse into a life far more opulent than my own, and one (with too much wine and too little sleep) closer to mine. There is a double plot turn at the end: one is reasonably easy to guess by the time you get there; the other is a humdinger, knock-your-socks-off twist.  If you listen to it, as I did, it’s brilliantly narrated by Anna Bentinck, Josie Dunn, Bea Holland and Huw Parmenter.

Competition to win a copy of My Mother’s Secret

Competition to win a copy of My Mother’s Secret


I’m giving away a super advanced copy of my next thriller, My Mother’s Secret! To enter the competition, please take a photo of my last thriller, The Stolen Child. The best photo wins the prize!

Please post on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and tag me so I can see your photo. Any edition of The Stolen Child is good! The competition ends on 4 February.

Good luck!

Christmas Book Recommendations

Christmas Book Recommendations


My ideal winter holiday involves long walks when the sky is a crisp blue, returning to a roaring fire, for a glass or two of prosecco and a good book. Here are my suggestions for what might make a good holiday read, and what I’m planning to read over Christmas.


Do Less, Get More by Sháá Wasmund

You can do anything…but you can’t do everything. At least, not at the same time.

My sister, Sheila, put me onto this book. She runs a company with her husband, and looks after three girls, so she knows a thing or two about time management. This is an excellent book, with down-to-earth tips that really work, helping you figure out how to prune, prioritise, focus, let go of perfection and do more of what you’re passionate about.


How Not to be a Boy by Robert Webb


Don’t Cry; Love Sport; Play Rough; Drink Beer; Don’t Talk About Feelings 

I’ve recommended this before, but it’s so good and would make a fantastic present for any men in your life. Both a memoir and an analysis of masculinity, the essential argument at its core is that boys are taught not to express emotions apart from socially-acceptable ones for men, such as anger. After years of learning to suppress emotions, many men are unable to detect or even label what emotion it is that they’re feeling. This book made me cry and laugh, sometimes at the same time.

Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan

Sometimes it’s hard not to let other people’s misery seep into your own bones.

Like me, Gilly lives in and loves Bristol, where we have set some of our novels. This is a welcome return for DI Jim Clemo and has a grittier, broader feel than her previous thrillers. The story hinges on a friendship between two boys: privileged but terminally-ill Noah Sadler, and Abdi Mahad, a second-generation Somali who has won a scholarship to one of Bristol’s prestigious private schools. After an incident in which one child fell into the canal behind Temple Meads station, one boy cannot speak and the other one won’t. Will DI Clemo find out what really happened that night, before the differences in the teenagers’ class and race threaten to upset the already fragile equilibrium in the city?

Give Me the Child by Mel McGrath

For all the advances we’ve made in understanding the human brain, there’s still no scan for the human soul.

Dr Cat Lupo, child psychologist, is woken when police bring a girl to the house she shares with her daughter, Freya, and husband Tom. Ruby Winters, who is the same age as Freya, turns out to be Tom’s illegitimate daughter, and Ruby’s mother, Lily, has just died. Cat’s work with children showing psychopathic tendencies, and her own pre-pregnancy psychotic episode, make for uncomfortable connections to her new-found situation. Set against the backdrop of a heatwave in London and race riots in Brixton, this is a tense, claustrophobic novel; for fans of Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty.


Over the Christmas holidays, I’m hoping to read thrillers, The Dry by Jane Harper, An Act of
Silence by Colette McBeth and I’ve pre-ordered The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn. I’d like to re-read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and on my Christmas wish list is Ballerina Body by Misty Copeland (like I said, on my wish list!).


What are you hoping to read over the holidays?



Win an audio version of The Stolen Child for Christmas!

Win an audio version of The Stolen Child for Christmas!

I love audiobooks. I get them from Audible and I normally listen to them while I’m washing up, doing exercises with weights, or on long car journeys.
Audible have created an audio version of The Stolen Child. To celebrate, I’m going to give five copies away.
Please like and comment on the relevant post on my Facebook page. The give-away will end on 17 December, just in time for Christmas!
What do you like listening to best?

Win a free copy of The Stolen Child for Christmas!

Win a free copy of The Stolen Child for Christmas!


Only three weeks to go until Christmas! To celebrate, I’m giving away four signed copies of The Stolen Child – one on my Instagram account, and three from my Facebook page. All you need to do is like and comment on the relevant post. Then, in a week’s time, I’ll pick the winners at random. (If you live outside the UK, I’ll send you an ebook instead).

Good luck!







Sanjida Kay talks to Holly Seddon about The Stolen Child

Sanjida Kay talks to Holly Seddon about The Stolen Child

I’m delighted to welcome fellow Corvus Books author,  Holly Seddon, to my website for a Q&A with me. She’s the author of Try not to Breathe and Don’t Close Your Eyes, and has asked me some wonderful questions. Over to Holly:


HS: Firstly, I have to say upfront that I loved this book. I had been a little nervous

going into it. I used to work for an adoption charity and I’m always very sensitive to how adoption is portrayed. It was a huge relief that I could see straight away how sensitively you had handled the subject, and also how rigorous your research must havebeen.

I also loved your depiction of the constant small battles that make up a day with small children, it was pitch perfect. The drip-drip-drip felt so real I nearly cried!


HS: The Stolen Child takes place largely in Ilkey, Yorkshire. The wild moors were the perfect backdrop – and witness – to the drama that unfolds. I know you’re a fan of Emily Bronte but do you have other links with Yorkshire as well? 

SK: Thank you for your kind words, Holly! I loved your second thriller, Don’t Close Your Eyes, (which is out now,  people!). I love the Brontës, especially Wuthering Heights. From the age of eight I lived on either side of Ilkley Moor, where The Stolen Child is set. I spent my childhood rambling across the moor, often by myself, so I grew to know it pretty well. Now every time I go back to Ilkley, I have to run across the moor, and then I really feel like I’m back home!



HS: You’d obviously researched the realties of modern adoption very thoroughly, how much did your findings surprise you?

SK: As well as reading about adoption, I spoke to one of my friends who’s just adopted a little girl, and I also interviewed an adoption lawyer, who very kindly did some considerable fact-finding on my behalf. What I was most surprised about is that thankfully fewer children are given up for adoption now than in the past, because because there’s less of a stigma against having a baby without being married. Unfortunately, it means that many of the children who are adopted in this country could have been damaged in some way because of addiction or abuse in their biological family.

HS:. Zoe’s challenge to switch between artist and mum, to cram creativity into boxes of time really resonated. Did that come from personal experience? 

SK: I think most parents can empathise with trying to balance life, work and being responsible for little people! It’s like – they’re at school/nursery/with Granny/the childminder – GO!!! But I interviewed an artist, Elaine Jones, who has two small children, to find out how she manages to be a mum and a successful painter. I still don’t understand how she does it!

HS:. Do you paint? The references to products and equipment can be researched of course but the understanding of the process of drawing and painting, the sense for the colours and movement, was so authentic I decided you must be a master painter! 

SK:That’s so kind of you to say so. I used to paint when I was young, but I don’t have time now (see the life/work/parent problem!). I take photographs, as it’s quicker and you can do it on the go, and I go to art galleries when I can. I interviewed Elaine Jones, an artist who’s work I love (and I’m fortunate enough to own two of her fantastic pictures) to try and get a tiny insight into what it’s like to be a painter.

HS: Without giving anything away, the ending pulled the rug from under me! Did you know the ‘twist’ before you started writing? 

SK: That’s good! I hope it surprises other readers too. I did always know what the twist was going to be, but right at the start, when my idea could have fitted on a postcard, I had a brilliant brainstorming session with Sarah Hilary, author of the Detective Marnie Rome series. She gave me the confidence to think of some other twists along the way too.

HS: Bone by Bone and The Stolen Child are set in Bristol and Ilkley, very different places but you show the wildness of both. Is wildlife and especially the countryside important to you? 

SK: I’m obsessed with wildlife and nature! I studied zoology at university and I’m fascinated by animal behaviour and evolution. I try and go hiking as often as I can in proper wild places (well, wild but with a pub at the end of the walk!). In fact, my next novel, My Mother’s Secret, is partly set in the Lake District near Scafell Pike. It’s being printed as we speak!

HS: Is there anywhere in the world that you’d love to set a novel? 

SK: I’d love to set a novel in New Orleans. It seems like such a vibrant mixture of Gothic voodoo, African history, blues music, urban grittiness and swampy bayou, old school charm and grim brutality. I love films like Angel Heart and the first True Detective series, and, of course, New Orleans has an eclectic literary heritage, from James Lee Burke, Anne Rice, Tennessee Williams, Kate Chopin to Poppy Zee Brite. Okay, maybe I’d better call the US tourist board?!

Thank you, Holly, lovely talking to you!






The TV & film rights to The Stolen Child have sold!

The TV & film rights to The Stolen Child have sold!


I’m delighted to announce that Keshet UK have bought the TV and film rights to The Stolen Child. Keshet International are the company behind Prisoners of War, which became Homeland. I loved this series – it’s gripping, intelligent, controversial and current – and if anyone has read The Stolen Child already and is a fan of Homeland, I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s a fantastic fit.

Producer, Catriona McKenzie, says, ‘Sanjida is a brilliant storyteller and this is an exceptionally compelling work. (If I had all the time in the world, I’d have read it cover to cover in one sitting – and was intensely frustrated every time I had to put it down!) In addition to that, I love Sanjida’s characterisation – the dynamics within the marriage, the question of how we relate to our children, the politics of the school yard and the wider community are all really well observed, and instantly recognisable. The setting is fantastic too.’


Keshet have already hired a writer to turn The Stolen Child into a screenplay. Suhayla El-Bushra is currently working on The Arabian Nights for the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh and a screenplay for Film4.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Who do you think should star in a film of The Stolen Child?




Five writing tips from four literary events

Five writing tips from four literary events

I’ve just come back from being on panels at three literary festivals and talking to authors published by Silverwood Books. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind mini tour, juggling childcare (Asian Literary Festival combined with dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum), meeting old friends (my chemistry teacher at the Ilkley Literature Festival) and logistics (candles, camping chairs, no toilets!) at Bristol Festival of Literature where I was reading from my thrillers in a cave beneath the city centre!

I thought I’d share with you the five writing tips that I shared with my fellow writers at these events.


1. Never give up!  Remember the story about Enid Blyton papering her study walls with rejection letters? It is HARD to get a novel published. It takes determination, perseverance, humility, self-belief and stamina, as well as a hefty dose of luck. Just keep going!

2. Keep going. If you do get a novel published – celebrate for all you’re worth – but don’t think that just because you’re a Published Author, it’s always going to be easy, straight-forward and lead to repeated book deals, champagne at publisher’s parties and that MGM will be beating a path to your door. Each book has to be as good if not better than the one before.

3. Have empathy. For yourself and your long-suffering family, of course, but mainly for your characters, and especially your villain. No one (well, almost no one) thinks they’re doing the wrong thing. We can all justify most of our actions most of the time. So get in your characters’ heads and see the world as they see it, particularly the person who is the antagonist in your plot.

4. Write. Preferably every day. You know those people who tell you they’ve got a novel inside them? Uh huh. I’ve got a violin concerto inside me. I’ve never picked up a violin, but I know it’s in there. Practise. You need at least 10,000 words under your belt before some of them are any good. Remember those overnight successes you read about? Most of them took a decade to be an overnight success.

5. Publicise yourself. Even if you have a book deal with a major, mainstream publisher, your editor will still expect you to do some publicity. Writers are often introverts so if you don’t like, you know, reading your work out loud to complete strangers, networking in bars where you know no one, or shouting about how great you are, do what you can in whatever form is most comfortable for you. Don’t want to organise a book launch? Have a Facebook one instead.

Bonus tip: Keep learning. Talk to other writers, join a writer’s group, do an online masterclass, read books about your craft and read. Just read. Anything and everything.

I love this Tedx Talk by Nathan Filer: How to write an award-winning best-selling first novel (in seven easy steps).








Bone by Bone begins…

Bone by Bone begins…

My first thriller, Bone by Bone, begins on 26 October…


It wasn’t until the train went past that she saw the small body lying in the long grass by the side of the wood.

She couldn’t tell how long she’d been searching for her daughter. It was dusk, but it had seemed darker as she ran through the wood, tripping on hooked tree roots, her feet crunching through crisp, curled ash leaves….





…and ends on 9 November. To celebrate, I’m giving away a copy of Bone by Bone. To enter, please head over to my Facebook page and like and comment on the post about the competition.


Good luck!