Up-Lit to Grip-Lit: Asian Festival of Literature

Up-Lit to Grip-Lit: Asian Festival of Literature

I’m excited about this one! I’m joining fellow writers, Vaseem Khan and AA Dhand, to discuss how to write good crime fiction. As I grew up near Bradford, where AA Dhand lives and where Girl Zero is set, I’m intrigued to hear more, and I hope to pick up tips from both of these brilliant authors. Do join us!

Tickets from The Asian Writer.


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Ilkley Literature Festival

Ilkley Literature Festival

I was at Ilkley Literature Festival last week on a panel chaired by Dawn Cameron (left) and with writer and poet, Carmen Marcus. It was particularly poignant for me as, from the age of eight, I lived  on either side of Ilkley Moor, and The Stolen Child is set in Ilkley.

 

I read a couple of extracts from The Stolen Child and we discussed adoption, the themes of race and class in the book, as well as, of course(!) Wuthering Heights.

 

I’ll be doing a number of events over the next couple of months in Bristol and London if you can join me there! And if you have any writing questions for me, I’ll do my best to answer them!

 

 

 

 

Crime in the Caves

Crime in the Caves

 

Six crime writers. One cave. One breathtaking performance event. Bring a chair, a torch, strong nerves and stronger bladders for an umissable evening of crime in Redcliffe caves.

Do join me for Crime in the Caves as part of Bristol Festival of Literature, with C.L. Taylor, AA Abbott, Cavan Scott & Amy Morse – Authorpreneur

7.30pm Thursday 26 October

Tickets from the Bristol Ticket Shop

 

 

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The Stolen Child is Out Now in Paperback!

The Stolen Child is Out Now in Paperback!

The Stolen Child is out now! I do hope you’ll like it. If you’d like to try it before you buy, you can read the prologue, the first chapter and an extract from the baddie’s point of view for free!

The Stolen Child – Prologue

The Stolen Child – Chapter 1

The Stolen Child – Extract

If you do like it, please post a review on Amazon or Goodreads – even if it’s only a line, it all helps. If you hate it, please scream into your pillow and / or email me. If your feedback is constructive, it will hopefully help me become a better writer!

Thank you! Sanjida x

 

Ilkley Literature Festival

Ilkley Literature Festival

I’m delighted I’m going to be speaking at the Ilkley Literature Festival this year.

I grew up on either side of Ilkley Moor, and my second thriller, The Stolen Child, is set in Ben Rhydding, in Ilkley.

 

 

I’ll be in conversation with fellow author, Carmen Marcus, author of How Saints Die. I do hope you can join us.

It’s on Sunday 8 October at 4.30 pm at St Margaret’s Church, Ilkley. Just enough time for a quick romp across the moor beforehand! Tickets on sale from the box office.

 

 

In Conversation with The Asian Writer

In Conversation with The Asian Writer

‘I like writing and reading about dark subjects…’ Farhana Shaikh interviews me for The Asian Writer

 

 

Q. Where did the inspiration for The Stolen Child come from?

A friend of a friend wanted to adopt a child. She’d heard of a woman who was being forced to give up her baby because the mother was a drug addict. I thought, what if that child was adopted and went to a lovely home, but then the father finds out what has happened and he wants his child back? What lengths would he go to, in order to find the daughter he believed had been stolen from him? Hmm, guess that’s the thriller writer in me, turning what could have been a happy story into something darker!

Q. It’s a credit to your writing that I actually had nightmares reading The Stolen Child. Was it difficult to write?

Thank you and sorry about that! Parts of it were certainly difficult to write, read and edit, particularly what happens to both the children, Ben and Evie. (Or could have happened, I don’t want to give anything away!). Because I found thinking about abducted children so traumatic, I concentrated on the facts when I was doing my research – what would the police do if a child was reported missing? After I’d done the first draft, I did a bit more research into what might happen to a missing child, and that, I feel, has scarred me in some indelible way. But then again, since becoming a mum, I’ve turned into a complete softie.

Q. You wrote about writing from a place of fear for us earlier this year. What draws you to this type of writing?

In real life, I’m a pretty cheerful, optimistic sort of person, honestly! But I like writing and reading about dark subjects. I suppose in a way, for all of us, it’s a form of escapism: There but for the grace of God go I…

Q. I loved the setting of Ilkley Moor. It was haunting and added to the sense of impending danger that never quite leaves you as you read. Did you visit the Moors when writing and why was it your chosen setting for the book?

Thank you! From the age of eight, I grew up living on the edge of Ilkley Moor and it exerted a powerful hold over me. I was captivated by that wilderness – I’d wander over it by myself. Right next to Ilkley, you can find ancient Neolithic sites, such as a stone circle, and stones with strange markings on that could have been used for blood sacrifices, which have, of course, ended up in my novel!

Although I left home when I was 18, I visit frequently, and I’m looking forward to heading back up there for my Ilkley book launch at the Grove Bookshop on the 27 April and then to the Ilkley Literature Festival in October.

Q. Zoe and Harris are both artists and I enjoyed reading about the struggle to be understood as an artist and overcome self-doubt. What research did you do to ensure that their experiences were true to form?

I interviewed Elaine Jones, an artist whose work I love (I’m fortunate enough to own two of her beautiful pictures) to try and get a tiny insight into what it’s like to be a painter. Although I’m not like Zoe, I think most writers and artists of any form, can empathise with wanting to be creative and being crippled by self-doubt.

Q. What personal experiences did you draw from when writing The Stolen Child?

The setting of Ilkley Moor is like another character in the novel, and I used my own personal experience of wandering about the heath to help me write about that wilderness and desolation. As well as being a potentially lethal backdrop, the moor also works itself into Zoe’s paintings, Harris’s sculptures, and into the antagonist’s point of view, because they grew up there and are inspired by its beauty and its savagery.

Q. As Zoe begins to question her relationships and begins to mistrust those closest to her, as readers we also grow increasingly suspicious of each character. Do you think we can ever really trust anyone?

My gut answer is no! I completely trust my husband (if he’s reading this!) but that is the joy and the pain of relationships in life and in fiction: you can’t ever truly know another person.

Q. Did you always know who was ultimately responsible for the kidnapping of Evie or did it come to you as you wrote? How did you keep a handle of all the loose threaders and possible suspects?

I always knew who was going to kidnap Evie and I wanted to make several other characters in the novel suspects. I plotted out the story before I started writing, but aspects of the characters – or how I was going to make them appear more or less suspicious – came to me as I was writing. It’s a fine line, because as I writer I want some characters to be suspicious, but I also need them to be sympathetic, not just for the reader, but to make it believable that Zoe would love or like them.

Q. On a deeper level, you explore this idea that no one is ever really innocent, each character bears some responsibility for the kidnapping. What message were you hoping that readers take away from reading The Stolen Child?

We’re all fallible. We might love our kids, our friends and our family, but we also all make mistakes, and those mistakes have consequences. Fortunately, they’re minor most of the time, but in thrillers, it is all about ‘what if….’ The Stolen Child, though, is really about love, the love that parents have for their children.

Q. Finally, what are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently writing my third Sanjida Kay thriller for Corvus Books. It’s called My Mother’s Secret. It’s about a mother, Emma, and her teenage daughter, Stella. Stella starts to suspect her mum has a secret. When she finds out what is is, it’s much worse than she could ever have imagined… So far I’m finding it really therapeutic to write from the point of view of an angry fourteen year old.

 

 

 

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!