1. Summarise Scared to Death in once sentence:
Everyone is afraid, but some fears can kill you.
2. How long did it take you to write?
Scared to Death took me a year to write. I begin by spending a lot of time just thinking: developing the idea, the story and the characters that are going to inhabit that story. I then spend two or three months fleshing out a very detailed plot and won’t start writing until I know how the whole book will play out. Different novelists write in different ways, but a good crime novel has a very complex plot with multiple set-ups and pay-offs, many false leads and lots of intertwined sub-plots, and I couldn’t imagine writing something so complex without plotting it out first. An intricately carved, twisty-turny story that keeps me guessing until the end is, for me, a critical feature of a great crime novel.
3. What’s your favourite thing about the writing process?
I love virtually everything about the writing process. I love doing a job that gives me the opportunity to be creative, but I also find the plotting process hugely mentally challenging, like trying to fit and enormous, amorphous jigsaw puzzle together. I also really enjoy getting to know my characters and spending time with them. It sounds strange, but often, despite my detailed plot, my characters do or say something that I don’t expect and I then have to run with them. Scared to Death is the second in a crime series featuring twenty-nine year old clinical psychologist Dr Jessie Flynn, and I have grown to love Jessie and her fellow key protagonists, DI Bobby ‘Marilyn’ Simmons and Captain Ben Callan, as have, I hope, my readers.
4. …And your least?
My least favourite part of the writing process is editing my novel based on feedback from my Harper Collins Editor. She is hugely experienced and her wisdom invariably makes the finished novel incomparably better, but I experience a mini-period of mourning each time her feedback arrives. The plots of my novels are complex and if one bit changes, it has repercussions throughout the novel so a simple change, rarely turns out to be simple. When I send my novel off to my publisher, I mentally put it to bed and having it come back again for changes is like one of my children climbing out of bed and disturbing me when I’ve signed off for the day and am having a glass of wine and watching a good TV drama!
5. What’s the last book you read?
The last book I read was ‘Behind her Eyes’ by Sarah Pinborough and I loved it. Its social media hastag is a very appropriate #wtfthatending. Occasionally I read a book that I wish I had written and ‘Behind her Eyes’ is one of those books.
6. What are your desert island reads?
I am an avid crime and thriller reader, which is why I chose to write in that genre. I love well established crime writers such as Jo Nesbo, Steig Larsson, Martina Cole, Peter James and Mo Hayder and newer writers such as Simon Toyne, SK Tremayne and CL Taylor.
I have a degree in Psychology and am very interested in the ‘whys’ of human behaviour, so I also enjoy books that delve into the dark side of people’s psychology, such as the classic ‘Lord of the Flies’, which, although it is set on its own desert island, would definitely have to accompany me to mine.
Relaxing! I am a very restless person and never really ‘do nothing’ unless I’m asleep, and even then, my husband tells me that I constantly wriggle.
8. Favourite word?
Discombobulated. It’s a great word and very onomatopoeic, although I am yet to fit it into one of my novels without its inclusion sounding contrived. One day…
9. Do you listen to music when writing?
One of the reasons I became an author was because I’m quite introverted and love silence, so I never listen to music when I’m writing. I write in an attic room at the top of the house, with the door shut and my two dogs for company. One of them is getting old now and snores when she’s asleep, so I have to resist poking her to wake her up, as her snoring disturbs my writing. I only listen to music when I’m driving on my own and I can sing very loudly without anyone telling me that I sound dreadful – which I do.
10. Dead or alive, who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
I enjoy a good argument, so I’d invite people who had very different views on life to create as much conflict and as many interesting, challenging discussions as possible. I’d invite Maggie Thatcher, because, although she was Marmite in terms of politics, she was fantastically clever, driven, opinionated and successful woman. I’d invite Boris Johnson, because I’d like to know if he is as ludicrous in person as he appears to be on the television. I’d invite Hillary Mantel, as she is such an incredibly clever writer, J K Rowling because her creativity knows no bounds, Peter James because he is a great writer and an incredibly nice person – so he could keep the peace – and Steig Larsson because his crime writing has always inspired me.
I also love to laugh, so I’d have to include at least one comedian. David Walliams is a fellow Harper Collins author and I’ve seen him at Harper events, but never actually talked to him in person, so I would definitely invite him.
I spent five years in the Territorial Army as a Troop Commander in the Royal Engineers, a role that I loved, and I am fascinated and not a little disturbed by the level of conflict the world seems to be experiencing at the moment, so I’d invite General Sir Nicholas Carter, who is Chief of the General Staff (head of the British Army).
Lastly I’d invite Tom Hanks as he is one of the finest actors of his generation, seems like a lovely man and would, I’m sure, have some great stories to tell.