Q&A with author SJI Holliday @SJIHolliday #killerfest15

SJI Holliday Black Wood

Your name:  SJI Holliday

Tell us about yourself: I was born in Edinburgh and now live in London. I work as a statistician for a pharmaceutical company. I got married in a former lunatic asylum. I like walking along the river (well, along the side of it, really.) I’ve always been a massive reader and I get annoyed when I haven’t got enough time to do it as much as I’d like to. I’ve got two sisters and a brother, all younger, and we grew up in a pub. I’ve slept in a cave in New Mexico. I used to sing in a choir. My favourite song is Black by Pearl Jam, and I once chatted to Dermot O’Leary. My favourite chocolate is Galaxy. I love Kevin Bacon.

Tell us about your latest book: Black Wood is a psychological crime thriller set in the claustrophobic small town of Banktoun, featuring a cast of very unreliable characters. There’s a masked man terrorising young girls, and a mysterious face from the past causing havoc. Everyone knows everyone else’s business – or at least, they think they do. Some people have more secrets than others, but what you don’t know can’t hurt you…

When did you start writing? While travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway as part of a round the world trip. I started writing a horror novel in a notepad I’d bought in Japan. I never finished it, but when I returned from my travels, I kept writing. I joined an evening class. I wrote short stories at first, until I eventually finished my first novel.

Where do you write? On the couch or in bed! Rarely at a desk. My day job involves sitting at a desk all day, so even though I’m still at a keyboard, it’s nice to have a more comfortable seat.

Which other authors do you admire? There are so many… I’m going to name Sarah Hilary and Eva Dolan for their beautiful writing. I could name loads of well-known authors, but the ones I admire are the breakthroughs: people like Mark Edwards and Louise Voss, and Mel Sherratt – because they’ve worked hard to get where they are, and they write brilliant books.

Book you wished you’d written? Bird Box by Josh Malerman. It’s not crime, it’s more of a near-future dystopia and it’s very clever. It stayed with me for a long time.

Greatest fictional criminal: Hannibal Lecter. Especially the Anthony Hopkins version. Just brilliant. Fff Fff Fff Fff Fff.

Greatest crime or criminal from the real world: The problem with crime in the real world is that it does actually affect real people, so it’s hard to choose one without being insensitive, but I’d like to say Josef Fritzl – for the sheer audacity of him. That’s true evil.

What scares you? The thought of something bad happening to someone I love.

Are you ever disturbed by your own imagination? Yes, often. But then when you’re constantly coming up with new story ideas, you start to see them as words in a book, not real things… there’s a dark humour amongst crime writers. It’s what keeps us sane.

3 crime books you would recommend to EVERYONE:

Do you listen to music when you write? When writing Black Wood, I listened to a compilation album called Dark Side of the 80s when I was working on the subplot chapters called ‘The Boy’. If you read it, you’ll see how much the darkness of the music had an effect on the writing. I’m a Goth at heart.

Are you on social media? Yes, far too often. It’s an addiction.

How can fans connect with you? You can find me on twitter @SJIHolliday, my facebook page (SJI Holliday) and via the contact page on my website www.sjiholliday.com. I love to hear from readers.

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