Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sarah Hilary: Emperor Hirohito, Alan Turing, and horror films

Last year Sarah Hilary burst onto the scene with SOMEONE ELSE'S SKIN, which introduced police detective Marnie Rome. Hilary's debut was heaped with critical praise (The Guardian called it "superbly disturbing" and "seriously scary") and was highlighted by the Richard and July Book Club. Just this month it was longlisted for the prestigious Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. Hilary's second crime novel, NO OTHER DARKNESS, was released earlier this year and continues Rome's adventures. Not a bad start to a crime writing career for the former bookseller from Bath, who had previously penned award-winning short stories and "quirky copy for a well-loved travel publisher".

I met Hilary recently at Crimefest in Bristol (such a terrific event - I highly recommend you go if you get the chance in future years), and I'm delighted to share our subsequent interview here with you all today.

So without further ado, here's a true rising star of British crime fiction, staring down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg (in the Fred Vargas books) because he breaks all the rules about what a great detective should be and do. A close second would be Milo Sturgis (Jonathan Kellerman).

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
THESE OLD SHADES by Georgette Heyer, an historical novel about cross-dressing with the most amazing characters and dialogue. I still love it. The first crime novel I loved was A Study in Scarlet; I was writing Sherlock Holmes fan fiction when I was ten, much to the delight of my English teacher.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Several attempted crime novels, and some successful short stories, one of which won the Cheshire Prize for Literature. A shedload of flash fiction, including a 250 word story about Lizzie Borden that won the Fish Criminally Short Histories Prize. A non-fiction piece about the wartime experiences of my grandparents and mother, which was reworked for The Guardian last year, "My Mother was Emperor Hirohito’s Poster Child".

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
Read, gorge on boxed-set DVDs, and go to the cinema (I’ve been watching horror films with my brother since I was 15 and we’re still at it; if that’s not optimism, I’d like to know what is).

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn’t in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
My original hometown is Wilmslow in Cheshire (in the north of England). It’s the place where Alan Turing (Enigma code-cracker) was born and died. So I’d suggest hunting for clues in that quarter.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
I’d love to see Maxine Peake tackle that, although they’d have to spice up the middle years to get the most of her enormous talent.

7. Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
Always the one I’m going to write next. I’ve just finished the first draft of TASTES LIKE FEAR (Marnie Rome book 3) and I’m about to start the rewriters, so that’s currently my favourite. But of course I’m very fond of SOMEONE ELSE'S SKIN which was my first published book and is doing very well for itself.

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
I was at work when my agent called to say she’d had a first offer on SOMEONE ELSE'S SKIN, and that she expected more (it eventually went to an auction). I had to go into a meeting with crazy butterflies fizzing inside me; I don’t think I heard a word of what was being said. When I got home, I called my best friend and we screamed like schoolgirls down the phone to one another.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
There was an event I did with another crime writer in Plymouth last year when only six people turned up. As the event was introduced, two of them realised they’d come into the wrong room, so they stood up and walked out. A further three looked awfully familiar and we realised that they were part of the organising crew, who’d come into the (enormous, embarrassingly empty) lecture theatre to swell the numbers. Still, we had a great chat and it was good fun. It takes more than an empty room to put crime writers off our stride.

Thank you Sarah. We appreciate you chatting with Crime Watch. 


You can read more about Sarah Hilary and her novels here: 


Have you read any of Hilary's Marnie Rome novels? Comments welcome. 

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