Good morning, readers! Today marks the release of Sarah Hilary's US debut, Someone Else's Skin, the first in her Marnie Rome series. This one popped up on my reading radar this spring and I've been greatly anticipating the release ever since!
Today I've got Sarah Hilary herself on the blog and, thanks to the publisher, a copy of Someone Else's Skin to giveaway. First, though, a bit about the book from Goodreads:
Five years ago, a shocking and bloody crime left Detective Inspector Marnie Rome’s parents dead. Not even her partner, Detective Sergeant Noah Jake, knows much about Marnie’s past. Though as one of the few gay officers on the force, Noah’s not one to over-share about his private life either.
By chance, Marnie and Noah are at the domestic violence shelter when Hope Proctor stabs her husband, Leo. It should be an open and shut case of self-defense, but none of the eight witnesses tells quite the same story. And the question remains: How did Leo get into the secure building? As the violence spirals, Marnie finds herself drawn into a place where the past casts long shadows and she must tread carefully to survive.
I expect you see now why I've been looking forward to this one! Be sure to read through to the bottom to enter to win your very own copy. And now I'll hand things over to Sarah Hilary as she talks about what drew her to the thriller genre:
What drew me to the mystery/thriller genre? When I was about ten years old, someone introduced me to Sherlock Holmes. Those stories became my first real reading obsession, and while much of that is down to Holmes’s character, it’s also about the structure of the stories.
Anarchy and order
I love the complexity and the neatness of the genre, the way it sets up expectations and then perverts them. Even when order is restored, at its best, I think this is a very anarchic genre.
That’s certainly true of some of my favourite crime reads. Innocent Blood by PD James, for example, which plays with our moral and emotional pre-conceptions. The Collector by John Fowles is another brilliant example, and structurally very different to most novels. Two of my favourite books are The Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, who was one of the first contemporary crime writers to tackle serial killing at a psychological level.
I’m also a big fan of flash fiction, or what is sometimes called micro crime fiction. I love the discipline and the wickedness: telling a story in the time it takes to smoke a cigarette; it shouldn’t work, but it absolutely can and does. Like longer crime fiction, flash takes us straight to the detail of the story. Think of those long zoom shots at the start of Hitchcock’s films – the cityscape, the street, the building, the room, the desk, the knife… Now jump-cut to the knife. But – and here’s the trick – you have to do it without losing the story. You need to be a bit of a magician to pull it off. Maybe that’s why I love the TV series The Mentalist so much.
Compassion is crucial
I’ve been asked why I picked such a difficult genre to write in, given the need for this discipline of plotting, twists, magic tricks. Oh and bloodymindedness, and more than a dash of defiance. But a writer’s ego is a strange beast – you have to lose almost all the arrogance you start out with, but not so much that you give up on the (crazy, mad, impossible) dream that you will be published. The iron has to enter your soul, but not at the expense of your imagination. And a mystery/thriller writer needs compassion, especially if you’re tackling complex and dark issues as I am in Someone Else's Skin: violence within culture, race, gender and sexual preference. You must never lose sight of the heart of your story.
Plot comes from character
I’ve always found characterization easier than plotting, but plenty of readers have remarked on the great way in which Someone Else's Skin juggles three different multi-layered plots. Well, I have to admit I didn’t structure the first draft in that way. It developed into the multi-layered plot as I added the detail. I’ve found this is the way I write best: I add layers once I have the spine of the story in place. I also think plot comes from character, not the other way around. Characterization is something else that the mystery/thriller genre does so well.
We remember Sherlock Holmes, even when the details of the plots have faded from memory. The same is true, I’m sure, for Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling. The genre has given us some of literature’s best villains and heroes; another great reason to love it.
About the author: Sarah Hilary lives in Bath, England, with her husband and daughter, where she writes quirky copy for a well-loved travel publisher. She’s also worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. An award-winning short-story writer, she won the Cheshire Prize for Literature in 2012. SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN is her first novel. Visit her at https://www.facebook.com/Sarah.Hilary.Author
Huge, huge thanks to Sarah Hilary for being here today and also to the great folks over at Penguin for setting this up.
Now for the giveaway: to enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, July 7. US only please and no PO boxes. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway