Sarah Hilary has worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. Her debut novel, SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN, won the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year 2015. It was the Observer’s Book of the Month (“superbly disturbing”), a Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller, and has been published worldwide. Follow Sarah on Twitter at @Sarah_Hilary
Firstly, congratulations on the incredible success of your Marnie Rome series and the new book Quieter Than Killing which is book 4 in the series. Can you tell us more about the book and the series?
Thank you! Yes, it’s amazing to think the series is up to book 4 already. (In fact, I’ve just started book 5.) The series follows Marnie (who is a detective inspector with the Met Police in London) and Noah (her detective sergeant) on cases that range from domestic violence to abduction and murder. Marnie is also struggling to solve the mystery of why her foster brother, Stephen, murdered her parents six years ago, when he was fourteen. In Quieter Than Killing, we come a lot closer to finding out what happened, as a string of vigilante attacks takes a very personal turn for Marnie and Stephen.
I know that you are a huge supporter of my facebook Book Club – TBC (THE Book Club) and one of the sillier games we play on TBC is “In My Pants” where we have to put the words “in my pants” on the end of the book title and forgive my cynicism, but do you deliberately give your books titles especially for our game as Someone Else’s Skin, No Other Darkness, Tastes Like Fear and now Quieter Than Killing .. hmmmm.. what’s the next book title?
I am indeed a huge supporter of TBC, notleast because it does my favourite thing in the world which is to bring readers and writers closer together. The genius of ‘In My Pants’ is that so many book titles seem to fit seamlessly … Just glancing at my bookshelves, I spy: If I Should Die in My Pants; Joy in the Morning in My Pants’ and Dangerous Thoughts in My Pants. I don’t yet have a title for book five, but I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t fit In My Pants.
You are part of the brilliant Killer Women team along with Tammy Cohen, Alex Marwood, Colette McBeth, Erin Kelly, Jane Casey, Kate Medina, Kate Rhodes, Melanie McGrath and lots more kick-ass women, who would you like to kill if you could get away with it?
Killer Women are brilliant, aren’t they? I’m chuffed to bits to be a part of the team. As for my Top Secret Hit List, I’d tell you but then I’d have to kill you.
Would you consider writing a standalone book in a different genre and if so, what?
I’d love to write a ghost story, in fact I have a great idea for one. I’m not sure about other genres. Would you believe me if I told you that I wrote romantic stories when I was a school-girl? But from an early age, nearly all of my stories involved spies and bloodshed. My little brother at the age of six, having just listened to one of my Sherlock Holmes story, begged, ‘I don’t want to hear any more of your bloody stories.’ Everyone’s a critic. In 2017, undeterred, I hope to be writing a standalone psychological thriller as well as Marnie Rome book 5.
According to your website you will happily appear on panels at crime festivals, on the radio, bookshops, libraries and anywhere else that will have you. Do you have a “rider” (requests or demands when you attend)?
No, but wouldn’t that be great? I could be the crime writer version of Mariah Carey. I’d demand 100 carrion crows, five dozen black roses, a bucket of blood (or maybe just gin) … Didn’t Kanye West once insist on his floor carpet being ironed because it was lumpy? I’d do the same, except my lumpy carpet would be caused by all the dead bodies under there.
Someone Else’s Skin won the 2015 Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year – what did that mean to you and where is your trophy kept?
It was a tremendously exciting night. I was just so honoured to be on the shortlist with so many of my writing heroes, not least the stupendous Belinda Bauer. Winning was gobsmacking – I actually used that word to a journalist and they printed it in the Guardian, thus proving what an erudite and articulate individual I am. Seriously, though, it meant the world to win such a big award for my debut. The trophy is an oak barrel with a working tap. Belinda Bauer keeps rum in hers, but I’ve still not got around to filling mine. It’s on my best bookshelf, currently wearing Christmas decorations.
You read so many books yourself and have a great blog, any standout books you can recommend for next year?
2017 is going to be another ACE year for books. I was blown away Ali Land’s debut, Good Me, Bad Me. Sirens by Joseph Knox is the start of a great new police series set in Manchester. The Roanoke Girls is dangerously readable, a Flowers in the Attic for a new generation. If you’ve not already devoured Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant then it’s in the Richard & Judy Spring Bookclub for your delectation. Plus new ones from my favourite authors – Spook Street by Mick Herron, Watch Her Disappear by Eva Dolan … Of these, I think Eva’s wins the ‘In My Pants’ award, although Sabine’s is a close second.
Who is your current celebrity crush and who was your guilty celebrity crush growing up?
I do love your questions … Currently, I have the biggest crush on Ben Daniels in The Exorcist, but I’m also a nuisance to Hugh Laurie after The Night Manager, and will be girl-crushing like crazy over Sofia Helin when The Bridge returns next year. As a teenager, I embarrassed myself quite badly over Adam Ant (but Mark Edwards backs me up on that one) and Paul Darrow as Avon in Blake’s 7. Having discovered loads of Blake’s 7 fans amongst crime writers, I feel vindicated now. I was one of only a handful who knew the answer to Mark Billingham and Val McDermid’s surprise Blake’s 7 question at the Harrogate Quiz last summer (my team won the trophy, so yay for childhood crushes).
Earlier this year you introduced me to MJ Arlidge at Goldsboro Books (swoon *fangirl moment) and you seem to know EVERYONE in publishing, have you had a fangirl moment meeting someone famous?
All the time. I once stood next to Jon Pertwee at the bus stop at the top of Piccadilly for a full six minutes and couldn’t pluck up the courage to say Hello. Traditionally, I embarrass myself in situations like this, occasionally even forgetting my own name when attempting to introduce myself. I’m much better on Twitter, where I can happily chat with Ben Daniels for hours, as long as Rowan Coleman joins in.
Finally, the most important question are you a good swimmer and can you do the Butterfly Stroke?
I *am* a good swimmer. I have very strong legs. But I cannot do the Butterfly Stroke.