Elizabeth Haynes – Ask The Author

Elizabeth Haynes worked for many years as a police analyst. Her debut novel, Into the Darkest Corner, won Amazon’s Book of the Year in 2011 and Amazon’s Rising Star Award for debut novels.

Elizabeth grew up in Sussex and studied English, German and Art History at Leicester University. She is currently taking a career break having worked for the past seven years as a police intelligence analyst. Elizabeth now lives in Kent with her husband and son, and writes in coffee shops and a shed-office which takes up most of the garden. She is a regular participant in, and a Municipal Liaison for, National Novel Writing Month – an annual challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November.

Firstly, as you know I am without doubt the self-appointed No 1 Fan of Into The Darkest Corner, which in my humble opinion is the GREATEST psychological thriller EVER. My question is where did you get the inspiration from to write this and are you surprised at the response you have received from readers/fans/stalker?

Thank you! I never get tired of hearing that.

At the time I wrote Into the Darkest Corner I was working as an intelligence analyst for the police, and my responsibilities included compiling a quarterly report on violent crimes in the borough, which meant I read every single domestic abuse crime report over a period of a couple of years. I had my own preconceptions challenged and whereas once I would have casually said ‘why don’t you just leave?’ when hearing about someone in an abusive relationship, I realised that it’s not that simple. There are layers of reasons why people stay with an abusive partner. I wanted to explore that in writing.

To answer the second part of the question, I’m constantly surprised by people contacting me after they’ve read my books. Just that people who don’t know me take the time to get in touch is a pretty awesome thing.

You are a huge supporter of NaNoWriMo – can you explain to the “muggles” out there what it is and why it means so much to you?

NaNoWriMo (www.nanowrimo.org) is an annual challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November. I’ve taken part every year since 2005 and I think it’s a brilliant way to get the words down. There is no time to worry about quality, you just have to keep writing and as a result you end up with a good chunk of a story you otherwise wouldn’t have had. Of course, you have to do extensive editing after that, which is hard work – but at least the writing itself is fun!

You were a police intelligence analyst – what does that mean and what did you actually do?

Intel analysis is all about using crime data and intelligence to look for patterns in crime and criminal behaviour, with the aim of directing police resources in the most effective manner. There are lots of different jobs, not just in the police but also in the military, and in business, that use these same techniques. As well as looking at patterns in violent crime, I spent time looking at organised criminal groups and county-wide offending such as drug importation and extortion.

In a previous Q&A you did for me on THE Book Club on Facebook we talked about research and you mentioned “figging”. Having quickly looked this up on Wikipedia (OMG) I am reluctant to ask if you have managed to include it yet into any of your books?

I’d forgotten all about that. I haven’t, and to be honest if I couldn’t get it into Never Alone I doubt I’ll manage it with the next book. I’m always uncovering interesting things and never quite getting it into the story.

As a HUGE supporter of new authors and talent – who should we be keeping our beedy eyes out for next year?

Well, I’m glad you asked me. Gilly McAllister’s debut, Everything But The Truth, is coming out in March. That one is a corker. I can also highly recommend Emily Barr’s new YA book, The One Memory of Flora Banks, published in January. Emily is a prolific author across genres (read The Sleeper if you haven’t already) but this is her first YA thriller and it’s brilliant.

Your latest book “Never Alone” which I was lucky enough to read before anyone else has been described as a “grown up Into The Darkest Corner”. Can you tell us more about this book and where your inspiration came from?

A couple of years ago we were looking to move house and as a result I spent many an hour procrastinating on property websites. This particular house caught my eye – a stone farmhouse hunkered down into the side of a hill in North Yorkshire. It had a bathroom with a big rolltop bath right in front of a window with no curtains. I guess if you have no neighbours for miles, having curtains or frosted glass in your bathroom becomes a bit less important. But I found myself imagining someone watching from the darkness of the garden while someone took a bath – and there was the inspiration for the novel.

According to your bio – you write many in coffee shops or your garden shed! What’s your favourite coffee and cake/biscuit?

That’s a very tough question, and it depends on the coffee shop/ tea room concerned. I don’t have a writing shed any more, since we moved to Norfolk last year (not Yorkshire, in the end). I have a proper office with a view of the garden. At home I drink decaf tea by the pint and snack on triple chocolate cookies.

You like to write about really controversial or disturbing subjects (Human Remains, Behind Closed Doors) what is your fascination with creeping people out as I’ve met you twice and you seemed really nice and pleasant and quiet in real life?

It’s not just me, I think crime writers generally are very lovely people. I think we get all the dirt and degradation and despair out on the page and have none left for real life. I’ve tried to write a romcom and it got a bit creepy so I gave up and went back to what I know best.

When I first tracked you down (stalked/harrassed) by email on 26th October 2014 and you actually replied, I admit I may have wet myself a little in excitement and compared you to Elvis – which you found rather amusing (or perculiar), have you had any fangirl moments when you have met someone you have admired from afar?

Yes indeed, without mentioning any names. I once appeared on a panel at a festival directly after one that included an author that I’ve been a fan of for many years. A friend on the panel subtly swapped seats with me so I could sit in the same seat as my favourite author. After that I noticed some doodles that had been done on the paper tablecloth, so I tore the doodles out and kept them. We were on the last panel of the day so I thought I’d get away with it.

What have you got planned for 2017 and if there is a new book can I read it first please?

As such a prolific reader you have a great insight when it comes to new books, so yes please, you’ll get to read it early as your feedback is always valuable.

At the moment I have four unfinished books on the go, so my goal for 2017 is to finish at least one of them. Finishing has never been my strong point!


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