Sarah Hilary wrote one of the best crime novels I have read this year, Someone Else’s Skin, and created a kick-ass female character, DI Marnie Rome. In between such awersomeness, she had time to answer some of my questions. Enjoy!
Q. Someone Else’s Skin is your debut novel. Why did you start writing crime fiction?
A. I’d always read crime and a good friend (good enough to get away with pointing out what a very dark mind I have) said I should be writing it. It took me a long time to get to grips with the demand of the genre, but now I feel at home here.
Q. Marnie Rome is an amazing main character. I love how complex she is! I also noticed she has some of your features (e.g. migraines). So, how did she come to life?
A. Thank you, yes I love Marnie’s complexity too. She’s giving up her secrets very slowly, which is perfect since I’m writing a series. She walked into a scene I was writing in another story and she surprised me, which is exactly what I want from a character. I’m not at all like her, although a tiny part of me wishes I had her courage.
Q. Someone Else’s Skin explores some of nowadays’ most important problems, from domestic violence to hate crimes. Did they fit naturally in your narrative or did you want to specifically tackle those social problems?
A. I didn’t set out to write about issues, but since I set the story in a women’s refuge it was inevitable that some of the problems which drove the women there would emerge from their stories. It’s always the characters, though, rather than the problems that drive the story for me.
Q. I saw on Twitter your updates about the second Marnie Rome novel. What is your creative process?
A. Prowling libraries; I become very restless when I’m starting something new, searching for the spark of a story. Then I start scribbling in notebooks, lists of questions mainly and lists of twists. When the time’s right, I sit down and work hard: a minimum word count every day until I’ve done a first (thin, fast) draft which I’ll layer over time. One thing I discovered when working on the second draft of book two was how much time I need to let the story live and breathe in my head; sometimes you have to step away from the keyboard and just think. Walking helps enormously, too.
Q. You worked as a bookseller before becoming a writer. Any crime fiction novels that you’d recommend (present or past, doesn’t matter!)?
A. Stacks! For starters, the Patricia Highsmith books (not just the Ripley ones). The Collector by John Fowles, and Innocent Blood by PD James. More recently, the Adamsberg series by Fred Vargas. And The Wicked Girls, and The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood.