travelling to CrimeFest in the UK earlier this year gave me a brilliant opportunity to meet some of the authors whose blogs I’d been following, and who I’d only known previously through social media.
Sarah Ward is one of those authors. Gracious with her time, enthusiastic about the genre, and a huge supporter of fellow writers and bloggers, it gives me great pleasure to welcome her here to the blog this week to talk about her 2015 novel, In Bitter Chill, as well as imminent release, A Deadly Thaw.
Let’s go back for a moment and talk about your first book, In Bitter Chill. What inspired the story, and why does Rachel Jones decide after so many years to find out what happened to her friend?
The story was inspired by a real life incident that happened to me as a child in the 1970s when I was walking to school. A woman drove up in her car and asked me to post a letter for her. After I’d done so (being an obedient child) she then tried to get me in her car. The incident left an impression on me first of all because it was a woman who tried to abduct me but also because I never told anyone what had happened. The sense of shame and that you’ve somehow brought this on yourself can be devastating to a child. I used this experience to consider what might have happened if I had got into the car with a friend and then only one of us survives the experience.
There are multiple points of view, particularly police characters, in In Bitter Chill. What drove this decision, and was it something you set out to do on purpose?
There are multiple viewpoints but to ensure that it isn’t confusing for the reader the book is structured between chapters from Rachel Jones point of view (the girl who was kidnapped and is now an adult) and the police investigation into the killing of a woman who was a teacher at the girls’ school. I wanted to write about a police investigation but I also wanted the victim’s voice to be heard as a functioning adult. The idea that you can overcome past experiences.
You’ve been an avid reader and blogger of crime fiction for a number of years now, as well as being a respected contributor to many crime fiction articles – when did you feel the need to write your own crime novel, and why?
I become a blogger because I was such an avid reader of crime fiction and I started writing when I turned 40 for the same reason.
I was living in Athens, Greece and I thought ‘it’s now or never’ so I gave it a go. My website, Crimepieces, has only changed slightly to accommodate information about my books.
I still review the crime fiction that I read and I love reading as much as writing
So, we both started out reading the Famous Five as kids – how did your love of crime fiction evolve from there? Were you influenced by your friends’ and family’s tastes in reading?
I’ve never been particularly influenced by other people’s reading tastes. Like most other keen readers, it was mother who started off my love of books by reading stories to me. Then as soon as I could read, I was choosing my own books mainly from the school and local library. From the Famous Five and Secret Seven books I moved onto Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew series, then Agatha Christie and the golden age writers. In my twenties it was a mixture of British crime fiction (Ruth Rendell and PD James in particular) and the American PI books of Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller and Sara Paretsky.
What’s the attraction to Scandinavian crime thrillers all about? How does it differ to British crime from a reader’s perspective?
Henning Mankell was my first Scandinavian crime fiction love. His books were so well constructed and with such a strong sense of place, I was hooked. It made me want to explore other books in the genre and I moved onto Jo Nesbo, Arnaldur Indridason and Yrsa Sigurdardottir. In terms of differing from British crime fiction, I find the Scandis slightly more inclined to address political issues in their crime novels and, also, the influence of landscape is very strong. I don’t want to overstate the case though. There’s a lot of crossover between British and Scandi crime.
You presented the Petrona Award at the CrimeFest gala dinner in May this year – can you tell us more about how that award was established, and what it’s for?
The award was established in memory of a blogger, Maxine Clarke, who loved Nordic Noir and did much to promote it in the UK. It’s now in its fourth year and recognises the best Scandinavian crime novel in translation. This year it was won by Jorn Lier Horst for The Caveman. He’s an excellent writer and I’d highly recommend him.
Finally, protagonist Francis Sadler leads your forthcoming release A Deadly Thaw, which is coming out in September 2016 – can you tell us a bit more about what to expect from your second book?
A Deadly Thaw is about a woman who goes to prison for twelve years for the murder of her husband. When he turns up dead after her release, it’s clear a complex deception has taken place . Who was the man she killed and why did she lie about his identity? It’s a book about secrets and what we’ll do to protect them. It’s part police procedural and part psychological thriller so I hope that readers will enjoy it. It’s set in the beautiful Derbyshire Peak District where I live.
Thanks for being a guest on the blog this week, Sarah – and I look forward to catching up with you again in the UK next year!