I am delighted that ELIZABETH HAYNES is my Author in the Spotlight today for her Blog Tour. Never Alone is being published by Myriad Editions in e-book on 28 July 2016.
Your latest novel Never Alone is a psychological thriller and a return to your ‘writing roots’. You began in this genre, with Into the Darkest Corner, Revenge of the Tide and Human Remains, before embarking on your police procedural series featuring DI Louisa Smith. Why the move back to the psychological thriller genre? And why now?
I haven't abandoned Louisa completely! I wrote the first draft of the next series book in November, so I have the Briarstone team in a holding pattern waiting for their latest case to be revealed.
Never Alone is one of those books that demanded to be written, and I need to vary what I'm writing in order to keep things fresh. The plot is linear which makes a change after the last few books – all the tension is in the setting, the characters, and the weather. It feels claustrophobic as a result, which I found thrilling to write.
Never Alone is described as a ‘gripping thriller that crosses the line between erotica and crime fiction’. How much more ‘sexually graphic’ is this latest novel than your previous ones?
I don't think it's more graphic than my other books. Let's face it, I've written about someone being turned on by decomposition before now; that was pretty grim. I like to think that the sex scenes in Never Alone are less traumatic and perhaps more erotic and sensual than in my previous books. I like writing strong women who are confident about making choices, even when others find those choices difficult to accept. For me, arousal happens in the mind before it becomes a physical response, and let's just say that sexual fulfilment is a subject that one of my characters specialises in… So – it's not more graphic, but there is certainly plenty of it! Brace yourselves.
You’ve covered many dark, chilling and disturbing themes in your books so far. Is anything off limits? Does anything make you uncomfortable? Is there any particular topic that you wouldn’t write about?
I find it very difficult to write about cruelty towards vulnerable people, and animals. I struggle to read books with this as a theme – and bullying, for instance – so I avoid writing them too. It might seem strange that I can write about violence and murder which, of course, is the ultimate cruelty; but there is a definite line that I can't bring myself to cross. Perhaps it's too close to home?
What’s the most interesting place that you have visited when researching one of your novels? And what’s the strangest?
I am slightly sidestepping the question here, but, like many people, I spend a shocking amount of time procrastinating on property websites. A couple of years ago we were considering moving house, and I began joyously and legitimately researching properties around the UK.
One of these properties was a farmhouse in North Yorkshire. It had an open-sided barn, and an outbuilding that had once been a piggery, then a workshop, and had potential to be a single-storey annexe 'ideal for a dependent relative, or as a holiday let'. The house was hunkered down near the summit of a hill, with no near neighbours, and nothing but a few stunted trees to protect it from the wind tearing up the valley.
I found myself wondering what it must be like to live up there all alone in the winter when the snow was falling, and from there it was a short step to imagine Sarah Carpenter, and that someone might be out there in the snow, watching.
I have to say writing Never Alone put me right off big hills; we ended up moving to Norfolk instead. (The house in Yorkshire sold before we had a chance to put ours on the market; perhaps that was for the best.)
You’re a champion of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and have participated for the last 10 years. How do you believe NaNoWriMo benefits you, as an established author rather than an aspiring one?
I still take part in NaNoWriMo every year and I find it very difficult to write at any other time of the year. I'm not sure if it's the deadline, or the exhilaration of writing alongside hundreds of thousands of others, or that it's just terrific fun; there is something magical and joyous about the process. It's not easy, there are invariably moments of doubt and panic, but you have to push through these and it's always worth it in the end.
The weight of expectation that comes with being a published novelist is a bit overwhelming at times. The only way I can get over it is to pretend that nobody's going to read my story; that I'm writing it for my own entertainment, to unravel the mystery and uncover the secrets that I've buried. Of course, what I end up with is not ready to share anyway. After writing at speed I am left with something dishevelled, full of plot tangles and threads that lead nowhere, grubby, a bit raw, and yet beautiful. The rest of the year is spent untangling, ironing and smoothing. That bit is hard work.
Looking back to your teenage years, what advice would you give your younger self?
It's not a good idea to buy that wardrobe on castors for 2p at the end of the Annecy Primary School jumble sale. You will think it's a bright idea to use it to wheel the box of books you've bought the three miles uphill back home, but actually one of the wheels is going to fall off halfway up Southdown Road, and you will have to abandon the books, and the wardrobe, to walk home and alert your mum, and she will be more furious than you can possibly imagine.
But you were right to buy the books.
In 1987, when you're sixteen, a book called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers will be published. Don't wait until you're 28 to read it.
If you were writing a book about your own life, what would the title be?
Felt The Fear For Years: Did it Eventually
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Writing is something done, often, by people in privacy. It's a self-indulgent hobby. Because relatively few authors are traditionally published, it can feel pointless – that publication is something that happens to 'other people' – and this becomes a stumbling block that often stops writers from continuing.
To this I say: write. I'm giving you permission to do it, to take yourself seriously. Write at every opportunity. Don't listen to the voice that tells you it's pointless; shout back that it doesn’t matter, you're going to do it anyway. Write for fun; write because you have a plot that's burning in your heart, because you have characters begging you to tell their story. And finish it! When you've done that, the world of publishing in its many forms opens up before you… if that's what you want.
You can do it. I believe in you.
And lastly, why should people read Never Alone?
It made me scared while I was writing it – surely that's a good sign?
About Elizabeth Haynes
Elizabeth Haynes is a former police intelligence analyst who lives in Norfolk with her husband and son. Her first novel, Into the Darkest Corner, was Amazon’s Best Book of the Year 2011 and is a New York Times bestseller. It has been published in thirty-seven countries. Her second novel, Revenge of the Tide, was published by Myriad in 2012 and her third, Human Remains, was published in 2013. She is also the author of two police procedural crime novels, Under a Silent Moon and Behind Closed Doors (Sphere).
By Elizabeth Haynes
Published by Myriad Editions (28 July 2016)
Sarah Carpenter lives in an isolated farmhouse in North Yorkshire and for the first time, after the death of her husband some years ago and her children, Louis and Kitty, leaving for university, she’s living alone. But she doesn’t consider herself lonely. She has two dogs, a wide network of friends and the support of her best friend, Sophie.
When an old acquaintance, Aiden Beck, needs somewhere to stay for a while, Sarah’s cottage seems ideal; and renewing her relationship with Aiden gives her a reason to smile again. It’s supposed to be temporary, but not everyone is comfortable with the arrangement: her children are wary of his motives, and Will Brewer, an old friend of her son’s, seems to have taken it upon himself to check up on Sarah at every opportunity. Even Sophie has grown remote and distant.
After Sophie disappears, it’s clear she hasn’t been entirely honest with anyone, including Will, who seems more concerned for Sarah’s safety than anyone else. As the weather closes in, events take a dramatic turn and Kitty too goes missing. Suddenly Sarah finds herself in terrible danger, unsure of who she can still trust.
But she isn’t facing this alone; she has Aiden, and Aiden offers the protection that Sarah needs. Doesn’t he?
Read my review here
Follow the Blog Tour