‘In the dock’ with author Sharon Bolton
Once dubbed ‘The Queen of Rural Gothic’, S. J. Bolton is our ninth author to face the barrage of questions in our dock. She is the author of six critically acclaimed novels. She has been shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger for Crime Novel of the Year, the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year and the CWA Dagger in the Library. There’s not much this lady doesn’t know about writing a pulse-pounding, heart-in-your-throat, down-right too scared to stop reading thriller!
Sharon, please tell us about your new book…
Ten year old Barney Roberts knows the killer will strike again soon. He knows that the victim will be another boy, just like him, that his body will be drained of blood and left on a Thames beach. Barney knows the Metropolitan police are getting nowhere in their hunt for the murderer. But maybe they are looking in all the wrong places. Maybe they need to look where Barney is looking, because as one savage death follows another, the killer and his bloody trail are drawing ever closer to Barney himself.
Like This, For Ever is the story of a young boy who believes that the person he loves most in the world might also be the monster from his worst nightmare.
What/who was the inspiration behind Lacey Flint?
I’ve always loved the unreliable narrator and get a real buzz from that moment when I realize I can’t trust what the protagonist of a story is telling me. Done well, it turns the fictional world that’s being woven in my head inside out. With my first Lacey Flint book, I wanted to see if I could write a character who would be fascinating and repelling at the same time. If I’ve done my job properly, the reader will start out not really liking Lacey that much, but will eventually grow to love her.
Where do you set your books and why?
I actively seek out unusual British locations. Settings that have worked particularly well for me in the past have been the Shetland Islands, the Devon/Dorset border and the Pennine Moors. I love the idea of beautiful places with dark secrets lurking beneath. For the Lacey Flint series, I’ve gone urban, but to the little known (and massively atmospheric) area around Deptford Creek.
The Thames plays an important part in the novel. Did you do extensive research on the river?
Back when I had a proper job, I spent a few years working for The National Rivers Authority, Thames Region, so got to know a great deal about the river then. I love the Thames. It’s a massive, powerful, relentless watercourse. I’m also a bit scared of it. Something about the never-ending flow of deep, dark water rather freaks me out. I mean, what’s down there?
Barney is a fantastic amateur sleuth. Did you find him an easy character to create?
I have an eleven year old boy and much of Barney is borrowed directly from him. (We have a four leaf clover collection thanks to my son’s rather uncanny ability to spot them when he was just three or four years old) I spend a lot of time around children of this age, so writing the younger characters was actually pretty easy. And of course all my son’s friends are thrilled to be in a book.
Does your writing ever scare you?
Never. But other people’s does. I have to read Mo Hayder, Tess Gerritsen and Belinda Bauer with the doors and windows locked.
Where do you write your novels?
At the bottommost tip of my garden, there is a small beech copse, the ground of which is sprinkled with bluebells in the spring. If I head for its heart, and then follow the narrow, winding path through the bamboo groves, cross the small stone bridge that takes me over the crayfish stream, I find a circular Victorian summer house, painted the pale-blue of a robin’s egg. There is no phone, no computer, just an antique mahogany desk and a pen.
I’m lying, of course! I write in a windowless room upstairs in our house where the only distraction is Twitter!
Which crime fiction related book, TV programme or film have had the most impact on you or your writing?
Thomas Harris’s Silence of the Lambs. First the film and then the book. Both are simple, compelling and utterly terrifying. This is possibly the best crime thriller that will ever be written.
What is your favourite scene or line from any crime fiction book?
Too numerous to list here, or even pick a favourite, but I love the trail of maggots in Simon Beckett’s The Chemistry of Death and the moment in Belinda Bauer’s Rubbernecker when Patrick’s girlfriend finds a familiar-looking object in the fridge!
What tip would you give any budding writers?
Read a lot, and read the best you can find. Tell yourself you too can be that good and then, NEVER, give up.
E-book or paper?
Both. E-book for convenience, but books read from the printed page stay with me for longer.
If you were a fictional character, how would you write your own death?
When I die in my dreams I’m invariably falling from a high place and there is a dreadful sense of inevitability about it. As though this was how it was always meant to be. So, I guess I’d fall; maybe from a high and beautiful mountain, into some dark and isolated ravine from which my battered body would never be recovered. (Oh, and I’d be at least 90, having recently been diagnosed with terminal illness, having lived a long, healthy and very happy life!)
…and what would your final meal be?
As I’m in the Alps, it’s going to have to be a raclette. I just love that endless melted cheese and who cares about arteries or calories if you’re about to fly!
Watch the Trailer
To buy or read an extract from Like This For Ever, click on the link next to the book cover below.