Sunday, 19 April 2020

Luke Jennings, Killing Eve, Big Book Weekend

I'm thrilled to have interviewed Luke Jennings about Die For Me and Killing Eve for the Big Book Weekend, co-founded by Kit de Waal and Molly Flatt and supported by the BBC and Arts Council England.

Luke and I were scheduled to have this chat at Lyme Crime (the brainchild of Paddy Magrane), and we very much hope to be there in June 2021 but in the meantime, you can catch us online 8-10 May 2020. Details here.

Monday, 6 April 2020

Fragile is coming in 2021

I'm thrilled to be sharing the news that my new standalone thriller, Fragile, is being published by Pan Macmillan in spring 2021.

The idea for the book grew out of my love of Rebecca, and The Handmaid's Tale, and follows the story of Nell Ballard, a young woman who finds herself working for an eccentric recluse whose former wife is a force to be reckoned with.

You can read more about the new book here.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Crawl Space welcomes Lucy Atkins and Magpie Lane

Happy Publication Day to Lucy Atkins whose new book, Magpie Lane (Quercus), is one of my favourite recent reads. It's tense, warm, chilling and funny; you will fall for her fabulous cast of characters, and the setting (Oxford) will make you swoon.

Welcome to Crawl Space, Lucy!

SH: You live in Oxford and teach at a university there, was it inevitable you would write a novel about the secret lives of Oxford academics, and are you now banned from college gatherings?

LA: An Oxford friend who has just read Magpie Lane said to me the other day, ‘You’re so brave - everyone’s going to be talking about this!’ and I was actually surprised. The funny thing about writing a novel is that, perhaps inevitably, your views are conflated with those of your characters. My nanny, Dee, and her oddball historian friend Linklater have one foot in the University, but they are also outsiders and misfits, on the fringes, and are seeing the absolute worst of it because of the family Dee lives with (the Master of a College, his glamorous wife and their neglected little girl). There are actually tons of good things about Oxford, and some of my best friends are perfectly sane Oxford academics, but of course, they wouldn’t make such interesting material. I do think that it probably was inevitable that I should write about it though, eventually. The characters you meet in the cloisters and libraries here are just too interesting to ignore. And you only have to look at, say, the recent machinations in Christ Church College to know that it can be a nest of vipers!

SH: I absolutely loved Dee and Linklater. Do you have a favourite character in the story, or one who sat at your shoulder as you wrote?

LA: Linklater, the house historian and ghost-tour guide, is a character who emerged fully formed onto the page. This might be because I once wrote a story about him, and he has been lurking around in my subconscious for a quarter of a century. My husband has always said to me ‘you have to put him in a book’ and somehow, this time, he just inserted himself. I’m very fond of him, as you can tell.

SH: I defy anyone not to fall for Linklater. Magpie Lane once had another name ..? 

LA: The lane does have a rather colourful history. Nowadays it’s a picturesque little lane leading from meadow to High Street, with College accommodation on it, but it was once a rather more dangerous, insalubrious place where stabbings, robbings and other unsavoury activities took place – which is why in the thirteenth century it was called Gropecunt Lane. In the seventeenth century, decorum won out, and they renamed it Magpie Lane after the pub that used to be there. But even the pub was dodgy, so the Victorians changed it to Grove Street. It went back to Magpie Lane in 1927 and I’m very much hoping someone will revert to the thirteenth century soon. The tourists would love it, surely.

SH: There has to be an organisation that campaigns for the restoration of old street names ... Who or what helped you when you were writing this book? Who or what hindered you?

LA: I was helped enormously by four individuals – who for obvious reasons want to stay anonymous – who have lived, or do live now, in the Master’s Lodging of Oxbridge Colleges. They gave me all the details – one or two things they told me were so jaw-dropping I couldn’t use them, as they would seem too unbelievable. It’s very frustrating not to be able to thank these kind people publically but they know who they are. I was hindered mainly by my own self-doubt. This was, by far, the hardest of my books to write. I don’t know why but perhaps it’s because it’s the closest to the bone and I was trying to do something a bit different.

SH: If this was a launch in a bookshop and we each had a glass of wine to hand, who would you toast and why?

LA: My launch has just been cancelled, and so this is a nice question! I’d give a heartfelt thanks to my agent and my editor, and all the people at Quercus of course, and my family. But I’d also thank the people I’ve just mentioned, who opened their doors (literally) and talked to me so honestly, and openly, about what life is like behind them. It was fascinating, and they were so generous with their time. I honestly had no idea whether Magpie Lane was okay or a disaster, and having such enthusiasm from other writers has been massive, too. Other writers are what keep us sane I think – and I’m really grateful to friends who read early versions and talked about the plot and gave invaluable editorial suggestions. I’d also thank generous and kind writers like you, who are championing the book. That’s huge. We really do need each other more than ever. So: thank you, Sarah!

SH: And thank you, for coming here to chat with me. I hope Magpie Lane soars - and I'm recommending everyone buys 'two for joy'.

You can buy as many copies as you like from Waterstones or Blackwells or Amazon.

Lucy is on Twitter so do get in touch to let her know what you thought of the book. I loved it and think you will, too.