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September 2016 Bloody Scotland Special Crime author of the month interview with Sara Bailey

Sara Bailey is writer and lecturer for the UHI (University of the Highlands and Islands). Her first book was published by Bloomsbury in 2013 ‘Writing the Horror Movie’ which was co-authored with Marc Blake. 

She has recently returned to the Orkney Islands, after 37 years. Her first novel, ‘Dark Water’, is set in Orkney.
1. How did you get started writing? 


I’ve been writing poems and stories since I was little. We were all encouraged to read a lot as children and to use our imaginations. But I think that I started writing seriously when I got accepted on to the MA at Bath Spa. It was at that point I thought, ‘yeah, this is what I’m doing.’


2. What drew you to write a crime novel 


I don’t know that this is a crime novel. Without wanting to give anything away, I think it’s ambiguous as to whether a crime has been committed or not. I think that is up to the reader to decide.


3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing? 


So many. I read across different styles and genres, so it is hard to say. But I admire the writing of people like Joanne Harris, Helen Dunmore and Michèle Roberts.


4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest? 


Yes. I have a wonderful collection of rejections. They don’t get any easier to receive, but in the last year they did get nicer and more encouraging. I would say persistence is a writer’s greatest requirement. I was very lucky with Nightingale Editions. I had heard that Blackbird-Digital were looking for fiction and sent the book to them. They turned it down but then came back to me to say that they had a new imprint starting and would I like to be the debut novelist for them? Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity.


5. There are many interesting characters in your Novel, do you have a particular favourite one?


I love Phil, he just made me happy when I wrote him, he’s a bit of a lovable rogue but also quite heroic. He plays a pivatol part in Helena’s life but his role in the book is fairly minor overall. I think he’s the sort of boy I’d have been drawn to when I was younger. But I like the way he is as an adult in the book too – he might be a bit of a lad, but he’s kind too.


6. What kind of research have you had to undertake for your Novel? 


Lots of people watching and observation for characterization. I did change some of the geographical layout of Orkney to fit with the story, for instance the cemetery isn’t where I’ve written it and some of the distances aren’t accurate. But it isn’t supposed to be a travel guide, I hope that there is enough that is right for a true sense of the place to come through. I also spoke to divers and did some on line research into the wrecks in the area, particularly those that were sunk next to the Churchill barriers.


7. Are the characters in your books based on any real life? 


No. Not really. There are elements of people I’ve known and met, but no one person is drawn directly from life. The lads I hung around with as a teenager, shall we say, informed the writing of certain characters. The dad in the book isn’t my dad, but there’s an emotional truth in the relationship Helena has with him that came from my own relationship with my father.


8. What do you think makes your novel stand out from all the other Crime Fiction Novel out there 


Perhaps because the crime is ambiguous – you have to decide for yourself at the end if a crime has been committed and what that crime is.


9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa? 


I sincerely hope not! Although I’m sure there are parts of Helena that come from me. The nice bits, obviously.


10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you have planned.


I’m working on the next book now. It is also set in Orkney and so far there’s one dead body and one missing body. This one is more of a crime novel in that the police are obviously involved right from the beginning.


11. In your novel is there a favourite part of the book that stands out for you and why.


The ending. It was hard getting it right, but once I did, I loved it.


12. As a up and coming crime writer do you have words of advice you can share


Don’t give up. Keep writing and keep sending your work out there. I think it is easy to just give up and tell yourself you are writing for yourself. Which is nonsense – we write to be read. At the end of the day a story is a way of speaking to people – we just have to keep practicing until they hear us.


Friendship doesn’t die, it waits…
A haunting and lyrical novel, Dark Water is a psychologically intense portrait of adolescent yearning and obsession.
When Helena returns to her childhood home in Orkney to care for her father after a heart attack, she is forced to face memories that she has spent half a lifetime running from. 
Still haunted by the disappearance of her best friend, the charismatic Anastasia – who vanished during a daredevil swimming incident – Helena must navigate her way though the prisms of memory and encounter not only her ghosts but also her first love, Dylan, the only one who can help her unravel the past and find her way back to the truth of what really happened that night.

Twitter: @baileysara

Pre order from Amazon, from the following link



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