A conversation with Sarah Linley, Author of ‘The Beach’
Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl, but it’s taken me a long time to get published! By day, I work as a Communications Manager for a housing charity in Bradford, West Yorkshire. In my spare time, I love to read and to go walking in the countryside. The Beach is my debut novel. I wrote two books before that which didn’t get published and I have just finished the third draft of my next novel, another psychological thriller.
Where were you raised? Where do you live now? Do you have any pets?
I was born and bred in Yorkshire and still live there now. I can’t imagine living anywhere else to be honest and I like to be surrounded by countryside. We have recently acquired a puppy – a miniature schnauzer – who has already taken over the house. She’s really cute and very naughty.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
The Beach was inspired by a backpacking trip I took with my husband in 2017. We travelled around South-East Asia, Europe, India, Sri Lanka and Japan. The novel features three of the places we visited: Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. I have always been fascinated by backpackers and the interesting blend of freedom and risk that comes with travel.
What genres do you write on? Is there a particular genre you want to try writing in the future?
I write psychological thrillers. I am drawn to the supernatural and it would be interesting to blend the two, as Sarah Pinborough did so well in Behind Her Eyes. It would be great to write something along the lines of Deborah Harkness’s All Souls trilogy or Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series. My short stories tend to have some element of the unexplained to them, but I have yet to incorporate that into my novels.
What are the common traps for aspiring writers? How did you tackle them?
Don’t follow the market. You might see a book that’s top of the charts now and think ‘I’ll try to write something like that’ but by the time you have written it, edited it, submitted it and gone through the publishing process, the market will have moved on. Write what you love, what you feel passionate about, what you want to read.
What do you think will be the initial thoughts of your readers while reading your book?
Hopefully they will be intrigued and want to find out more! I’m really pleased when people tell me that they raced through it and couldn’t stop reading – that’s the reaction I was hoping for!
Tell us about your writing process. Do you follow a unique way for writing Fiction?
I don’t think it’s particularly unique. It’s messy! I have a rough plan but I write out of sequence so I just write the scenes that inspire me that day. The first draft is often just a collection of jigsaw pieces that I then need to put together. I use the snowflake method – which strikes a happy balance between planning and pantsing. Too much planning puts me off writing the book and if I just make it up as I go along, I quickly run out of steam.
Who are your favorite authors? What is your favorite genre to read? *
I love to read crime and my favourite writers in that genre are C L Taylor and Ruth Ware. However, I have eclectic tastes and often read books in other genres. I think Tracy Chevalier and Khaled Hosseini are my favourite contemporary writers. I like to read the classics too.
Describe your ideal writing spot. When you’re writing what’s your drink and snack of choice?
I like to write in libraries and cafes. It’s nice to be surrounded by people and I often observe them while I’m writing so that I can pick up tiny details, such as what people are wearing or facial expressions. I like a flat white coffee and a gluten-free chocolate brownie, as I have coeliac disease and can’t eat gluten.
Words of wisdom for your fellow authors.
Keep going! Keep writing, keep reading and keep learning. Perseverance is key. And accept rejection. It’s part of becoming a writer and it’s not personal. Never give up.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I think I started taking it more seriously. Before publication, writing was a hobby and a dream. Now, I am more professional about it. I make sure I find time to write – not always every day, but certainly several times a week. It’s a little bit strange being published as you are suddenly very aware of the reader, in a way that you weren’t before.
How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
That’s a really good question! Crime readers tend to be prolific and very good at picking up red herrings and clues, so I think you have to be quite subtle and try to do something different. I don’t think you have to spell everything out – readers like to work out the clues and solve the puzzle for themselves. I don’t write gratuitous violence, it’s not my thing, so I don’t go into much detail about injuries or murder. I think you can leave that to the reader’s imagination.