Author Interview - Sam Hayes
Posted 27 April 2012 - 05:46 PM
Q. To start off, could you tell us a little bit about Tell Tale, and where the inspiration came from?
A. Tell Tale opens with a desperate woman jumping from a bridge. We don’t know who she is or why she is committing suicide. The rest of the book is told from three points of view. Nina, a wife and mother, is hardworking and dedicated to her family, but when she believes she is being watched and her daughter and husband are under threat, she is pushed to the limits of sanity. Frankie, a single woman, has taken a job at a girls’ school, but she is scared, mistrusting, and running from something. Ava, an eight year old, is waiting for her daddy at the children’s home. Deep down, she knows he will never come for her. The home is a place of whispers and shadows and the children know better than to tell the truth.
The three narratives are quite separate and span three decades. As the story goes on, they intertwine and build up to what is a shocking ending. It moved me no end writing it because I’m a mother and would have exactly the same emotions as Nina if I was in her position. Ultimately, that’s how I want my readers to feel – to really put themselves in the position of my characters. Tell Tale is about telling the truth – or not – and the snowball of consequences that brings about.
I was also very moved by the alleged abuse that went on at the Haut de la Garenne children’s home in Jersey. It was as if the building itself had been harbouring secrets. Many of the victims had never spoken of their ordeal until the story was in the news. In Tell Tale, I created a similar institution, Roecliffe Hall, which was originally a private home but subsequently bought by the council and run as a children’s home. I wanted to explore what might happen if someone did tell – hence the title – but also entwine that narrative with a modern family and how secrets from the past can affect their lives.
Q. What are some of the themes you explore in the book?
A. The main theme in the book is when is it right to tell? When should you speak out and get help? And what if that help doesn’t come…what if you can’t even trust those around you? I wanted to explore what might happen if someone did tell, if they broke the rules and set off a chain reaction of events so horrific, they wished they never had. I also wanted to entwine that narrative with a modern family and how secrets from the past can affect their lives. It’s obviously a dark theme, but the Kennedy family are faced with many modern issues that most families can relate to – such as teenagers and safe internet use.
Q. Some of those themes must have been hard to write about – did you need to research similar cases, and how did you cope with that?
A. I did a huge amount of reading online and especially about the alleged abuse at the Haut de la Garenne children’s home. It was so desperately sad to learn about the children’s horror but told from an adult’s point of view, as the survivors now are. As a writer, you have to insert yourself into other people’s reality as fully as possible and it’s very hard. I think my husband knows now when I’ve had a day of writing a disturbing scene or researching a murder because I might be a bit intense for a while. Being a mother of three myself, it’s especially hard writing about the plights of children and teens. But that also has its positives as when it comes to writing about kids, I feel I’m pretty well qualified and know most of the day to day ups and downs families go through. However, Tell Tale is ultimately an uplifting book with a positive ending. I like to show that whatever my characters have been through, there’s always hope and a way forward.
Q. This is your third book so far – do you feel you fall into any specific genre, or do you have your own style?
A. I write psychological and emotional thrillers, which, I guess, fall under the umbrella of crime. But my book covers also suggest more ‘general fiction’ and are very appealing to women (although I do have lots of male readers too!) Genres are important when it comes to selling books as readers want to know what they are getting when they buy a book. That’s why branding an author is important and also where the book is positioned in a shop. If it’s on the front table in WH Smith, then the cover will be the signal to potential readers. If it’s in the shop in the crime section, again that’s a good clue what it’s about! But every writer has their own style within these genres. I like to think that I write real life fiction – stories that are easy to relate to with families and children and work and relationships. But then I like to turn all that on its head with secrets and suspicion, murder and mistrust.
Q. Have you been compared to any other writers? Do you think this is a good or a bad thing – does it help readers with their reading choices, or do you think everyone should be judged on their own merits?
A. I’m fine with being compared to other writers (as long as I approve!) because I understand what it’s like to choose a book. We need clues! I am a reader as well as a writer – and most of us are pushed for time and want to make the right choice. I certainly think that writers should be judged on their own merits ultimately, but initially it’s good to have a guide. I’ve recently been compared to Nicci French and Sophie Hannah, which I’m very happy about. We all write about women and families in peril, set in the UK, and there are usually a few bodies and much danger! But I’ve also been likened to Jodi Picoult, which again is a huge compliment. Obviously her books are set in the States, but emotions are international and, as well as the physical dangers, I like to explore the psychological ones too.
Q. Can you tell us anything about what you’re working on next?
A. I’m nearly finished writing my next novel – another topical subject that, as a mother, has my heart racing almost every week. It tells the story of Max, a fifteen year old boy who is brutally and fatally stabbed at school. I don’t have a confirmed title as yet, but it’s a fast-paced read showing the months leading up to the tragedy as well as the week immediately after. It follows a mother’s grief and guilt, although she is no ordinary mother. Carrie Kent is a famous television presenter, divorced from her son’s father, a university professor. Between them, they pick through the last weeks of their son’s life and learn that they didn’t really know him at all. I wanted to explore the ghastly knife culture that plagues our cities as well as the idea that no one is immune from these crimes. Rich or poor, if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, lives can be blown apart in seconds. It’s a sad, emotional read, and the relationship between Max and his girlfriend was particularly moving to write. As ever, I’ve put in plenty of twists and turns, and will hopefully leave my readers shocked, yet feeling positive with the ending.
Q. Can you ever see yourself moving into a completely different genre, or do you believe that you’ve found the best genre/style for you?
A. For now at least I’m very happy writing what I write. There will never be a shortage of ideas, and I think it’s a good genre in which to grow and develop as a writer. I think all authors, though, occasionally have ideas for books that wouldn’t sit well in their backlist. Maybe one day I’ll write something different, but that’s what pseudonyms are for!
Q. Part of your book is about internet usage, especially social networking. How important do you think this is for authors – do you need to be ‘out there’ promoting yourself?
A. The internet is an amazing tool for authors. I don’t quite know what I’d do without it, on a research level at least. Socially and promotion wise, I’m really not as good as pushing myself out there as some authors I know. It takes a huge amount of time to build up an online following, although ultimately I’m sure it’s time well spent. I have a Facebook page although I mostly keep up with family and friends who I don’t see very often. Readers are most welcome to add me as a friend, and occasionally I’ll plug my books there. I also have a Myspace account and a blog on my website, which attracts quite a few readers from all over the world. I’ve recently had my website updated too, which I’m really pleased with. Ultimately, my publicist works very hard to get me ‘out there’ and has been lining me up some lovely features and articles in newspapers and magazines.
Q. When not promoting, do you still find you can use the internet to relax and be ‘yourself’?
A. My main non-work internet usage is either grocery shopping online at Sainsbury’s or trying to fight an ebay addiction! I’m not great at battling through the high street shops, so browsing at leisure online is far preferable. I also like to catch up with other authors on their blogs or read industry news sites such as the Bookseller. Other than that, it’s quite nice to walk away from the computer at the end of the day!
Q. Finally, which book is on your bed side table right now?
A. It’s actually an audiobook on my ipod. I’m currently coming to the end of Nicci French’s ‘What To Do When Someone Dies’.
Interview by Michelle
Posted 20 July 2012 - 01:46 AM
Posted 26 July 2013 - 12:18 AM
I have 'Someone Else's Son' on my shelf to read now. I think I won that one to Michelle, having just finished Until You're Mine.
Posted 26 July 2013 - 10:29 AM
I've just read about Tell Tale on this thread and that's definitely going on my wishlist! Thanks Michelle
Posted 29 July 2013 - 08:37 PM
Just reading this interview makes me interested in her books! Definitely gonna add Tell Tale to my TBR list
Posted 27 January 2015 - 03:45 PM
Just bought 'Before You Die'...added to the TBR pile...I'm sure it will be another good read.
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