Last night it was my great pleasure to go to a literary dinner in Abingdon hosted by that second home of mine(!) Mostly Books at a local hostelry – an Abingdon first I believe. The Mostly Booklovers club at the shop had been offered a list of authors who might be approached to give an after dinner talk, and Sophie Hannah, the author of some fine psychological thrillers was a unanimous choice – we were delighted when she accepted.
Then last night when I got to the venue, Mark said – you’re on the top table with Sophie. I was delighted, and being quite shy (yes really!) wondered whether I’d be able to talk to her and keep it up throughout dinner. No problems there – she proved to be wonderful company. Very down to earth, gossipy and chatty. Our foursome talked about so much over dinner – blogs, her favourite crime authors (Ruth Rendell, Nikki French and Agatha Christie), poetry (Sophie is a prize-winning poet of wonderfully dark poems that scan and rhyme), and all sorts of other books; but also what we like to do on holidays, cooking and eating out, Cambridge where she now lives, fit-flops, and her current addiction to property search websites and Phil & Kirsty on Channel 4…
Then after dinner, Sophie talked about her books. She started by telling us about how she has always been addicted to mysteries – since Enid Blyton’s the Secret Seven, growing up she only liked books about mysteries and that her books have their genesis in mysteries that develop after things that have happened to her … so her first thriller, Little Face came about after the birth of her first child. After an extremely long labour she didn’t see her baby straight away – and didn’t know which one she was in the row of cots at the nurses’ station. The book explores the story of a mother who is sure her baby has been swapped, but husband thinks otherwise.
Likewise, her third novel explores what happens to a woman whose business trip is cancelled – she takes the week off from parenting and goes to a spa hotel where she has a fling, with a man who isn’t who he claims to be. Not that Sophie actually did that, but when a long planned trip to Korea was threatened to be cancelled, the idea of still having a week of sleep came to her! (I’ve just read this one and found it as twisty and unputdownable as her first two; review coming soon.)
She then told us how her first four novels had their origins in autobiographical material. Her latest, A Room Swept White, is different taking the harrowing subject of cot-death and all the high-profile trials of mothers that occurred in recent years as its theme. Her next thiller, Lasting Damage, coming out next Feb uses her current addiction to property websites in its central premise – sounds right up my street – I can’t wait!
In questions, she talked about her supporting cast of police officers. Her novels are psychological thrillers not detective novels, and the nasty crimes are the star, however she did want to have a recurring team of investigators to provide continuity. Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse have proved very popular – but the on-off story of their relationship deliberately moves at a slower arc than the crimes – she promised that things are hotting up for them in no.6.
She was a very entertaining speaker, forthright and full of humour – she had the audience in fits of laughter, but also gave us some great insights into the art of creating mysteries. A brilliant evening. If you’d like to read more about Sophie and her books, her website is here.
In the companion post to this one – I have a giveaway of a signed copy of her latest paperback – do read on.