Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Sarah Ward is an online book reviewer whose blog, Crimepieces, reviews the best of current crime fiction. She is a judge for the Petrona Award for Scandinavian crime novels and an advocate for literature in translation.
Sarah lives in rural Derbyshire where her debut novel, In Bitter Chill, is set. It was written while she was living as an expat in Athens, Greece, and homesick for the English countryside. In Bitter Chill is the first novel in a quartet set around the four seasons. Sarah is currently working on the sequel, which will be set in the Spring.
Sarah Ward’s blog, Crimepieces
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I’ve been a crime fiction reader since I was a teenager and I started reviewing in 2005. I’ve read a huge number of crime novels and I always wanted to write my own crime book but felt I didn’t have enough time. It took a move to Greece away from the distractions of London to provide the space I needed to complete my manuscript.
When I returned to London, I met my agent at a party and everything took off from there.
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
My debut novel, In Bitter Chill, opens in Derbyshire in 1978. Two girls go missing after getting into the back of a stranger’s car: one girl, Rachel, is later found alive, the other, Sophie, is never found.
Thirty years later, the mother of the still-missing Sophie commits suicide. Then their former teacher is killed. Rachel is working as a genealogist and is determined to use her investigative skills to uncover the truth of her kidnapping thirty-five years earlier. But as the police follow their own investigations, they discover the truth is closer to home.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
When I’m drafting a book, I tend to work in cafés. This is because I set myself a daily word limit and I like to free myself from distractions to get the narrative down onto the page. However, when I’m editing I tend to work in my upstairs study as I can only edit in small bursts and need to do other things.
WHEN DO YOU WORK? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
My most productive time is early in the morning so I tend to get up and start work straight away. I can’t write after lunch but I often pick up my manuscript again in the evening. Or at least read through what I’ve written earlier in the day.
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
I write in a linear way. I start at the beginning and keep going until I reach the end. With my first draft I just need to get the plot down. The second rewrite is filling in the gaps, doing any additional research and polishing the prose.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
I write primarily because I’m a reader. I want to create novels that I’d like to read myself. But having now written two books, I appreciate the hard work that has gone into all the novels I’ve read over the years.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I’m interested in how past events affect the present so I often take inspiration from stories that pass down through the generations in families.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
I think writing the first draft is the hardest. I like to make my plots quite complicated so it’s always a challenge to see where I’m going to end up. Once I know the story resolves itself in a satisfactory way, I feel a lot more confident.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN WHEN YOU STARTED?
I wish I’d done less research into the length of crime novels. I worried about this all the time and in the end my story reached a natural conclusion. No one commented on the book’s length at all.
WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC OR PROFESSIONAL VISION?
I would like to write a quartet of novels set around my fictional town of Bampton. After that I’ll take stock of where I am and decide whether the characters and setting have any more left to give to further books.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE FEMALE AUTHORS?
Agatha Christie, PD James, Ruth Rendell and Sara Paretsky are all influences on my writing. It’s wonderful to be writing in the tradition of strong women writers.
WHICH FEMALE AUTHOR WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE INTERVIEWED ON WORDMOTHERS NEXT?
Ava Marsh has written a fantastic book entitled Untouchable. It’s a gritty and dark thriller set in London.
Thank you, Sarah Ward!
— Nicole Melanson
* Author photo by Eleanor Crow
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2 thoughts on “Meet Sarah Ward”
Great interview, Sarah, and it’s interesting to read that you worried about word length – I got caught up with that after being told YA manuscripts “should” be 55,000 words or less. But at least it made me cut some excess!
I know, Carolyn – I obsess over word count and dream of writing something described as spare and lean, but then I love reading long novels that seem to last forever! I’m always fascinated by how the “right” length for a manuscript is supposed to be between X and Y words and not between Y and Z.
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