I’m delighted to welcome dear friend and fellow author, Susi (SJI) Holliday, to the blog in the week that she releases her debut novel, Black Wood. I have known Susi for some years now and followed her progress with interest. She started out writing short stories (many of which have been published in anthologies) and was shortlisted for the CWA Margery Allingham Award in 2014. I was lucky to get an early read of Black Wood and if you like your psychological thrillers dark and atmospheric, you’ll love this one. Here’s Susi to tell us a little more about it.
Can you describe your new novel in one succinct but sensual sentence?
A face from the past triggers a chain of events that will change the lives of the inhabitants of a small claustrophobic town… with murderous consequences.
Who is your favourite character and why?
Sergeant Davie Gray. He was light relief from the dark troubled mind of Jo (the main character) and even though I had no intention of having any police procedural elements in the book, he managed to sneak in and grab people’s hearts (not literally, of course, but that could be a good premise for a serial killer novel.)
Which authors have been your main inspirations?
I always cite Stephen King, even though I mainly read him in my teens. His ability to tell a story transcends anything else that anyone might say about him (my English teacher at school said he was ‘trash’ and I know that King himself has mentioned his detractors). I like books to transport me, and King does that. I also like the darker side of the human psyche, hence why I am writing psychological crime. Another big influence in recent times is Mo Hayder. I know that you’ve also read Tokyo, Jane. One of the most disturbingly brilliant books I’ve ever read.
How does your writing process work; confusion and paper flying everywhere or calm and ordered?
It’s my brain that flies everywhere, rather than the paper. I find it hard to stick to one idea. Whenever I think of something, which can be anytime and anywhere, I email it to myself with some brief notes, using the proposed title in the subject line – then when I have more ideas on the same story, I keep replying back to the same email. I try to keep them filed away to go back to and stick to one idea at a time, but I have a butterfly mind that doesn’t like to work like that. I managed to sit down and write Black Wood because I gave my agent a deadline for when I would deliver it. Without that, I am all over the place. After much to-ing and fro-ing and trying to decide what to write next, I am giving my agent another deadline, otherwise I will never finish another book!
What is your guilty pleasure when writing? (Chocolate, wine, coffee…)
I’d love to be edgy enough to do a Hemingway and “write drunk, edit sober” but sadly the most exciting thing I do while I write is drink tea by the bucket load.
Please share your blurb with us.
Something happened to Claire and Jo in Black Wood: something that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars. But with Claire suffering memory loss and no evidence to be found, nobody believes Jo’s story.
Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for vengeance. And at the same time, Sergeant David Gray is investigating a balaclava-clad man who is attacking women on a disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun. But what is the connection between Jo’s visitor and the masked man?
To catch the assailant, and to give Jo her long-awaited justice, Gray must unravel a tangled web of past secrets, broken friendship and tainted love. But can he crack the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands?
About the Author
SJI Holliday grew up in Haddington, East Lothian. She works as a Pharmaceutical Statistician, and as a life-long bookworm has always dreamt of becoming a novelist. She has several crime and horror short stories published in anthologies and was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham Prize. After travelling the world, she has now settled in London with her husband. Her debut novel, Black Wood, was inspired by a disturbing incident from her childhood. You can find out more at www.sjiholliday.com.
Black Wood is available here.