A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
I am really truly pleased to be the one to interview Sharon on her book birthday. Sharon and I have been friends since around…2008 or so, I think. We met via Twitter but then also in real life via SCBWI and we’ve been chatting and crying on one another’s shoulders for ages about how crazy our writing lives are.
Sharon’s second novel in the Poppy Sinclair mysteries – DEAD SILENT (DS for the sake of the interview below) is out today. You can buy it online from various stores but also in person from a real person at a bookshop nearest to you.
About Dead Silent:
Shrouded in secrets, the truth is murder…
When Poppy Sinclair and her boyfriend visit snowy Cambridge, she doesn’t expect to discover the body of a student – arms outstretched in the act of smearing bloody angel wings on the chapel’s floor.
Suddenly, Poppy is faced with the possibility that the one closest to her heart might be the one committing the most malicious of crimes.
Dodging porters and police, dreading what she might find, Poppy follows the clues left by a murderer bent on revenge…
Long-hidden secrets are chillingly revealed, an avenging angel seeks forgiveness and red-hot vengeance must be quelled in the amazing new Poppy Sinclair thriller.
Process. What or how did you decide on Poppy’s next adventure / case?
I’d known about a certain secret society for years and was fascinated by its history. One day I was walking along the river, thinking about the society and the funny names that they gave to people and things, and a very clear image came into my head of a guy lying on a marble floor, his arms outstretched, with blood smeared underneath them like wings. That was six years before Dead Jealous was published! So the idea for the story had been floating around in my head for a long time before Poppy came into being. Then when I was asked to come up with a second mystery for Poppy to solve I knew it was time to revisit that idea!
Why set the novel in Cambridge? Why not Oxford or even Harvard? What about Cambridge appealed to you?
I lived in the centre of Cambridge for a couple of years and my abiding memories were of misty alleys and passageways, of walled colleges, each containing communities that are guided by traditions that seem strange to those on the outside. I knew that eventually I’d have to write something set in Cambridge! I love the town to bits. It’s a strange constellation of worlds, held together by the university. But in reality, Dead Silent was set in Cambridge because I wanted to write about one of the university’s real secret societies.
Poppy & Michael’s relationship has moved on since DJ. What was it like writing these scenes? (Tell us about the kissing!!!!)
Ha! Trust you to ask about the snogging! I’d never written a sequel before and it was a lot of fun to write a developing relationship, even if it did mean writing stuff I’m not sure I want my mother to read!! It’s a really hard thing to get right without turning the scene either icky or into a slush-fest. I hope I struck a balance, but who knows!
The supernatural is far more present in DS than in the first book featuring Poppy, Dead Jealous. What brought that about and did you ever freak yourself out doing the research?
To be honest, I didn’t do a lot of research for this one! Quite a long while ago I got to know a parapsychologist who was full of interesting information and I remembered her saying something about a piece of research being done in the States about the experiences of those who had been clinically dead, and then brought back to life. That journal article ended up being something that Poppy’s dad talks about. But other than that, most of the research for Dead Silent was historical.
But yeah, I guess the supernatural is less ‘explainable’ than it was in Dead Jealous, although I’m guessing Poppy would have a good go at giving a scientific rationale for everything that happens. She’s still not entirely convinced, y’know! I do find it interesting to challenge characters with the one thing that takes them to the edge of their comfort zone and makes them reassess the world!
Poppy, I feel, is changing her mind about a lot of things in DS. Especially how she sees the world. Have you gone thorough a similar process? It feels very believable to me.
Life is change – and as I said above, the great thing about writing series fiction is that you get to see your characters grow. And I think Poppy had grown up a bit from Dead Jealous. She’s a more secure person than she was in the first book, and so she’s more willing to see different sides of an argument. I’m glad it felt believable! And yes, I was going through a big change (moving, changing jobs…) as I was writing this and I’m sure some of that seeped onto the page.
We’re you concerned about depicting death / murder in your book & how your readers would respond to that?
Interesting question! My friend, adult crime writer Kate Charles once said something that has stuck with me: she said that violence should never ever be made light of. You can write a bit of comedy alongside it. You can have fun with the clues and red herrings. But never ever make light of the violence done to people. I try to stick to that. The results of violence are shocking and heartbreaking – and they should be shocking to the reader. There’s only one murder that happens ‘on screen’ in Dead Silent, but Poppy (girl voted most likely to stumble over a dead body) does see a lot of the results of violence. I hope the images are striking and visceral rather than gory – I didn’t want to write a horror…even if it does seem to have been classified that way on Amazon!
So, ‘if’ Michael goes to Kings, will Poppy join Trinity? Or will she go to Manchester??
There is no way Poppy would change her plans to follow Michael! Although whether Poppy ends up going to Manchester to do physics so she can lust after the lovely Brian Cox, is anyone’s guess! (I’d totally move to Manchester to hang out with Brian Cox, I kinda love him. Liz x)
Do you have mood / Pinterest boards for DS? I’m keen to see what Poppy and Michael ( my book boyfriend FYI) looks like.
Ha! Your book boyfriend, huh? Yes, I do have a Pinterest board. Knock yourself out (not literally – and hey, hands off Michael!) Find my board here.
Fun questions: music you listen to when planning, writing, editing?
I listen to a lot of film score type music, and I do have a playlist for the book, but I only listened to it while I was thinking about the plot. I’m actually finding it really hard to write with any music at the moment. I’ve even had to find a café that doesn’t play music for when I need a change of scenery. Thankfully, Tate Liverpool makes a fantastic pot of tea and has no music!
What is your panic food when doing any of the above? Be honest!!
Chocolate! Is there any other answer?!
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m just finishing an urban fantasy that’s been in my head for years but kept getting put to the bottom of the ideas pile. I would tell you the title but it is the project with no name! Poor, nameless orphan…
Thanks for the question’s, Liz!
Looking forward to getting my own back. Mwahahahaha!
Sorry, not sure what happened to the rest of Sharon’s text there. 😀
Find the trailer to Dead Silent here (be brave, it freaked me the hell out when I watched it).
And further fun and shenanigans, find Sharon’s website here. Also feel free to pester her on Twitter as @poodlepowered
Undiscovered Voices 2012 winner, Sharon Jones, has been writing since childhood. While studying for a degree in politics and then a Masters in theology, she worked in two independent bookshops where she developed a love of young adult fiction. Sharon gained a doctorate in the theology of story whilst being den mother to 500 undergraduates and has taught courses on everything from the philosophy of education to the history of Neo-Paganism. Having lived in Liverpool, Cambridge, Warwick and Colchester, she now lives back in her native Lancashire with a giant white poodle, Harvey.
Liz de Jager
Liz grew up in South Africa and is the youngest of six kids. In the year 2000 (AD) she moved to the UK with her husband and they now live in Kent with their Jack Russell, Sparrow. Liz ran My Favourite Books book blog for several years and wrote articles and reviews for other online sites about comics, movies and best writerly coffee shops in London. During the day Liz is an executive assistant in London, but her mind is always busy with writerly thoughts and how to get her characters into deep(er) trouble. Her debut in the Blackhart Legacy trilogy will be out in Spring 2014.