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Friday, 29 September 2017

Interview: Holly Seddon

It's a brand new day which means it's time for a brand new blog post! Today I'm welcoming thriller author Holly Seddon to The Writing Greyhound for a chat about her novel Don't Close Your Eyes.

Could you tell me a little about yourself and your background?
I’m a British author, living in Amsterdam and I’ve had two novels published: Try Not to Breathe (2016) and Don’t Close Your Eyes, which has just come out. Before I was an author, I was a freelance writer and consultant. I have four kids, so I don’t have a lot of spare time but I love working out and cooking. And eating, mostly eating.
How did you first become interested in writing?
As soon as I could read. Reading was such an escape, such a friend that I wanted to extend that and live inside of it even more. I wrote little books when I was tiny and never really stopped, they just got longer.
dont-close-your-eyes, holly-seddon, book
Image: Holly Seddon
Tell me about Don’t Close Your Eyes.
Don’t Close Your Eyes tells the story of Robin and Sarah, twin sisters who are chalk and cheese. In childhood, the actions of their parents had far-reaching consequences that they’re still living – and struggling – with today. Robin is trapped in her house, a new danger knocking at the door, while Sarah needs Robin to help her repair tears in her own family.
How do you get inspiration?
I get it everywhere, all the time. A little throwaway remark, a funny scene in the street, a news story, a historical cold case… I think writers are magpies, we grab little shiny things (ideas, quotes, experiences) and stash them away for later use.
What draws you to writing thrillers?
I didn’t realise I was writing a thriller the first time! I just found the premise of a girl in a long-term vegetative state interesting and enjoyed exploring the character of Alex Dale (the troubled journalist investigating her story). With Don’t Close Your Eyes, I knew very well I was writing a thriller and I loved playing with the expectations and ideas of what a thriller can be. But at the heart of everything I write is the character, that’s more important to me than anything.
What’s your writing process?
I start with a basic premise that can be summed up in a sentence. I’ll roll it around my head for a bit (I often get ideas while I’m working on a different book so I can’t do anything about them for a while). Then I’ll flesh out an outline of what might happen and who the characters are. Kind of a proof of concept to make sure there’s a whole book there. Sometimes there isn’t really a full novel, but it would make a good short story (that’s what happened with my Alex Dale Christmas story). 
But if there is a full novel there, I plan it all out in Scrivener chapter-by-chapter and then every day I write about 1,000 – 1,500 words, one scene at a time. When I reach the end, I edit and then send to my agent to see what she thinks… Then there’s a lot more editing!
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Hmm.When something’s not working and you have to ditch a character or a scene or even a whole point of view. Killing your darlings, it’s rough sometimes!
What do you love most about writing?
When you write a scene that you just know, in your gut, will grab people by the throat.
holly-seddon, author
Image: Holly Seddon
Which authors inspire you?
God, that’s so tricky. I love Kate Atkinson, she’s the queen.

Growing up I loved Douglas Coupland, Martin Amis and Peter Carey but I’m nothing like them in style. I recently read The Power by Naomi Alderman and the zeal and freshness that she injected into that book, wow.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
It’s a craft, keep at it. Nothing is wasted. And keep reading, read everything you can get your hands on.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
That’s so hard! I honestly don’t know if I have one, because – like favourite songs – it depends so much on my mood.

I tell you what actually, the book I loved the most as a kid was called The Railway Cat and Digby. The Railway Cat lives in the train station and basically works behind the scenes to get stuff done. He’s awesome, and he’s called Alfie. And my first son is called Alfie so it obviously had a very lasting effect on me.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I just want to get better all the time, I never want to regurgitate or dial it in. Someone once said to me that, if you’re clever, you can more or less rewrite the same book over and over. I cannot think of anything worse, for a reader or a writer. I want to be excited by everything I write because you work on each book for a good year or more; I want to love it at the start and the end!
What are your interests outside of the written word?
I love lifting weights. I love the reward of working to build a muscle or correct a weakness, purely by repetition and effort. It’s like science in action! I love cooking too (mostly for the eating). 
Living in the Netherlands, I really love getting on my bike and cycling along the canal by myself. Quiet time by myself is a novelty in my household! And I love a good TV drama, I’m currently waiting for all the episodes of the latest series of The Americans to rack up so we can binge them.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve just sent my latest edited version of book three to my editor and am waiting to hear if it needs another go or if we’re moving it to the next stage of the process – copyediting.

I’m also in the early stages of drafting book four, which I’m obsessed with but can’t yet say anything about!
What are you reading at the moment?
So Happy It Hurts by Anneliese Mackintosh. I absolutely loved her first book, Any Other Mouth, so I’ve been very excited to get my hands on this.
Don't Close Your Eyes is available to buy now. For more information about Holly and her books, you can check out her website or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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