On the run-up to Noir@TheBar Newcastle on the 21st of February, hosted by Vic Watson and assisted by Jacky Collins. I am sharing some special features with the authors who are reading at this fabulous crime fiction event. It’s a free event and is held at the Town Wall, Pink Lane, Newcastle at 7pm.
Pete Rosovsky originally set up Noir@TheBar 10 years ago in Philadelphia.
Sara Sheridan is an Edinburgh-based historical novelist who writes two different kinds of books. One is a series of cosy crime noir murder mysteries set in Brighton in the 1950s – Brighton Belle, London Calling, England Expects, British Bulldog and Operation Goodwood – and the other is a set of novels based on the real-life stories of late Georgian and early Victorian explorers and adventurers (1820 – 1845) – The Secret Mandarin, Secret of the Sands and On Starlit Seas. She has also written for children – her picture book I’m Me has appeared on CBeebies three times.
Tipped in Company and GQ magazines, she was nominated for a Young Achiever Award. She received a Scottish Library Award for Truth or Dare, her first novel, and was shortlisted for the Saltire Book Prize. She co-wrote two short films one of which was nominated for a SkyMoviesMax Award. An occasional journalist and blogger, Sara has reported from both Tallin and Sharjah for BBC Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent and has appeared as an historical expert on ‘being a lady’ on BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour. She is a guest regularly on BBC Radio Scotland, on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show as well as reviewing the newspapers on Radio 5 Live. She has appeared as a cultural commentator on BBC1, BBC2, CNN, UTV and Sky News. She occasionally blogs for the London Review of Books, the Scottish Book Trust and the Huffington Post. She has written articles for a variety of newspapers from the Guardian to the Daily Record as well as BBC History magazine. She is a twitter evangelist and a self-confessed swot.
Sara sat on the Committee of the Society of Authors in Scotland (2010-2013) where she was responsible for negotiating a pioneering service level agreement between Scottish writers and publishers, in tandem with Publishing Scotland. She sat on the board of the UK-wide writers’ collective ’26’ (2012 – 2016) and took part in the acclaimed 26 Treasures project in 2010 at the V&A, in 2011 at the National Museum of Scotland and in 2012 at the Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green. The 26 Treasures book won the UK Publishing Industry’s Best Design Award 2013. Also during 2013 Sara took part in a writing project at UNESCO City of Literature, Norwich. In 2014 she had work on display at the Story Museum in Oxford. She also managed 26’s online charity advent calendar, 26 Stories for Christmas 2015/16. She now sits on the board of the Crime Writers’ Association.
She is a member of the Society of Authors, the Historical Writers Association, the Historical Novel Association, the Crime Writers Association, Scottish PEN and BAFTA. Sara occasionally mentors fledgling writers for the Scottish Book Trust and appears regularly as an after-dinner speaker at a variety of corporate events. In October 2012 Brighton Belle went to No 1 in the Amazon UK Kindle chart and in July 2013 it went to No 1 on the UK Apple store. The Mirabelle Bevan Mysteries have been optioned for television by STV Productions. Sara took part in the Yestival and Bus Party tours during the Scottish Independence Referendum and was the first guest on ReferendumTV. In 2014 Sara was named as one of the Saltire Society’s 365 most influential Scottish women, past and present. In 2015 artist, Sophie McKay Knight painted Sara – the portrait garnered media and critical attention and was put on display at the National Gallery of Scotland. In 2016 Sara founded the online luxury brand, Urban Reivers, which makes, among other things, the REEK range of perfumes – its first scent is Damn Rebel Bitches and has been dubbed the ‘first feminist fragrance’. A long-time feminist and campaigner for equal rights, Sara is particularly driven by the need to memorialise historical female high-achievers as role models for women today. Sara is also the patron of registered Edinburgh charity Its Good 2 Give, which gives support to critically ill children and their families.
What book truly inspired your life and why?
It was Water Music by T C Boyle. It’s not a crime book – it’s a novel about Mungo Park’s doomed trips up the Niger in 1799 and 1803. I read it and went straight back to Georgian London – as if it was a time machine. It made me realise how immediate and how important historical fiction can be. Good historical novels are about where we come from.
How did you pick who you dedicated your book too?
I’ve written about 20 books but to me the dedications are really important. Every book is like a baby – it takes a village to get it on the road – so I always choose someone who was inspiring for that book, whether they are from my personal life or working world. This one is dedicated to my daughter, Molly, who helped me when I was writing it. She has an amazing eye for detail and I’d tell her the story and she’d pick holes in it and it made me up my game!
Did you do a lot of research for your book?
Always. I love research. I’m an archive junkie and for the Mirabelle Bevan Mysteries, I also use 1950s photographs and old newsreels. Then there’s the artefact research – which for the 50s means museums but also vintage shops. Occasionally I’m shopping for something and I see a 1950s handbag or pair of gloves and I think they probably belonged to Mirabelle cos they are just her style.
What was your favourite read of 2017?
Last year I discovered a writer I hadn’t heard of before – DE Stevenson, second cousin of the more famous Robert Louis Stevenson. She was hugely successful around the turn of the century and sold 7 million copies of her books. Female writers get lost – we don’t get memorialised. I heard of her through Val McDermid and bought one of her books and I was hooked. She writes light novels and she is an amazing writer! She reminds me of Elizabeth Ann Howard.
If you had to take three books on a desert island what would they be?
The ones I’d never tire of? Water Music by TC Boyle (as above), Poor Things by Alasdair Gray and the Complete Works of WB Yeats.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?
This is a terrible story. I feel guilty. People ask me about this and then they hate me. I quit work cos I was finding it overwhelming and decided to try to write a novel – I’d never tried before. I did it in 14 weeks. I posted that novel to 96 publishers. I had my first offer in 3 weeks. I got myself an agent and ended up with the book going to auction. That was 20 years ago and I haven’t look back. I love writing! Publishing has changed a lot though – it was always tough but it’s now tougher.
Can you share with us a photo that tells a story?
These are my grandparents in the 1950s – Kitty and Richard. He was pretty dodgy – look at him! I spoke about Kitty’s life on www.thegrantidote.com – have a listen. The grantidote is great – it memorialises women’s history through the medium of stories about your granny. Our grannies get lost too easily! I see that in the archive all the time.
What would you like your readers to know before starting your book?
Gosh, that’s interesting. I suppose I want them to know that the books I write matter to me. That seems an obvious thing to say and I’m sure most writers are the same. We spend a lot of time creating stories and we don’t let them out the door until we love them. Is that soppy? YES IT IS.
Do you have any questions that you would like to ask your readers?
Always the same – WHAT DID YOU THINK?
|Russian Roulette #6|
When Mirabelle’s on-off boyfriend, Superintendent Alan McGregor, is taken off a gruesome murder case because the key suspect is an old school friend, Mirabelle steps in to unravel the tangle of poisoned gin, call girls and high stakes gambling that surrounds the death. It isn’t long before McGregor’s integrity is called into question and Mirabelle finds herself doubting him. So when a wartime hero’s body turns up on the Sussex Downs, she is glad that McGregor is caught up in a mystery of his own as Brighton’s establishment closes ranks.
Mirabelle is in a dangerous situation though and she doesn’t have McGregor watching her back on this one. And when the dead man on the Downs turns out to have been a member of a deadly thrillseekers club, related to the earlier murder, Mirabelle is determined to uncover the truth and free the innocent people who are bearing the brunt of the cover up. As her relationship with McGregor reaches breaking point, she has to draw on all her wartime experience to stand up for what she believes in – even if it means their relationship may not survive.