As I write this, it’s been pouring down all day with yet another thunderstorm. Great weather for half-term but on the plus side, I’ve managed to sneak away from my children and finish reading Cross Her Heart, the new book from Sarah Pinborough. I have a little review for you but before then, the wonderful people at First Monday Crime arranged for me to ask Sarah a few questions.
Your new book, Cross Her Heart is due out in May. What, if anything, can you tell us about it?
God it’s tricky! I seem to specialise these days in writing books that are really hard to talk about without giving spoilers away. It’s quite a heart-breaking book in places, but I’m hoping also uplifting. It’s about female friendships, the dangers of social media, and secrets that explode. I really need to learn to talk about my book better! It’s very twisty and absolutely nothing and no one are what they seem. I’m going to make a crib sheet from reviews so I can answer this question better…;-)
After the success of Behind Her Eyes is the pressure on for Cross Her Heart to do as well?
Yes! Although honestly, I can’t go through all those nerves again. I’m hoping it does well obviously but Behind Her Eyes was such a ‘moment’ and what I want for Cross Her Heart is that it’s a solid follow up and doesn’t have that ‘disappointing second book’ moment. I actually think it’s a much better book though. We were very lucky to get the number one (twice!) with BHE but I CHH has a tougher publication week. I’m more about getting good sales and reviews this time than hitting chart positions. Although they would also be nice!
I saw you at Killer Women last year on the Genre Splice panel and you mentioned that you’ve written over 20 books in various genres. When you write, do you have a genre in mind or is it just about the story?
I definitely do now as I’d be in trouble if I handed in a fantasy while contracted for psychological thrillers, BUT aside from that I at least know what the dominant genre is going to be. So The Dog-Faced Gods has elements of Sci-Fi/Fantasy, but for me is predominantly a crime series. The same goes for Mayhem and Murder. When you’re planning the story, whether it’s horror, fairy tales, YA fantasy or whatever, you get a pretty good idea of the genre. And you tend to know the genre from the first kernel of the idea.
As well as writing novels, you’ve also written for the screen. Are the significant differences between the two? Do you prefer one over the other?
When I did New Tricks the producer there told me screenwriting was much harder than writing a novel and I was INCENCED. However, I think, looking back and knowing much more than I did then, that he was right. You can waffle in a book. It can be flabby in places (not that we want that!) and of course you have internal monologue. In a script every word counts and structure is everything. And of course, the cost is massive if it gets made, and it’s far more collaborative than novel writing because everyone has a say. It’s taught me a lot about structure though, and dialogue. I love both, and scripts are more immediately immersive, but I love books best. A book is entirely yours, a screenplay, even before it reaches being made (if you’re lucky), is a compromise on your original idea.
Now, having looked at your Twitter feed (I haven’t been stalking, really!), I noticed there’s a special little man in your life. Can you tell us a bit about Ted please?
Oh you noticed? I barely mention Ted! Ha! Ted is my little buddy. He’s a Romanian Rescue and when I first got him he used to bark and growl at everyone (not me) and hide from anyone who tried to touch him, and wouldn’t leave the house because he was so scared of the cars. When I first got him out (only walking five yards in the alley behind the house to start with) and we would try to go to the park, every time a car went by he’d lay down and wouldn’t get up. Slowly he got better and little old ladies would come out of their houses and say ‘He’s doing better isn’t he? Not laying down so much. I’ve got him a biscuit!’ It was very sweet. He’s a really gentle soul at heart and is the king of the park. Every dog thinks Ted is their best friend because he loves to play. He’s getting over his traumas now, and I’m so proud of him. He’s like me though – cocky on the surface, a nervous over-thinker underneath. He likes his little routines.
On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about coming to First Monday Crime?
Very! Especially after a mess up last year when my old American publicist booked a flight on the wrong day so I had to cancel. I’d say I’m an 11.
Thanks so much for answering my questions, Sarah.
So, what is Cross Her Heart all about then? Let’s look at the blurb before my short review.
SOMEONE IS LIVING A LIE… BUT WHO?
Is it Lisa?
Haunted by a tragic past, all Lisa wants is a quiet life with her daughter, Ava. And when she meets a new man, things seem to be falling into place. But Lisa is hiding a secret so momentous it could shatter her entire world…
Is it Ava?
When sixteen-year-old Ava saves a young boy’s life, she becomes a local hero. But never in a million years could she have anticipated the fallout of her actions…
Is it Marilyn?
Marilyn has the perfect life. Her husband, her job, her house—she seems to have it all. But she could never admit to her best friend Lisa the lies she tells herself to get through the day…
One moment will change these three women’s lives forever. And the secrets they’ve been keeping could destroy them all.
I don’t often get the chance to write my review so quickly after I’ve read a book but I’ve nabbed five minutes before cooking tea for my kids! It’s half-term so I’m lucky to have finished the book at all. But this was a book I couldn’t put down. I have to be honest and say I haven’t read Behind Her Eyes but I think this is a good thing. As Sarah said in her answers, she’s hoping Cross Her Heart isn’t a tricky second book (in terms of psychological thrillers). For me though, it’s the first and I have nothing to compare it with.
Written in first person, present tense, for the three main narrators – Lisa, Ava and Marilyn – there’s an immediacy with the story that draws you quickly into their lives. Each has a secret that cannot be shared despite the fact that Lisa and Marilyn have been best friends for ten years and Ava is Lisa’s daughter. The story is divided into three parts. The first section is at a slightly slower pace as we learn about the three women. However, the tension is still there as the story builds to an event that should be a cause for celebration but instead brings all of their lives crashing down. The second part deals with the immediate after-effects while the third twists the story yet again.
I daren’t tell you anymore as I don’t want to give any spoilers away but this book is like a maze of mirrors. You think you can see the way forward but distortions prevent you from seeing the true picture. I absolutely loved this book! And now I have to go and cook tea before my children start screaming at me.
You can buy Cross Her Heart here or better still, come along to First Monday Crime on 4th June (details below) and buy a copy and get it signed by Sarah Pinborough.
About the author
Sunday Times No.1 bestseller SARAH PINBOROUGH is the critically acclaimed and award-winning, adult and YA author. Her previous novel, Behind Her Eyes, has sold in 25 territories, been shortlisted for the Crime and Thriller Book of the Year at the British Book Awards and was a Sunday Times No.1 bestseller in hardback and paperback. She is also a screenwriter who has written for the BBC and has several original television projects in development.
You can follow her on Twitter @sarahpinborough
Sarah is just one of the fabulous authors lined up for June’s First Monday Crime. Appearing with her will be Lisa Hall, Harry Brett (aka Henry Sutton) and Martyn Waites. Jake Kerridge will be asking the questions. It will be the last First Monday Crime before the break for the summer so don’t miss out! Click here to book your free ticket!