3 November 2019

Special Guest Interview with S. A. Harris, Author of Haverscroft

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

I'm pleased to welcome author Sally Harris to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

Haverscroft is a domestic suspense ghost story; a haunted house, a chilling dark tale and domestic noir. The Keeling family move to Haverscroft House for a fresh start. Kate and Mark both hold secrets which threaten their marriage but little do they know the secrets at Haverscroft are far darker than anything they might imagine. Mark does not believe there is anything sinister at Haverscroft. Kate is concerned about Mark’s motives for being away so much. As their mistrust deepens and events unravel, Kate has to choose between keeping her children safe and saving her marriage.

Reviewers have compared Haverscroft to Sarah Waters - The Little Stranger, Susan Hill - The Small Hand and Shirley Jackson - The Haunting of Hill House. I am lost for words to express how excited I have been to be mentioned alongside such revered authors.

Haverscroft is set in East Anglia, partly in Norfolk where I live and Suffolk where I was born. Haverscroft is my first novel.

What is your preferred writing routine?

When I was writing Haverscroft, I worked part-time finishing at 3 pm each day to do the school run. I would drive to the school, park and then write, my laptop balanced on my knee until our son come out of school at 4 pm. Usually, I had about 30 - 40 minutes of writing time. With no internet and guaranteed peace and quiet, Haverscroft’s manuscript moved along at a steady pace.

Since then, I have changed jobs twice and now work full-time. Weekends are often crowded with everyday domestic demands; laundry, cleaning, shopping or cooking family meals.

I need to find a settled writing routine again. Winter approaches, the best time of year I find to write. Haverscroft is well and truly launched, the initial demands of publication and social media have died down and I have settled into the new job. And I have found a quiet cafe near to where I work, the food is good, the coffee better and in a lunch hour I’ve found about 30 - 40 minutes to start tapping away.

What advice do you have for new writers?

Follow your instincts, be passionate about what you do and just keep going. Writing takes a long time, and if your end aim is publication, dogged determination is needed in spades. Get feedback on your work from people you trust; tutors, other writers and friends. Act on it if it feels right for your story, gut instinct I have found, rarely lets you down. A writing group can offer vital support. I attend two very different groups and enjoy both immensely.

There are so many knock-backs and struggles in a writing life. If you are passionate enough about your story, if you love your characters enough, it will see you through the dark times. I ‘gave up’ on Haverscroft and started writing a new novel when I failed to find an agent/publisher. But guilt niggled away at me, was I really going to abandon Kate and her family to a dark corner of my hard drive? When the nagging got too loud to ignore, I pulled up the old word document and rewrote the manuscript. Salt offered to publish Haverscroft a couple of months later.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

Social media and my publisher's own website. I was not much on Twitter before I signed my publishing contract but Salt encouraged me to tweet, leave a few Facebook posts, I opened an Instagram account.

Twitter and the writing community have been great fun and hugely supportive of me and my novel. My children are constantly amused mum has so many followers. Never judge a book by its cover I warn them!

Gaining visibility for a novel is hard. My publisher is an indie with little, if any, budget for marketing books so beyond social media which is free, it often falls to the writer to get out and about to bookshops and libraries, write articles for magazines and chat on local radio. I am one of the lucky ones as I enjoy these things. Some writers loathe this part of the writing life which must make it difficult.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

I did not have to do much research for Haverscroft. By day, I am a solicitor and specialise in family law so much of the subject matter was already within my knowledge. Certainly, it helped when writing the strained and difficult relationship between Kate and Mark. I have seen more than my fair share of marriages in trouble.

I had to check my understanding of mental health was accurate. Probably the most startling thing I discovered is how common mental health issues are with far more people likely to suffer some form of illness in a lifetime than I anticipated.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

Emotionally the pond scene where one of the children is in real peril. The scene poured out incredibly fast which is unusual as I am normally such a slow writer. In that sense, it was not hard to write but I have children of my own and I could too easily place myself in Kate’s shoes.

In terms of writing, it was the attic scene. It went thorough several drafts and with hindsight, I think it is because Kate is alone throughout. I love writing dialogue and there is none in this scene. Reviewers and readers have put my self-doubt to rest as the attic scene, so they tell me, is one of the creepiest parts of the book.

What are you planning to write next?

My second novel is set on the Suffolk coast, M.R.James territory. I spent much of my childhood here and love the eerie beauty of the coastline, the marshes and the vast ever-changing skies. Although there is a supernatural thread, this story leans more towards the domestic noir. I have a clear idea of the main beats of the story and have written some early chapters and scenes. I have also gone slightly mad and booked a four-day writing retreat in a few weeks time to enable me to really get the writing underway.

Sally Harris

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About the Author

Sally Harris is an award-winning author and family law solicitor born in Suffolk and now living and working in Norwich, Norfolk. She won the Retreat West Crime Writer Competition in 2017. She was shortlisted for The Fresher Prize First 500 Words of a Novel Competition in 2018 and published in their anthology, Monsters, in November 2018. Her debut novel, Haverscroft, was published on the 15th May 2019 and Longlisted for the Not the Booker Prize 2019. She is a member of the Society of Authors. You can find out more at her author website: www.saharrisauthor.com, and follow her on Twitter @salharris1 

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