It is with great pleasure that I have Sarah England on my blog today talking about her latest release, Tanners Dell, the sequel to Father of Lies. She is one of my favourite authors and a very nice lady too, despite her ability to write genuinely terrifying books. I’m a quarter of the way through Tanners Dell and yep, just as I did during the first one, I’ve already had a nightmare! But even so, her writing is both compelling and intelligent, Sarah England knows her stuff and there’s nothing gratuitous about it – that’s what’s scary – it could all be true… Rather than me blather on, grab a coffee and let Sarah tell you about the books and what inspires her, and, if you’re brave enough, go and buy the books from Amazon too – they’re available in e-book format and paperback.
Sarah, I’ve read Father of Lies and found it supremely scary, so much so I had to save it for daylight hours only! Give us a bit of background to the novel and what prompted you to write it.
Oh I’m so happy it scared you, Shani – in the nicest possible way, of course. ‘Father of Lies’ centres around an extremely disturbed and violent young woman – Ruby – who suffers from what used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder (now Dissociative Identity Disorder). Because she hadn’t responded to any treatment after two years, and was actually getting worse, the psychiatrist decided to hypnotise her; and after that… well let’s just say he wished he hadn’t!
The idea originally came after meeting a lady with this condition. I had a medical background and had also been a writer for many years, but once I heard her shocking story, I was inspired to write ‘Father of Lies’. In 90% of DID cases there has been some form of trauma or abuse in formative years, and the victim’s identity can become fragmented as a coping mechanism. It’s horrific in its own right. However, I also wanted to explore the fine line between madness and possession: what is real and what is not. I liked the idea of taking a scientific, somewhat atheistic point of view, coupled with that of a mediumistic clairvoyant. After that, well I guess I just got drawn to the dark side…
And now there’s a sequel (yikes!) – what’s it called and is it darker than the first? How long have we got to brace ourselves before we can read it?
Yes the sequel is launched on 29th May, although the kindle may well be available a few days earlier. It’s called ‘Tanners Dell’ and will also stand alone, but it’s probably best followed on from ‘Father of Lies’ so the reader has the full story. In my opinion ‘Tanners Dell’ is much scarier, because it delves into just what really went on in the creepy, desolate mining village Ruby hails from. I had some serious night terrors whilst writing it, and although I had to do some terrifying research first time round, this was in some ways worse because…oh no… you see you almost got me giving it all away…J
How much research goes into your writing (and, considering the type of research you must do, how do you handle it?)
A lot! I originally trained as a nurse and then worked as a medical rep specializing in psychiatry, so I had first hand experience of both working and visiting psychiatric units. In fact one of my first nursing assignments was at an old Victorian style asylum on the outskirts of Sheffield (now knocked down). In addition to that I spent a lot of time talking to the DID sufferer and understanding what she went through, plus her clairvoyance. And I read some factual books that would make your hair stand on end – I could only read one chapter at a time and only in daylight. After I’d read them I didn’t want them on my bookshelf so I gave them to a friend and she burned them! We’re talking demonology and exorcisms….
Do you ever scare yourself witless with your own writing?
Yes. I get into the head of each and every character and live it. I search for the most horrifying true events and twist them into the story. I guess different things scare different people – for example monsters and vampires don’t frighten me at all – but possession and madness scare me half to death. One example – I used to mess about with tarot cards but one time I drew the same three cards every single time. I shuffled and cut, shuffled and cut for at least 2-3 minutes each time…yup, same three cards. And when I had a light, cool breeze on my face and the feeling of a hand brushing over my hair… something else happened to me too that I can’t ever forget but it’s quite shocking…anyway it was time to quit!
What does the future hold writing wise – more horror?
Well next is to package up some of the hundreds of short stories and serials I’ve written over the years (I was a magazine fiction writer for 10 years before starting horror novels). And then it will either be more occult horror or it may be a psychological horror/thriller, which I will start in September. I’m definitely staying on the dark side, anyway!
Who are your favourite authors and why?
I still love the classics – Thomas Hardy, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen…who are just breathtakingly brilliant authors, and when you think they wrote by hand! I also greatly admire Ian McEwen – his prose is stunning. My favourite storytellers range from Susan Hill (The Woman in Black) to Sarah Waters to Alison Weir. I enjoy historical fiction and anything gothic as long as the story races and the prose flows. I like to read the best and be inspired. In addition to this, I love the supernatural genre and a good ghost story is hard to beat, so your series is right up my street…44, Gilmore Street in fact!