KA: How many times do you re-write/edit or even change your manuscript before you send it to your publisher as final?
SH: My characters are really planned out in my head first and then I will type an official document so I know the characters, the plot and sometimes I fill in the plot as I go along. Then I go through I with a red pen changing here and there but it is never an entire re-write, more tinkering and improving each sentence. Then it’s to the editor and she requests changes. There are 2 main edits but touch wood that my editor never asks for an entire re-write.
TT: How do you feel about your books or any book moving onto a digital platform?
SH: Um, I think, obviously I don’t know. No one knows but if I had to guess, I would say that paper books will always exist. Um, but probably more and more people, especially younger people, will start to read on machines and older people who have grown up with books and who love books will probably still read books. So I would guess that the eventual satiation we will end up with is both; paper book and electronic books. And because that’s so, you know, the whole eBook thing is not going away. When there was first talk about eBooks a lot of people said “ag, it will never catch on”. It has caught on. Everyone you meet is now "oh, I just bought a Kindle...I’m reading a book on my kindle...” so it’s clearly hit that, so I don’t think there is any point kind of wishing it wasn’t.. That’s one of the most pointless things you can do; is pretend that is the case there is not. In an ideal world, I’d be in charge of the world (oddly I’m not), I hate eBooks. They’re not books; they’re not as good as real books. I don’t see how they can ever be as good as real books. I know the advantage, you know, you can have, some little thing with 70 000 books on it and if you’re going away for three months, you can just take your little thing and you don’t have to take all those books. I still think that is outweighed by the fact that the experience of reading a book on a machine, for me, can never be the same as reading a book. You know, you’ve got the page you’re reading in front of you at that moment, you haven’t got the whole thing there so the identity of that...
TT: No, It’s quite refreshing actually.
SH: But I mean, do you get it?
TT: Well I personally won’t ever own one. Hard copies romanticise the idea o a book for me. Um, I think it’s true what you say about identity. My Jane Eyre copy is...
SH: Yeah, you look at it and you look at the creases on the cover and you remember when you read it and but for so many people who obviously feel that that is less important to them than having a light suitcase. You know, when people say, you know “aw, you always travel so much. You should get a kindle.” But I don’t need one. I’ve got a suitcase full of heavy hardbacks. That’s fine. You know, it’s not THAT inconvenient to carry books around with you especially now there are luggage trolleys in airports. What’s the big deal? You’re just carrying some books around with you and if you run out, you go to a book shop and you buy more books. I do wonder whether part of it is the novelty. You know, everyone wants to have the new gadget. Maybe once the novelty has worn off...
KA: Do you write chapters or scenes that you’ve never been to? Like places that you’ve never been to?
SH: So, like totally imagined?
KA: Yes, like writing about Arabia but you’ve never been there.
SH: Yes, I do but I always like to have something familiar. So I...well, all my books are set in Spilling, which is a fictional down so I’ve never been to it because it doesn’t exist... But when I’m creating it in the book, I’ll use things from other places and you kind of assemble the imaginary from what you know.
TT: If you could’ve been anything but an author what would your choice have been?
SH: Ooh, Lots of things. Um, I would have loved to have been a singer. Love singing. I would sing given any excuse. Um, I would quite like to be an interior designer. I would quite like to be...um, I’m quite interested in alternative therapy so I would quite like to be something like a homeopath, a reflexologist, a reik keep, you know anything with those kind of new age things where it could all be a load of nonsense. I love all that stuff and I’d quite like to be such a quack at some description. I’d like to be a psychotherapist but I could never be because I’m too bossy.
KA: How critical are you when you are judging your work?
SH: When I’m judging MY work, very, very, very critical. So I’m never happy with anything. At a certain point I think ‘this will have to do’ and then, once the book’s come out, then I might think ‘oh yeah, why was I so worried about it?’ but initially, while I’m writing it, and before I’ve had some feedback from anyone else, I’m very, very critical. I can read and write the same paragraph or sentence for three days to get it exactly write. I am a real perfectionist.
TT: Do you ever suffer from Writer’s Block?
SH: Not in terms of ideas. There is always something I want to write about. I suffer from Writer’s Block every day in a practical sense; I sit down and just really don’t want to start. I’m scared of confronting of how much work there is to be done. So I have half an hour to an hour of kind of “do I really have to do this?” and then I get into it and stop worrying and just get into the story and then I’m really hooked and want to carry on writing. So that’s a kind of writer’s block. But no, I’ve never really struggled with "I don’t know what to write", "I don’t know what to do". I think if I ever got to that pint I would find that I didn’t want to write.
KA: How would you describe the perfect crime novel?
SH: Um, a perfect crime novel is a crime novel that has a brilliant, unpredictable plot so you have to not be able to guess the solution, that’s really important. Um, but also, as well as a really gripping plot, you need proper characters who seem three-dimensional, real and that you care about. You don’t have to like them but you have to be interested in them. And very well-written. So; brilliant plot, brilliant characters, brilliant writing. That’s the perfect crime novel. And you think there’d be loads but there aren’t that many. ‘Cos that’s what I’m always looking for, but there’s very few that have delivered on all those levels.
TT: You gave a shout quote on a book called Mice by Gordon Reece... How would you describe that type of crime novel?
SH: Mice is a brilliant book. I mean, that book, I just absolutely loved. And all the way I was thinking ‘why do I love this book so much?’ It’s kind of a fairly ordinary story, you know, It’s not got some amazing twists or some big high-concept thing, It’s just-it’s the sort of story that when you hear about it you think ‘ah yeah, I’m sure that must have been done before’ but it hasn’t. That was a perfect. I couldn’t have improved on that in any way. Often I’ll read other people’s books and think ‘hmm, what I would have done...’ but with that book I could not have improved on in any way. Do you like that book? It’s so tense, it really does grip you.