Hey there, welcome to another #Orentober Q&A, the last but one of this month! Today I welcome Susi Holliday, Queen of Chill and author of Orenda published The Lingering (2018) and Violet (2019). I’ve had the pleasure of reading both of these goosebumps inducing reads, you can find my reviews here and here.
S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday grew up in East Lothian, Scotland. A life-long fan of crime and horror, her short stories have been published in various places, and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize.
She has written three crime novels set in the fictional Scottish town of Banktoun, which are a mix of police procedural and psychological thriller. They are: “Black Wood”, “Willow Walk” and “The Damselfly” – all featuring the much loved character, Sergeant Davie Gray.
Her serial killer thriller “The Deaths of December” (written as Susi Holliday), featuring Detective Sergeant Eddie Carmine and Detective Constable Becky Greene was a festive hit in 2017.
Her spooky mystery “The Lingering” was released in September 2018.
Her latest book “Violet” – a psychological thriller set on the Trans-Siberian Express is out in September 2019.
You can find out more at her website: http://www.sjiholliday.com and on Facebook and Twitter @SJIHolliday. Sign-up for updates and giveaways here: http://eepurl.com/beHpez
The most recent Susi masterpiece is Violet, already published in ebook that you can order directly from the Orenda Books website! If you’re a paperback collector like myself, you can pre-order a copy (publication date is the 14th November) from Bert’s Books – a fantastic independent bookseller – here!
I creeped up to Susi during Capital Crime 2019, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting her and having a quick chat between panels. She’s a really awesome person to chat to not only in person but she’s very present on social media also. I was overjoyed when she agreed to answer some questions for an #Orentober Q&A.
As always I’ve just jumped feet first into the Q&A, but both I and Susi are absolutely dandy!
All authors start somewhere, it may be a long and difficult journey or it may be an easy one, but at the end of the day everyone has one. That being said, could you share with us what your journey was like from non-published to published author? What do you wish you had known / what advice you’d give yourself?
I started off writing lots of short stories, but found the transition to longer work difficult. I think I abandoned about five novels at 20,000 words before I finished one! I first met my agent at a crime festival, and several years later, I was shortlisted in a prologue competition for my novel Black Wood and he asked to read the full manuscript. I hadn’t finished it at that point, but he signed me up, and that gave me the impetus I needed to finish it. It took a while to get a publisher on-board, but my agent kept trying and eventually we got a deal. That’s probably still the most exciting moment of my writing career – the buzz of that first deal is something you can never experience again.
Great things come to those who wait and thank gosh that you met your first agent! I like to call you the Queen of Chills, The Lingering freaked me out and completely twisted my brain… I also read it in the bath – don’t do that people! Both The Lingering and Violet is chilling and sinister in their own ways, which kept me hooked devouring them in one sitting. They’re both written superbly. What is your novel planning and writing process? Has it differed between The Lingering and Violet?
I tend to think up an idea and mull it over a lot in my head, then I start to email myself with notes. This can take anything from a few weeks to a few months. Then I try to put the notes into some sort of order to create an outline. The Lingering had quite a detailed outline, but Violet was a lot more fluid, mainly because of the different type of story that I was telling.
I felt that when reading Violet, but both types of writing completely worked for the books, the pretence and the type of tensions created. There’s the saying ‘write what you know’, that works – with The Lingering you derived some aspects from your childhood experiences *shivers* and you used your adult experiences to create the plotline of Violet. Could you explain what areas of Violet were taken and developed from your experiences?
I travelled on the Trans-Siberian Express in 2006, and the journey that Violet takes in the book is exactly the same as mine. It felt like a very personal story, from that perspective. I didn’t kill anyone on my trip though. Well, not that I’m admitting to 😉
For those of you who don’t know, Susi has been sharing photographs of her 6 month round – the – world trip on her blog, you can check them out here! It’s coming up to Halloween, the perfect time to stock up on your reads and binge them. The genre of The Lingering and Violet is very much psychologically thrilling. What do you enjoy most about writing in this genre?
It’s a lot of fun getting into the heads of some very warped individuals!
There are a few of us, and we love it! Being an author isn’t a walk in the park, it takes time and energy to write. What do you feel is the most difficult aspect of writing?
Keeping going, especially when tired or juggling with other things. I have a demanding day job in Pharmaceuticals and its often difficult to switch between the two. I need more self-discipline!
I can imagine it’s quite difficult to switch from the work to creative mind. Sometimes authors have behaviours that help them to ‘get in the zone’, I like to call them ‘quirks’. Do you have any writing quirks? Writing snacks? Favorite place to write?
None of those, I’m afraid! Because I’m fitting in writing with another job and other commitments, I’m not precious about where I write, when I write or what I eat and drink.
Plus who wants snack crumbs in their laptop keys *she says while wiping biscuit crumbs from laptop keys*. The popularity of unreliable characters have gone through the roof, everyone loves a character that they don’t know if they can trust or not! Did you find it difficult to create novels with unreliable characters? Why do you think people enjoy character unreliability so much?
It’s actually easier than a non-reliable character, I think, as a lot of it is about lies and misdirection and that really helps the plot. I think readers like them as they’re usually fun to read, because you’re always trying to work out what’s going on in their heads. A bit like most real people, I think.
It absolutely keeps you hooked and constantly thinking about where the storyline is going to go, even the feel of a possible unreliability is delicious! I’m going to ask, Are you working on something new? Could we get a sneak peek please?
I am indeed, but I’m afraid I never share anything about my work-in-progress!
I can’t wait to see the reveals when you’re ready to share! We all have them, who are your favourite authors?
Stephen King is my ultimate favourite. He’s the master of storytelling.
I agree with you there, Team King all the way! Those Halloween editions are stunners! Last but not least, could you share a random fact about yourself with us readers?
I was once serenaded by the band Travis while working in my dad’s pub. It was before they were well known and I didn’t believe they were a real band, so they sang to me. Then I looked outside and saw the massive tour bus and found out they were on their way to support Oasis!
No way! As far as surprises go, I bet that was a big one. Thank you so much for visiting The Reading Closet to celebrate Orentober, it’s been an absolute pleasure!
Remember reading folks, you can grab copies of both Susi’s Orenda birthed books in any good bookstores, Bert’s Books and from the Orenda e-store – you won’t be disappointed AND it is the season of spooky, perfect! Also, check out all the other #Orentober posts this month using that exact hashtag!
until next time,