Sarah Pinborough: The woman behind the terror!
October 28, 2011 19 Comments
We finish out the month of AH!-Tober with British female horror author, Sarah Pinborough, the mastermind behind books like The Hidden, The Reckoning, and Feeding Ground. Yesterday we featured a first chapter excerpt from Breeding Ground; it’s on shelves (physical and electronic) now, and is a great read for Halloween.
Today we’re lucky enough to feature an interview with this horror legend. Get your Deet and Raid ready as we get to know a little more about Sarah, her writing techniques, and tips she has for aspiring authors.
Welcome Sarah! Thanks for joining us!
1. What made you pick spidery creatures for your books Breeding Ground and Feeding Ground? I know you’re a horror writer, but are there creatures like spiders that creep you out? What’s your Achilles’ heel?
I can’t actually remember why I chose spiders (the book was written a lot of books ago for me now;-)) but I think it was because they have a tendency to freak people out. And I can think of nothing worse to grow inside me! It’s strange that even in England where our spiders are harmless, people are still terrified of them. Personally they don’t scare me as such but I do shriek if they move too fast. However, I never kill them, just catch them in a glass and pop them outside.
2. I was really impressed with how seamlessly you voiced Matt, the protagonist in Breeding Ground. As a female author, was it difficult to write from a male perspective? Any tips to your fans and writing audience on writing for a different gender?
I nearly always write from the male perspective—or have a male lead. I’ve just finished a trilogy for Gollancz where nearly all the main characters are male. But then, nearly all my friends are male and I’m not a very girly-girl. I’m not married and I don’t have children nor am I interested in shoes and handbags etc. So I guess maybe on some levels I think like a man anyway! I can’t actually think of a tip for it. I would just say it’s more important to know your character and how they would react in any given situation. If you have that, then the gender should fall in line.
3. In Breeding Ground, I was really pulling for John and Katie, and truly disliked Nigel. How do you name your characters? Do you pull from names of friends or family members? How do you develop their personalities within the story? Do you tend to map out the characters’ relationships to each other first, or let it develop as you write the manuscript?
I always steal names from real life. Normally one person’s first name and then someone else’s surname. Before I became a full-time writer (nearly four years now! Yay!) I used to use the names of students I taught at school. Now I tend to steal them from Facebook and Twitter. I never map out the relationships between characters, nor do I really think that much about any of them before I write them, apart from the protagonist and antagonist. They tend to develop along with the story.
4. The setting in Breeding Ground is your hometown, Stony Stratford—how cool! Did you visit home while you were developing this manuscript? Is there really a Hanstone Park in Stony Stratford?
I was only living a mile or so away when I wrote the book so it was easy—partly why I set it there. And Stony is such an epitome of the quaint English village. I also set The Reckoning there but I changed all the names of places, but the layout is the same. As for Hanstone Park, there is a Hanslope Park which is the Foreign Office’s communication centre. Very hush hush. Lots of barbed wire. My dad used to work there.
5. We’re coming up on National Book Writing Month in November, and I’m venturing to write a novel in 1 month… crazy, I know. How do you come up with your ideas for writing your stories? How long does it take you to write a book, and how many versions do you go through before you submit a manuscript?
Gosh, the ideas question…I don’t think anyone can answer that. Although the more writing you do the more you start to ‘see’ ideas around you. As for writing a book, it really depends on what else I’ve got going on. The current book has taken longer than expected, but I was hired to write some TV at the same time, so of course that slowed me down. I like to get a book done in four months really, but that doesn’t include the thinking time. That’s from when I sit down and write page one. My next books for Quercus may take longer because they’re set in the nineteenth century and so will involve more research. I pretty much hand in my first draft. I plan a lot along the way so when I’m finished, the book is normally pretty tidy. I just go through and check my spellings etc. and then hand it over.
6. When and why did you begin writing? Breeding Ground has some super detailed passages, and quite a few lead characters—how do you keep up with it all without getting confused?
I’ve always dipped in an out of writing since I was a child but my first novel was The Hidden, published by Leisure at the end of 2004 (thirteen books ago!). As for keeping track of it all—I have notebooks full of jottings, and if you write every day it’s quite easy to remember stuff.
7. If you could co-write a horror novel with any other author, who would it be and why?
I’m not much of a collaborator really. I have a collaboration I am planning to do with someone who I’m a big admirer of, but I can’t mention it yet!
8. For those who haven’t read Breeding Ground yet, here’s some background information to help clarify this next question: the apocalypse survivors discover a special trait that’s linked between two characters, Rebecca, and the dog, Chester.
I’m a huge animal lover, and I know you are too—check out Sarah’s blog to read about her cat, Mr. Effing! I loved the dog, Chester, in Breeding Ground, and was really pleased with the ending you wrote for the characters of Chester and George. Oftentimes, animals get lost in the plot or serve as background. Why did you decide to feature Chester so heavily in Breeding Ground?
I think I needed to make amends for what I’d done to Teacher in The Reckoning! Actually, I’m just a sucker for pets, and I think they can often be a really good representation of pure goodness in a plot. Or innocence at least. I needed Chester to be a survivor, and therefore gave him the same trait as Rebecca (also enabling the rest to figure out the potential immunity), and we all root for pets in these instances. They’re a reminder of old lives when an apocalypse hits.
9. Recently you began writing YA Fantasy genre as Sarah Silverwood; how does writing YA Fantasy compare to that of horror writing? What do you miss most from horror when writing fantasy, and vice versa? Any advice to prospective cross-genre authors? What do you love about writing?
To be honest I haven’t written a horror novel in about three years (Feeding Ground was my last), most of my horror has been in short form. My adult novels have been crime with some supernatural elements (although I would say sci-fi rather than horror) and the YA as you mention is fantasy. But it has to be said, both series have been very dark so I’ve still got to play around with fear and the darker elements of fiction.
10. In the spirit of Halloween, Dorchester is asking spotlight authors to share a dare with your fans…got anything for us?
Oh gosh. Actually this Halloween I shall be in L.A. out and about in Taluca Lake dressed as a witch. My dare is if anyone sees me….come and say hello!
She’s so interesting, right?! So, we’ve got about 3 days until NaNoWriMo begins! For those of you taking the plunge with me and are interested in writing a horror, you can definitely use some of Sarah’s tips! For the rest of y’all, if you’re in the need for a scare, Sarah definitely delivers! And don’t forget, be kind to the spiders; you never know when they may take over the world! Leave a comment and be entered to win a copy of Breeding Ground!