Jaffa and I are delighted to be part of the Black Wood 2015 Blog Tour
Black & White Publishing
S J I Holliday grew up in Haddington, East Lothian. She works as a pharmaceutical statistician, and as a life long book worm has always dreamt of becoming a novelist, She has had several crime and horror short stories published in anthologies ad was short-listed for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham Prize . Her debut novel Black Wood was inspired by a disturbing incident in her childhood.
Susi ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo ~
Tell us more about the novel's background.
The idea was sparked from something that happened to me and a friend when we were 8 or 9 years old. We were playing in the woods one day, when two older boys appeared and started to make things very uncomfortable… one said he had a knife. I don’t know if he did, or he didn’t, but we were terrified. It stuck with me. I always thought: What if they hadn’t just let us escape across the burn…? What if something much, much worse had happened?’ The rest came from my twisted imagination.
What was the most difficult aspect of the writing the story? How did you overcome it?
Finishing the damn thing! I love the ideas stage. I am full of ideas, and whenever one comes (i.e. most days) I email it to myself with some brief notes and store it for later. With Black Wood, I found that the story grew from a simple idea into something much more complex. More and more threads found their way in and I had to try to tie them all together. Just finding the time to sit down for long enough and formulate it all, and get it all onto the page – it was a constant struggle! I overcame it by just keeping on… I had a deadline, and that definitely helped.
Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. How do you feel about them when the book is finished? Are they what you expected them to be?
Good question! They often don’t come out quite as expected. Jo started off far more snarky than she ended up, and some would say she is still a bloody nightmare. I was a little frustrated by Claire – I wanted her to stand up to Jo and she never did. Davie Gray is my favourite character – he’s the one who came out exactly as I planned him – he’s the kind of guy who would do anything for anyone, he’s easy on the eye but he doesn’t respond to attempts to woo him… he needs to find love. He’s fairly straightforward, compared to a lot of the others. That’s not to say he hasn’t got any secrets of his own…
What do you think makes a good villain?
The perfect villain has got nothing left to lose. I like intelligent villains who keep one step ahead of their pursuers, but I also like the ones who just go for it and damn the consequences.
When do you find the time to write, and do you have a favourite place to do your writing?
It’s tough to find the time. My day job, even though I aim to work part-time, can be demanding. I’ve only got one brain! Sometimes I find it hard to split from the scientific nature of my day job and get into the creative headspace that I need. I like to write with my laptop on a cushion, either on the sofa or in bed. I’m at a desk all day so I like to mix it up. Plays havoc on my back though!
Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?
I hate this question. You know why? Because I have a million other novels planned and I am really struggling with trying to stick to just one. As soon as I write a few words of an idea, ten others pop up. That’s when I’m in full-fire creative mode! I plan to write all of the ideas, eventually. At the moment though, I am attempting another one set in Banktoun. Stay tuned!
Thanks for hosting me, Josie – great questions!
Huge thanks to Susi for giving so generously of her time to answer my questions
Jaffa and I wish you much success with Black Wood and we will follow your career with great interest.
My thanks to Black&White Publishing for my copy of this book
and to Liz at Liz Loves Books for all her help with this interview.
My thoughts about Black Wood.
The book opens as two young girls play in the woods. A deep sense of menace pervades the scene and it becomes noticeable, very quickly, that danger lurks in the shadows. Twenty-three years later, Claire and Jo have now grown to adulthood. They have remained close friends, but, there is always a sense of something kept hidden. Both girls, now young women, have hidden demons they would rather not challenge but when a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dreadful memories are rekindled, and the past, once thought buried, surfaces with devastating consequences.
The story is a well written mystery with just the right amount of menace layering between the hidden clues of the storyline. The main protagonists are realistic and the police procedural element, ably led by police sergeant Davie Gray, is well controlled and nicely focused on the present, but with relevant hints towards the past. The insularity of the Scottish town of Banktoun is presented in a no nonsense kind of way, which I thought worked well, as this is the kind place where everyone knows each other’s business, and yet, there is still room for secrets and lies.
I really enjoyed Black Wood. I thought that the mystery at the heart of the novel was exciting. The twists and turns in the plot were complex and credible and the overall integrity of the ending worked well within the context of the story.
This is a good debut novel and I am sure that this exciting new writer will continue to go from strength to strength.