My Interview with Sara Jayne Townsend
Please welcome Sara Jayne Townsend, author of DEATH SCENE and DEAD COOL
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you’re currently working on or promoting.
I’m a UK-based writer with a day job, keeping busy fitting the writing in around it. The first two novels in my series about contemporary amateur sleuth Shara Summers are being released shortly – DEATH SCENE, the first book, on 22 September, and DEAD COOL, the second, on 25 November.
What genre(s) do you write in?
Crime and horror. I say that the common theme is that someone always dies horribly, in whatever I write! There are differences in the two genres as well. Crime tends to have a tighter structure, and there is generally a happy ending, in that the murderer is identified and caught. Horror doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending – sometimes the Big Bad is not stopped. My horror is darker, and often has – though not necessarily – supernatural elements. My crime is set firmly in the real world.
Do you have an agent and/or publisher, or are you self-published?
I don’t have an agent, but have always gone with small publishers. The two forthcoming amateur sleuth novels are being published by MuseItUp Publishing.
My first novel, the supernatural horror novel SUFFER THE CHILDREN, was published by Lyrical Press in 2010. I had a three-year contract on that so when the rights reverted back to me I decided to re-release it as a self-published e-book. It had already been edited so all I had to do was produce a new cover, so I commissioned an artist friend to create one for me.
Self-publishing still has a bad rap. I don’t think there’s a problem with authors self-publishing books but they must do two very important things with the manuscript before they do so – put it through a professional editing process, and make sure it has a decent cover.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Get used to rejection, and never give up. It’s always crushing to have someone reject your work, but it’s part of the process. I always make a list of places to submit to when I’ve finished a manuscript. I start at the top of the list. When the rejection comes back, I allow myself a day or so to wallow in disappointment, then I send it out to the next name on the list. Eventually there will be a yes. But it’s important to keep getting back on the horse.
Who is your favorite author and why?
There are two authors I love equally, one in horror and one in crime.
My favourite horror author is Stephen King. I love the way he writes about ordinary people in extraordinary situations.
Sara Paretsky is my inspiration for crime writing. I love her female private eye VI Warshawski. VI is a whisky-drinking independent-minded woman who refuses to be scared off in her quest to get to the truth, and as a result she gets shot at a lot. But I think she’s a wonderful character, and Sara Paretsky is a great writer.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on what I hope will be the final draft of a supernatural horror novel, about a group of live action role players who unwittingly raise a powerful undead entity in the course of a game, and then have to stop it before it destroys them all.
I’m also working on the plot summary for the third Shara Summers book, which I hope to be able to get on with writing soon.
If you could have a conversation with one person living or dead who would it be?
Elizabeth the first. I have a great deal of admiration for her as a woman in a man’s world, trying to prove that a woman could do just as good a job as a monarch as a man, and refusing to marry because she knew that if she did, her husband would over-rule her as monarch.
What are you currently reading?
MURDER by Sarah Pinborough, the second book in her ‘Mayhem’ series. It’s set in Victorian London in the era of Jack the Ripper, but is about an entirely different set of murders. It is dark, gruesome and disturbing – and brilliantly well-written.
How do you keep sane as a writer?
I play computer games. I am particularly fond of the Resident Evil series, and Dragon Age. Sometimes I find it’s really helpful to just switch off and blast zombies for a while.
Have you had to make sacrifices for your writing, and if so, what are they?
Because I’m a writer with a day job, I have to be extremely disciplined in trying to fit everything in. What tends to be sacrificed the most is sleep. Twice a week I get up at 5:30am to take the early train into London, and I sit in Starbucks for an hour with the NetBook to write before going to the office. I find I don’t get much done in the evenings after work – the thoughts of the day intrude too much. So for me, writing first thing in the morning, before my brain gets cluttered with other stuff, and before the internal editor wakes up, is the best time for me to get any writing done. In the evenings, I tend to work on promotional stuff, updating the blog and catching up on emails instead.
I don’t watch a lot of TV and I don’t do housework – though the day job allows me to afford a cleaner, so I’m not living in complete squalor.
When I’m going through the editing cycle with my publisher I tend to have to sacrifice social activities on weekends, since this is the only time I can generally sit down and crash through edits without distractions.
Please share your social media links with us, including where the book(s) may be purchased:
Thank you Sara Jayne Townsend for sharing your time with us. I wish you all the best with your writing. Please keep us posted on the latest developments.
Blurb for DEATH SCENE
Poking around in family closets produces skeletons…
British-born, Toronto-based, actress Shara Summers turns amateur sleuth when her sister is stricken with a mysterious illness. Summoned back to England to be with her family during a time of crisis, Shara discovers doctors are at a loss as to what’s causing Astrid’s debilitating sickness.
After her aunt is found dead at the bottom of the stairs the death is deemed an accident. Shara suspects otherwise. Her investigation unearths shocking family secrets and a chilling realization that could have far-reaching and tragic consequences that affect not only her own future, but Astrid’s as well.
DEATH SCENE is coming 22 September from MuseItUp Publishing:
Opening of DEATH SCENE
Approaching the steps down to Bethesda Terrace, the two men were up ahead, the first running directly toward me, the man chasing him carrying a gun. As I dodged out of the way of the first man, the one following brought up the gun, and fired.
I dropped the bag and clutched my chest. Falling down the steps, rolling and bumping and finally landing on my back on the concrete at the foot of the steps; lying still, my eyes closed, my head tilted slightly to one side, my cheek resting against my forearm. In spite of being protected by a woolly hat, my ears were cold. Ice water seeped through my jeans and froze the seat of them to the concrete beneath me. My buttocks were going numb. Thick liquid pooled across my chest and dripped into the snow. My back was aching from the fall down the steps.
“Cut!” the director hollered.
I opened my eyes and took a grateful gulp of air. Camera Three loomed above me after closing in on my death scene. Behind it, the cameraman, Rob, grinned and gave me the thumbs-up. Standing, I smiled back at him and looked down impassively at the crimson stain that had spread across my chest. The ‘squib’—what the special effects team called the blood bag—was fitted underneath my sweater. The button was hidden in the palm of my hand, and pressing it as I fell had triggered a small explosion that released the blood effect.
The leather shoulder bag stuffed with screwed-up newspaper to bulk it out was still at the top of the steps, where it had been tossed before my fall. Shivering and rubbing my arms I climbed back up the steps to retrieve it. The padded jacket, two sweaters, scarf, and woollen gloves I wore did little to stave off the sub-zero temperature.
Behind the barriers, erected to block off the area of Central Park required for filming, a curious crowd had gathered. There were murmurs as I passed by; people craning their necks trying to catch sight of someone famous. As soon as they worked out I wasn’t someone famous, their eyes scanned past me quickly.