Interviews

Sarah Pinborough – A Matter of Blood

March 21st, 2010 by Anthony CW Morgan

Born in 1972 in Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire in the United Kingdom to a diplomat father, Sarah Pinborough’s early years were spent in the Middle East. From the age of eight until the age of eighteen, she attended boarding school. Having trained to become a secondary school teacher, Pinborough taught for three years at Lord Grey School in West Bletchley, Milton Keynes, and also had teaching stints at Lea Manor High School in Luton, Bedfordshire as well as Walton High School in Walnut Tree, Milton Keynes.

Signing a publishing contract with Leisure Books, Pinborough has released the following novels through that very company; The Hidden (November 2004), The Reckoning (October 2005), Breeding Ground (August 2006), The Taken (March 2007), Tower Hill (July 2008), and Feeding Ground (September 2009). Through PS Publishing, The Language of Dying arrived in August 2009. A month later, Pocket Books published Hellbound Hearts, an anthology of stories based on Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart mythos which included Pinborough’s contribution in “The Confessor’s Tale”.

In March 2010, Gollancz Books issued A Matter of Blood, the first in the Dog-Faced Gods trilogy. The first installment of the young adult Nowhere Chronicles trilogy, meanwhile, called The Double Edged Sword, will undergo publication in September 2010. To discuss A Matter of Blood, Sarah Pinborough was interviewed via email.

A Matter of Blood, due to be published in March 2010 through Gollancz books, will be the first in a trilogy of books. Could you provide an outline of the story itself?

It’s primarily a serial killer novel following DI Cass Jones as he tries to catch a killer who refers to himself as “The Man of Flies”. There are several other crimes though and as the book goes on Cass finds himself embroiled in a supernatural conspiracy. It’s very much a crime thriller though, and the supernatural doesn’t interfere with any of the police procedural stuff. I’m very proud of it – it’s quite a complex book.

Part of A Matter of Blood’s blurb says the following; “Financial institutions across the world have collapsed, and most governments are now in debt to The Bank, a company created by the world’s wealthiest men”. How much did the world’s current economic climate play a part in the story coming to fruition, and also, is “The Bank” based on the mythical Illuminati to a certain extent?

The current economic climate definitely played a part. When I started planning the trilogy the newspapers were filled with doom and gloom and banks needing government hand outs to stay afloat. I couldn’t help but wonder – like everyone else, I imagine – where it would end. After the US sub-prime calamity, I realized for the first time I was how our economy was global rather than national and that fascinated me. Despite the fact that I come from Milton Keynes, which apparently was designed by the Illuminati, they didn’t factor in the creation of The Bank. I think Dan Brown’s cornered their market, hasn’t he?

Given the series of personal issues which Detective Inspector Cass Jones faces, how unhinged does he become? Or does he have a stronger resolve than most? After all, different people react to personal problems in different ways.

Cass Jones is quite a mix of good and bad so I think he deals with some things better than others. I don’t think it’s resolve as such, I think he’s just used to not thinking of himself as a “good” person, and doesn’t expect good things to happen to him. He doesn’t become unhinged. Perhaps damaged would be a better word.

A Matter of Blood is part of the Dog-Faced Gods trilogy. What can you reveal regarding future installments in the trilogy in terms of plot, themes, tones, and working titles, and what exactly are the Dog-Faced Gods?

I won’t tell you what the Dog-Faced Gods are, but I did steal the name from a heavy metal band. I saw it and loved it. The second book, The Shadow of the Soul, that I’ve just delivered to my editor, is still a crime novel, but has the pace of a thriller – and the supernatural sub-plot comes much more to the fore. I’m pleased with it. As for book three? Well, I have a rough idea what will happen in it, but I’ve got a young adult book to deliver before starting that one, so who knows?

A Matter of Blood marks your initial foray into penning thriller fiction, having penned mostly horror in the past. How would you describe the switch from writing horror to writing thriller fiction, and what challenges has that presented?

I’ve really enjoyed changing, or at least blending, genres with A Matter of Blood. Because this is a crime novel with all the twists and turns that entails, I found the brain work quite challenging. Also all the technical police procedural stuff. It’s been great to do something different, and at some point I’d quite like to try a straight crime series, but we’ll see. As with most authors, I hate the labelling and placing into genres – I just like writing stories. Most of them tend to be dark. That’s about it.

Hellbound Hearts was released in late September 2009 through Pocket Books, an anthology of stories based on Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart mythos. In writing your contribution, “The Confessor’s Tale”, how much of your personal writing flavour did you inject into the mythos, and what aspects of Barker’s writing style did you particularly enjoy experimenting with?

I didn’t really experiment with Barker’s style. I did try and incorporate an image or two from The Hellbound Heart into the story though – primarily the bell. The idea of the book, I think, was that each author brought their own style to a story inspired by that original tale – although not the films. I wanted to write something that wasn’t overtly gory but chilling in a slightly different way. I wanted to make the Cenobites the sympathetic characters rather than the objects of terror, so decided to make my story a sort of fairy tale about how a person became a Cenobite.

Much of your work is released through Leisure Books in North America, which unfortunately aren’t sold in the United Kingdom. Has this been a great disadvantage to you given the fact you’re based in the United Kingdom, and are you making efforts to make these novels available in the United Kingdom market?

I haven’t found it to be much of a disadvantage other than to my ego – it would of course be nice to see those books on the UK bookshelves. Borders used to stock Leisure books though and some Waterstones have them. I have no plans to try and make them available in the UK – it would be difficult to sell the UK rights given that some book shops are stocking them in the import sections, and also I feel that I’ve moved on from them. They’ve done me proud but I think I did my “growing up” writing those books but now I’ve found my voice. I was very lucky to sell my first novels to a mass-market publisher, but I would very much like to go back to them with a red pen.

You’re currently working on a movie script for 2004’s The Hidden with a London based writer and director. How far is that along, and what are your aims in translating that book to the silver screen? Are you worried, given the fact the film adaptations of some horror books fare better than others?

I’ve finished the script and handed it over to the director to go away and do what he has to do with it, which I presume is rounding up money and actors etc. He’s a professional – my part is done for now. It was an interesting learning curve about how differently stories unfold on screen than in books. I don’t tend to worry about things I can’t control – I’d be happy to get to the stage that it’s actually getting made before worrying about how it will do. I also trust people to do their jobs. I’m a novelist, not a producer or director. I have to trust that those people know how to translate something better than I do.

The Double Edged Sword is due for publication in September through Gollancz Books, a young adult novel and the first in the Nowhere Chronicles trilogy. What is the plot outline of this trilogy, and how did the plot itself come to fruition?

I can’t tell you the outline for the trilogy – primarily because I’m only just plotting out the second book and these things tend to change, and even if I had a full outline, I tend to keep these things close to my chest. The one thing I can say is that although the trilogy will draw this ARC to a close, I am hoping to perhaps write other books set between the Somewhere and the Nowhere, with some different characters taking the leading roles. I like it in those worlds. The plot came about – or at least the elements of it – while I was on one of the London walks for my friend Adrienne’s birthday. It was called “The Secret Village of Clerkenwell” and was a really interesting insight into lots of hidden treasures in that part of the city. Each of the locations on that walk features in some way in the book.

As the Nowhere Chronicles is aimed towards young adults, how much does the target audience dictate the way you approach writing these particular stories? Isn’t there the danger of insulting their intelligence, and treating them as less grown up than they actually are?

I think in the first few pages of a young adult novel you adapt your writing a bit and then as you go on, you just write the story and don’t take into account the age of the reader. As the protagonists are younger I think you adapt naturally. I tend to go the opposite way and treat them as if they are more grown up. When I was a teenager I was reading Wilbur Smith, Sidney Sheldon, James Herbert, Stephen King, Daphne Du Maurier, etc. etc. as well as the traditional books for younger people. I wanted to re-instill some magic and the “belief in the world in the back of the wardrobe” feeling that we all love to teenagers, but I haven’t dumbed down at all.

Since you spent ten years in a boarding school, has the experiences and feelings you had back then proved extremely valuable thus far in writing material young adults can possibly relate to?

I often joke about boarding school inspiring my writing, but it didn’t really. I guess it gave me time to write when I was little because we weren’t allowed to do much else. I think my six years as a secondary school English teacher have probably proved more valuable – my own childhood is too far back to draw on. I like teenagers – I think that is key. My favourite years to teach were years ten / eleven / twelve, so between fourteen and seventeen, simply because they are at their most extreme then. They can be extremely thoughtful, or funny or angry. They’re on the cusp of the world and everything is possible for them. They’re adults without the cynicism.

The Nowhere Chronicles books are to be published under the pseudonym Sarah Silverwood. What’s the reason behind the pseudonym, and how did you come to choose the name “Silverwood”? And what are your thoughts on having a pseudonym?

Because Gollancz are publishing both I think they wanted separate branding. Also, Cass Jones is quite a character and they may not have wanted kids to recognise the same author in a book shop and pick up A Matter of Blood – which is a very different kind of book. I quite liked the idea of having a separate identity for the young adult stuff but I wanted to keep my first name. I gave my editor a list of about five surnames I’d found on the internet (as you do) and Silverwood was the one she picked. We both agreed Sarah Silverwood “sounded” like a fantasy writer.

The MUSE project between you, Sarah Langan, Alex Sokoloff, Deborah LeBlanc and Rhodi Hawk has been in the works quite awhile, but details regarding the project have been quite vague. What does the project entail exactly, and how would you compare the project to your usual works?

It has slowed a bit because Rhodi has replaced Deb LeBlanc due to work commitments and we’ve all had pretty manic years. Hopefully, once Rhodi has caught up we will have something for our agents to send out. I’ve never collaborated on anything before so it’s been an experience, but I love Alex and Sarah – we three bonded the first time we met – and it’s been brilliant to be involved in working with them. I’m looking forward to seeing Alex and Rhodi at the World Horror Convention in Brighton later this month.

For more information about Sarah Pinborough, visit her official website.


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