An Interview with Elizabeth Haynes

Elizabeth Haynes, not only wrote the book that changed my reading, she has an interesting back ground and a joy to listen to... Into the Darkest Corner is my all time favourite book, which MUST be read. My second favourite book and high in my all time favourite chart is Human Remains.

I was lucky enough to be able to go to Felixstowe earlier this year and listen to Elizabeth discuss Domestic Noir, with Julia Crouch and Ruth Dugdall.
Where she mentioned her Launch for her new book Never Alone.

Which was last night at Jarrolds in Norwich.

Click the book cover to go straight through to order Never Alone. 

Where did you get the inspiration for your latest story?

The idea for Never Alone came to me when I was house hunting a couple of years ago. I was browsing a property website and came across a lovely stone farmhouse set into the hillside in the North Yorkshire Moors. It was fabulous, with an annexe that could be converted to a holiday let, perhaps, and wonderful views over the valley below. But then I started to wonder about what it would be like in the depths of winter, and what if you were stuck there on your own, or, worse, with someone who wanted to harm you. The clincher was the picture of the bathroom, with a beautiful rolltop bath next to a picture window – with no curtains or blinds. I had the instant picture of my character taking a bath with someone watching from the hill outside. The plot evolved out of that.


Do you think of the twists first then the story, or does this change every time?


Everything changes quite dramatically. My first draft is usually me exploring the edges of the story, and then I need to go back and edit many times. Often the story ends up quite different, and the final few edits involve adding layers, clues and misdirection.  Usually in my books the ending changes very late in the process, but in the case of Never Alone the last third of the book is still pretty much as I wrote it in the first draft.


If you were not an author, what would your chosen career be?


I do still miss my last job – as an intelligence analyst working for the police. I think you probably have to be an analyst to see that as exciting, because it involved a lot of spreadsheets and report writing, but aside from that I worked with some brilliant, funny, brave and clever people and it felt like I was doing a job that made a difference. Of course, when you’ve been out of a working environment for a while it’s easy to forget about all the rubbish bits – the meetings where people don’t listen, the pointless charts to satisfy some beaurocratic whim; coming in on a Tuesday morning to find someone’s nicked all the milk out of the fridge.


But I’d go back to that, government cuts notwithstanding, if they’d have me.


If you've spent time researching for your book, how difficult is it to not overload the reader?

This is an interesting question and to be honest I’m not sure I know the answer. In general, if something is relevant to the plot, then it can go in. If I’m just adding detail to show I know something, then that is fluff and needs to come out. It’s a little bit different when it comes to police procedural detail though, because this isn’t research but knowledge based on my experiences working for the police. In that instance my judgment is seriously flawed because it’s all fascinating to me. Like many analysts I got very excited by a beautiful spreadsheet – but that’s not something I can expect a reader to share. In my Briarstone crime series I wanted to include police documents (witness statements, intelligence reports, crime reports etc) so that the reader would have access to the same evidence as the investigators, and so be sucked in to the case, almost as a participant. In reality, I think a lot of readers skipped over those parts. In the interests of realism, some of them were irrelevant, and others were deliberately obtuse. That doesn’t really make for a fast-moving storyline. The good news is that it’s entirely possible to skip the documents entirely and not miss anything – they are there for extra seasoning, if you will.

I’m currently working on two historical crime novels, and I genuinely think it’s not possible to research enough for that. I feel woefully underqualified to do this, but I can’t help myself.


What is the best and hardest thing about being an author?


This is my dream job so it’s quite hard to single out one best thing. Being sent free books for review is fabulous. Meeting people (complete strangers) who tell you they’ve enjoyed reading your book never ceases to feel amazing. The copy edit stage of any book is also the best feeling ever – it means you’re nearly at the end, and you almost fall in love with your book again, having almost begun to hate it. The hardest thing? The structural edits, I think. I’m rubbish at editing, and it feels like starting out to climb a mountain.


Do you read your own book reviews - what has been your favourite and the worst?

I read all of them, good and bad. If someone has taken the time to write a review, the least I can do is read it and listen to what they’re saying. My all-time favourite has to be a five star review on Amazon for Into the Darkest Corner: “liked it so much I bought two, a brown one and a pink one.” The worst review was a vitriolic one that suggested all of my five star reviews had been written by my friends and family. That felt like an attack against all the lovely people – strangers to me – who had taken the trouble to write a review. I never respond to reviews because I think it sometimes puts other people off reviewing, but I came very close to answering that one.


Elizabeth,  At Felixstowe Festival you said that you write in November, can you tell us more about why, and as it will be here soon do you have ideas for your next book?

I always write in November for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is an annual challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November. All my first drafts have been written in November and I find it very difficult to write at any other time of the year. As soon as autumn begins to bite I get very excited about my next project, which this year will be one of two things. The first is a fictionalised account of a real unsolved murder that took place in November 1843, and the second is a secret. I will probably start with the former, and if I get stuck or finish early, I’ll start working on the second. Would you like to join me? I think you could write an awesome novel. The world needs to hear what you have to say…





Elizabeth Haynes, Kindly signing my book. Oct 2016

Elizabeth, Thank you for the interview and in depth answers.