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JJ Barnes The Table Read

Written by JJ Barnes

Delighted to share my interview with author Sarah Sheridan. She tells me about her latest novel, The Disciple, and the process she went through to write it. She also shares her words of wisdom to support and encourage other writers.

Sarah Sheridan, author of The Disciple, interview on The Table Read
Sarah Sheridan, author of The Disciple

Tell me a bit about who you are.

I’m a writer of crime and mystery books, originally from London and now living in South Northamptonshire. I taught art in secondary schools for thirteen years before starting to fully explore the possibilities of being a writer. I live with my partner and three children and our menagerie of animals, and spend lots of time walking in the countryside near our house – it’s where I can think most clearly!

When did you first WANT to write a book?

Literally as soon as I could read. When I was little I stapled bits of paper together and wrote stories on them for my mum. It’s strange really, as I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but initially trained as an art teacher. Even then, I’d make up stories as I drove to and from work.

Second Sale

When did you take a step to start writing?

When I was on maternity leave with my little boy. My then seven year old daughter was an avid reader and had run out of books, and I set myself the challenge of writing something that would grab her attention. She loved school fiction stories, so I wrote a book called The Top Secret Diary of Davina Dupree, about a little girl dumped in a very unusual boarding school by her secret service parents. Davina quickly gets embroiled in a mystery that takes place in the art department, all the while dealing with two school bullies – Cleo and Clarice. Luckily my daughter loved it and the day I gave it to her she refused to go to bed until she’d finished the story. I initially published it on Createspace myself, then the publisher G2 Entertainment offered to publish the Kindle version. Amazingly it sold extremely well, and I wrote six more in the Davina Dupree books.

The Convent by Sarah Sheridan, author interview on The Table Read
The Convent by Sarah Sheridan

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

The Convent – the first book in the Sister Veronica Mysteries, published by Bloodhound Books – is my first crime fiction book. It took two years from start to finish, because I had a break from writing it for a few months while we moved house. I sent it to a few publishers and agents and three asked to see the full manuscript, then the lovely Betsy from Bloodhound offered me a contract and I’ve never looked back!

How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?

Writing the second book in the Sister Veronica Mysteries – The Disciple – turned out to be a much quicker process from start to finish; it took less than a year from writing the first paragraph to its publication in April 2021.

Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write The Disciple?

The Disciple – the latest release – is about the psychological ties a cult can inflict on a person – even after they’ve made the decision to leave. I’ve always been fascinated about why some people choose to reject ‘normal’ society and join cults, and about the power play involved in keeping those who join subservient.

It takes a lot of strength to leave that level of manipulation and control behind. I used to teach art to children who were in a religious cult (which I was not a part of – they just needed an art teacher), and so I saw firsthand how powerful brainwashing can be, and how hard it is for people to dare to think for themselves in a situation like that, especially when you’ve been told that eternal damnation awaits you on the outside. But leaving is definitely possible…

The Disciple by Sarah Sheridan, author interview on The Table Read
The Disciple by Sarah Sheridan

Did you plot The Disciple in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

A bit of both, really. I knew what the start of the book and the conclusion would be in advance, but I wrote the middle section freely and let the characters go on an adventure. I think I prefer it that way, as then unexpected twists and turns can happen.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did The Disciple need?

Yes, I had wonderful editing support from Ian Skewis, who is an associate editor for Bloodhound Books. He understands my amateur sleuth – Sister Veronica – so well, and makes wonderfully insightful suggestions that definitely improve the text. I love working with him.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

Make sure you’re passionate about your chosen subject. Your enthusiasm will then shine through the text and the reader will be intrigued by it and want to know more. If any passage you write bores you, delete it and rewrite. If you keep your writing alive and sparkling it will hook readers in and you’ll feel compelled to keep going…

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

I have two more books coming out later this year – both published by Bloodhound Books. One in October – the third in the Sister Veronica Mysteries. And one in December – a standalone story, which is much darker than the previous three…

And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

Yes! I’m so pleased with how the books are going, it’s definitely worth all the effort. There really is nothing quite like holding your freshly published book in your hands for the first time. I really do appreciate how amazing it is that I get to dream up new scenarios and plots, and for them to be printed and made widely available. The Convent went to number one in two Amazon bestseller categories within two weeks of being published, and that was such a good feeling, and made me very proud and want to keep writing even more! Recently, The Convent audiobook has come out and is available on Audible and other sites, read by Esther Wane. Listening to it for the first time was wonderful, as Esther really brought the characters to life. The audiobook for The Disciple will be out at the end of August.

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