Monday, September 22, 2014


Sara Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer of crime and horror.  She was born in Cheshire in 1969, but spent most of the 1980s living in Canada after her family emigrated there.  She now lives in Surrey with two cats and her guitarist husband Chris.

When she's not writing she likes playing video games, table top role-playing and practicing her rock chick act with her 1962 Burns bass guitar.  Her most recent novel is Death Scene, a murder mystery and the first in a series about the contemporary Canadian actress Shara Summers.
Sara Jayne Townsend
***NOTE: A FREE eBook will be awarded to one of the people who comment at the end of this interview, the winner chosen by lot.  Be sure to leave your e-mail address so the author can contact you.  Winner will have choice of format.***

     John: Hi, Sara, thank you so much for being my guest.  Could you start by telling us just a little about yourself.  For instance, how long have you been writing, and what made you finally decide to get serious about it?

     SARA:  I’ve been a writer since always.  Even before I learned how to write, I was always telling stories.  As a child I had an array of dolls and stuffed animals.  Every night at bedtime I would select one of them to be the protagonist in a bedtime story I would tell to myself before I went to sleep.  All of these toys were characters – they each had names, family histories, personalities.  By the time I was six I was starting to write the stories down, and it’s been going on from there ever since.

My first novel contract was for my horror novel SUFFER THE CHILDREN.  That novel had been doing the rounds for a while, and it had taken me ten years to write.  I decided then that if I wasn’t going to be a one-trick pony, I had to be far more disciplined in finding time to write, and had to take no more than two years – ideally less – to finish a novel.

      John: Do you have any ideal writing conditions—rituals, a quiet, set place, that sort of thing? And how often do you write a day?

SARA:  I don’t write every day.  I have a long commute into London for the day job and have to leave the house at 6:50 am every morning.  However, I have found that I am very productive first thing in the morning.  Twice a week I get up at 5:30 am, catch an even earlier train and arrive at Starbucks down the street from my office at 7:30 am.  I set myself up with a soya latte and a muffin, I turn on the Netbook and I write for an hour.  I never believed myself to be a morning person, but I get a lot done in that hour.  I think I thrive on ritual, and having deadlines.  I know that I’ve only got an hour and then I have to go to work, so I just write.

If I’m on a roll I will try to spend some time on Sundays writing as well.  The rituals are important to my discipline.  The key to finding time to write, when you have other demands on your time, is to find a routine and stick to it.

John: Are you a plotter, a pantser, or some combination of both?  Do you do anything to get inspired, like play your guitar?

      SARA:  I’m a meticulous plotter.  I work on a 3-page plot summary before I even start a new novel.  From there I take the summary and work out what’s going to happen in each chapter, and then I start to write.  I have learned this routine the hard way – I have too many unfinished MSs because I didn’t know what was going to happen next.  Now whenever I sit down to write, I review what I wrote last time, and the chapter plan, and I know what has to happen in the next chapter.

      John: What, if anything, makes you different or unique as a writer and person?

      SARA:  Rather a lot, actually.  Some people think I’m weird.  I prefer to think of myself as unique.  I like horror, I don’t cook, I play computer games and D&D, and I play bass guitar.  A lot of people seem to be surprised that a woman likes to do these things.

      John: Which talent would you most like to have, and which weakness would you most like to lose?

      SARA:  I wish I was a better singer.  I like karaoke, but have a very average singing voice.  And I would like to lose the fact I’m a complete klutz.  I can’t even walk down the street without falling over my own feet.

      John:  What’s your happiest childhood memory?

      SARA:  I grew up in Lancashire, and we used to go to Blackpool for holidays every year.  I have happy memories of building sand castles on the beach there; eating candy floss on the pier; putting pennies in the slot machines in the amusement arcades; going on the rides in the Pleasure Beach.  In fact I don’t want to go back there as an adult, because I don’t want my childhood memories tarnished by the reality of a cheesy and slightly tacky seaside town.

      John:  What’s the most important lesson life has taught you?

      SARA:  Don’t be afraid to be yourself.  It’s not your problem if you encounter people who don’t like you for who you are – it’s theirs.

      John: If you had to marry a fictional character from film, books, history, or legend, who would it be?

      SARA:  I always had a thing for Sam Beckett, the character played by Scott Bakula in Quantum Leap, about the scientist who leaps around in time.  He was astoundingly brainy, a feminist, an advocate for equality and justice and a sensitive, caring man, to boot.  An ideal man in my mind, but I’ve always had a thing for geeks.

      John: Being a writer is (sometimes) a great job.  What is the worst job you’ve had?

      SARA:  I’ve had a few, in all honesty.  I once worked for a boss who was a sexist bully, and the two of us had many shouting matches while I worked for him.  I got my own back by basing a character on him and killing him off in the book.  It was most cathartic.

      John: Describe one of your favorite characters and tell us who you patterned them after and why.

      SARA:  I was inspired by Sara Paretsky’s private eye VI Warshawski to create my amateur sleuth Shara Summers.  I wanted a female detective who was independent minded and strong willed, like VI, but I didn’t feel confident enough to write a police procedural.  So I created an amateur sleuth instead.  Shara isn’t really like VI at all, but she was inspired by VI, and so was the narrative style of her point of view.

      John: Tell us about your latest book, where we can find it, and where we can find your blog, website, and other sites (which will be featured at the end of this interview)

      SARA:  DEATH SCENE is the first book in the series about Canadian actress and amateur sleuth Shara Summers.  It’s available from e-book retailers, and from the MuseItUp website in all e-book formats:


Ruth sat in her rocking chair watching the television–which was probably about ten years old, and appeared to be the most modern thing in the room.   She was wearing a blue floral dress, with a patchwork blanket over her knees.  I had seen that dress before.  Her hairstyle hadn’t changed, either–her white hair was thinning, and she wore it short and curly, in the style of old ladies everywhere.  When we came in she looked up, a toothless smile breaking out over her face.  She had dentures that she never wore–something else she only saved for special occasions.  As a child, Ruth had appeared very scary to me on the occasions she wore her dentures because we just weren’t used to seeing her with them.

My mother went up to Ruth and leaned in to give her a kiss on her soft wrinkled cheek.  “How are you, Auntie Ruth?” she said loudly.  Ruth’s hearing had been going even back then.  She must be virtually deaf by now.

The house was freezing.  The only source of heat was a three-bar electric fire on the floor by Ruth’s feet.

“I’m doing all right, dear,” Ruth said.  Her voice was husky, ravaged by age and lack of use.  “Mustn’t complain.”

Summer, still in my mother’s arms, began to cry and squirm, no doubt intimidated by the presence of this ancient lady.  “Who’s this?” Ruth said, stroking one of Summer’s chubby legs.

“This is Summer,” Mum said.  “This is my granddaughter.  You’ve met Summer.  Astrid’s daughter.”

Ruth frowned.  “Astrid?  Your little one?”

“Not a little girl any more, Auntie Ruth.  She’s all grown up now.”  Mum pointed in my direction.  “This is my other daughter, Shara.  Do you remember?  Shara lives in Canada.”

Ruth was staring at me, frowning.  There was no indication that she recognised me.  “It’s been a long time,” she said eventually.

“Hello Auntie Ruth,” I said.

“Have you taken your pills, Auntie Ruth?” my mother asked.

Ruth frowned in concentration.  “Pills?  Think so.  Can’t remember, you know.  My memory’s not what it was.”

My mother thrust the crying child into my arms.  “Watch Summer for a moment, Shara.  I’m going to make Auntie Ruth some lunch.”  And off she went into the kitchen.

I sat down in the faded armchair and bounced Summer on my knee.  She kept crying.  Ruth stared fixedly at the television.  There seemed to be an Australian soap opera on.  I couldn’t tell which one.  I wasn’t a fan, and they all looked the same to me.  “So what are you watching, Auntie Ruth?”

“Eh?”  She swivelled round to stare at me.

I raised my voice.  “The television.  What are you watching?”

“Oh, I don’t know, dear.  I watch everything.  Keeps me company, you know.”  And she lapsed back into silence, staring at the television.  A couple of minutes went by and then she said suddenly, “they’re stealing from me, you know.”

“They’re stealing from me.”  Ruth continued to stare at the television.  I wasn’t at all sure she was even aware of anyone else in the room.  I stood up with Summer in my arms and hurriedly went to find my mother in the kitchen.

      John:  Thank you so much, Sara, for your direct and revealing answers.  Is there anything else we should know?  You've got the floor -- please go ahead.

       SARA:  The sequel to DEATH SCENE, DEAD COOL, will be released on 25 November and can be pre-ordered now from the MuseItUp book store:



  1. A very nice and informative interview, Sarah and John. A writer since always -- well said!

  2. This is a great interview, Sarah. It's been a pleasure to have you.