Interview with Susi Holliday

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What everyday situation drives you mad?
I am going to blatantly lie and say that I am a very tolerant person and that little everyday situations do not bother me at all. Not even when my favourite cafe is full of screaming children or when people almost kill me when driving too fast through red lights at pedestrian crossings.

Your favourite music and the best live concert you’ve ever been to?
I’m stuck in the past. I love 80s and 90s music. I used to be a bit of a goth and I love grunge. Pearl Jam’s Black is my favourite song. Best live concert, hmm. Can I choose a whole festival? Hultsfred in Sweden, where we travelled overnight from Stockholm and slept on the train for the weekend. We were popular because our cabin had the best shower. We saw The Cure and The Stone Roses and drank a lot of pear cider.

Colours you’d never wear?
I don’t think there is one! I am happy to throw in little bursts of colour into most things. I wouldn’t wear bright or pale trousers though as I’d just look ridiculous.

Name three contents currently in your fridge!
Fizzy water, limes, avocados. That makes me sound healthy, but that’s because I need to go shopping.

Three books that you read that made you want to become an author?
Pretty much anything by Stephen King from the 80s. Bridget Jones. Mo Hayder’s Jack Caffrey series.

It’s movie night – which films do you choose to watch with your friends?
Zoolander, Silence of The Lambs and Dirty Dancing. I think those cover all bases.

Your idea of a perfect holiday?
Somewhere where there are lots of places to explore and lots of nice food and drink, preferably warm and not raining. I’m kind of hooked on California.

Favourite literary or movie villain?
Hannibal Lecter, specifically the Hopkins version. A close runner up, Patrick Bateman.

Your favourite Hitchcock movie?
It’s a tie between the first Psycho and The Birds.

The Damselfly is the third book in the Banktoun trilogy. Will you continue to write about the people there or are you itching to tell stories about other characters? Or will you keep some protagonists but choose a new location for your next book?
Well I am writing at the moment and I always keep my cards close to my chest for fear of jinxing the story (or discovering that it’s shit and starting again), but I will say that this is not a Banktoun book. However, there may well be more in the future, or maybe not, but I think a spin-off of some sort at the very least!

One of the characters in The Damselfly is a smart and gifted person yet born into a family where intelligence is not supported. Do you think far too many kids don’t get a chance because of such circumstances or have times changed and people can be what they want to be?
I think it depends on the person. In the past, yes, it may have been very difficult to escape your roots, but it really depends how determined you are. Anyone CAN do anything if they really want it enough. This might be a controversial thing to say, but there are too many lazy people in the world. Lazy people don’t achieve their potential.

One of your characters in The Damselfly loves insects and is collecting them like treasures and I was wondering if you personally like those little fascinating creatures too?
I hate insects. They scare me, which is ridiculous. I am fascinated by them though. The insect theme in this book is entirely down to my love of Silence of the Lambs. It’s my homage!

The Damselfly shows a friendship between teacher and pupil. Do you think a relationship like that is simply not possible because people will always imply a sexual aspect?
It’s very difficult. It should be possible, in theory, but in these very PC times that we live in, it wouldn’t be accepted, would it? Not to the level that I have implied, anyway.

The story of The Damselfly unfolds from different perspectives and the mystery feels like solving a puzzle. What was your initial idea in telling the story that way or do you simply enjoy trying new styles in writing? Was it easier for you to keep track of your characters and story or more complicated that way?
With the three Banktoun books, I wanted to explore my writing and do each one a little differently. It was fun and it taught me a lot. I specifically decided to make The Damselfly a whodunit, as I thought it would be fun. It was fun, when it all came together at the end – but it was bloody hard in parts, trying to strike the right balance between clues and red herrings and hoping that it wouldn’t be too obvious, but possible to work it out if you wanted to. I don’t mind when I guess a whodunit, but I want to be thrilled by the puzzle.

The internet can easily be misused for hate crimes. You can accuse someone of something and the next shitstorm is just a click away. Do you think there should be restrictions of what people should be allowed to post on the internet? Or even stricter laws and more enforcement of such crimes?
Well it’s all about freedom, isn’t it? People can do what they like, and they do. I think the biggest issue is that people forget that there is a real person on the other side of the screen, and that reading horrible things about yourself can really hurt. They also don’t always realise that your tone can be so easily misinterpreted on a screen. People who deliberately write hurtful things are bullies, and ultimately they are not nice people. Will stricter controls stop that? I’m not sure.

How do you think the younger generations will be or have already been changed by growing up with the internet?
It’s all they know. I read an article about phones in schools the other day and I asked someone ten years younger than me if they had phones in school and they said yes, of course – but there are issues now where kids are actually using them in class, I mean, what? I don’t understand this, but that’s because I’m a dinosaur. The younger generation will never know what it was like to arrange to meet your friends in some pre-agreed location and hoping that they will actually be there when you get there because there would be no way of contacting them otherwise!

You have travelled the world with your husband. Where did you like it best and can you imagine living somewhere else for a few years or even for the rest of your life?
I lived in Switzerland and The Netherlands for a while for work, and I’ve travelled to almost every place I could ever want to go to, but I still keep finding new gems. I wouldn’t rule out living elsewhere for a bit, but not forever. If I won the lottery, I would buy a house in Santa Monica to avoid the UK winters. I also loved China. Fascinating place. Excellent steamed pork dumplings.

Would you say your long-time job in statistics, in which I’d think accuracy and focus is needed, has helped your writing?
It makes me good at creating spreadsheets that tell me how behind I am with my daily word count. Ha ha. I think it probably does help with outlining, story planning, as that needs to be a bit methodical – and then the crazy creative bits hit me when I am walking or in the bath or whatever and the actual writing frenzy begins.

You are an avid horror fan. Have you ever thought of indulging in writing a horror story?
Absolutely. I’ve written some horror shorts and flash, but next step would be a novella or a novel, definitely. Ghosts, probably. But I also have a great idea for a creepy critter thing.

And, another horror related question, who are your horror heroes/heroines? You can names as many as you like, directors, authors, actors, etc.
Freddy Krueger, for my childhood nightmares. Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Stripe from Gremlins. Matt Damon as The Talented Mr Ripley. Rutger Hauer in The Hitcher. Stephen King (books, not the film adaptations which are generally not great except for Carrie, which is brilliant). I love pretty much anything that Hitchcock directed. I am in awe of Susan Hill. The Woman in Black is one of my favourite things ever (book, stage play and film) – if I could ever write something so utterly creepy, I think I would say that my work here was done.

The Damselfly is out now on all major platforms and in bookshops everywhere. Go and treat yourselves!

 

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