CTG Interviews: Sanjida Kay about BONE by BONE

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Today I’m delighted to welcome writer and broadcaster Sanjida Kay to the CTG blog to talk about her book BONE BY BONE, her writing process and why she loves crime fiction.

Her debut psychological thriller BONE BY BONE is out now. Here’s the blurb: “How far would you go to protect your child? When her daughter is bullied, Laura makes a terrible mistake… Laura is making a fresh start. Recently divorced and relocated to Bristol, she’s carving a new life for herself and her nine-year-old daughter, Autumn. But things aren’t going as well as she’d hoped. Autumn’s sweet nature and artistic bent are making her a target for bullies. When Autumn fails to return home from school one day Laura goes looking for her and finds a crowd of older children taunting her little girl. In the heat of the moment, Laura is overcome with rage and makes one terrible mistake. A mistake that will have devastating consequences for her and her daughter…”

Now, to the interview …

What is your favourite genre to read?

Psychological thrillers! Although I do like the odd classic and work of literary fiction too!

Who is the biggest influence on your writing?

The writer that has most influenced me is Emily Brontë and, in particular, her novel, Wuthering Heights. I’m haunted by the relationship between Heathcliff, Cathy and Edgar Linton; the Gothic savage beauty of the moors and the undercurrents of class, racism and misogyny.

Margaret Atwood is another great influence because of the way she weaves science and politics into her work. I prefer her later books, Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood, for their creativity, environmental themes and because her writing has a lightness of touch it lacked when she was younger. Cormac McCarthy is one of my favourite novelists; he writes about the landscape and nature in such an elemental way, as if human nature were allied to it. And Henry James, especially The Golden Bowl, for his understanding and subtle portrayal of how people think about what others are thinking about them.

What inspired you to write Bone by Bone?

Just after I had my own daughter, I used to take her out in the buggy to get her to go to sleep. I felt incredibly vulnerable – recovering from the birth, on my own and now responsible for a tiny, fragile newborn.

I started to imagine a character who has a much older daughter than mine, but feels vulnerable, isolated, lacking in confidence all the time. And I imagined what would happen if that person found out that her daughter was being bullied. She would want to protect her child with all her heart – like any parent – but she might not have the resources – particularly if there’s nothing the bully won’t do to her child.

What were some of the challenges you faced whilst writing this novel?

It’s incredibly upsetting to write about bullying, both from the point of view of a parent and a child. Every time I read through a draft of my novel, I would cry. From a technical perspective, it was challenging to put myself in the head of a nine-year-old, especially as it’s a long time since I was nine!

You’re Bristol-based – how does the city inspire your work?

I’ve always been inspired by landscape and the natural world and it features heavily in my fiction. When I came to write Bone by Bone, I thought I’d aim for a gritty urban landscape, graffiti-ridden and litter-strewn, in Bristol, where I live.

What actually happened was that I ended up placing most of the action in a tiny urban nature reserve!

The lines began to sing, a shrill, electric song, and then the cacophony of the train roared out of the darkness. The carriages were almost empty and painfully bright as they hurtled along the tracks to the heart of the city. In the fleeting light she saw the meadow, dotted with stunted hawthorns, their twisted limbs dense with red berries, and then a shape: achingly familiar, child-sized, shockingly still.

Bone by Bone is set in a mad mixture of two areas in Bristol: Montpelier and St Werburghs. For those who know Bristol intimately, it’ll be obvious that some of my descriptions are realistic but that I’ve shunted whole sections of the landscape around to make my plot work!


Do you feel that multiculturalism is sufficiently represented in the current literary climate?

I think it’s lacking. I’m mixed race and I rarely see my experience portrayed in the books I’m reading. In psychological thrillers, which are very middle-class, the majority of authors and characters within them are white. I include racial diversity and prejudice in my novels as standard – rather than writing stories that are solely about race.

Bone by Bone places the parent’s perspective at the forefront of the narrative. Did you feel it was important to represent Laura’s point of view?

It’s hard for any parent to see their child being hurt, whether it’s because they’re picked on at school or they fall and hurt their knee. On the one hand, we want to protect our children, and on the other, we want them to grow in courage, independence and confidence so they can survive the bumps and bruises the world throws at them. It’s a difficult balancing act, for parents and children.

Do you feel that the public is suitably aware of the continual issue of bullying? Do you think that children are provided with adequate support?

I’m delighted to announce that I’m donating a percentage of the profits from my thriller, Bone by Bone, to the anti-bullying charity, Kidscape. The NSPCC says that almost half of all children are bullied. I don’t think parents are aware the figures are so high – nor do most people know what to do about cyber-bullying, which is increasing. Kidscape has some fantastic resources for schools, carers, parents, children and young people.

How would you describe a typical working day?

I start my writing day by exercising – writing is such a sedentary job, I need a bit of a buzz and some movement before I begin! Then I have a strong coffee and start! I aim to write at least 1,000 words a day during the writing period. I have set hours for writing – I love it but I treat it like a job. I spend at least three days a week working on my novels. Usually I write in my office, which is lovely. It’s all white with botanical prints and an oak desk. It looks out over the allotments that feature in Bone by Bone. I need peace and serenity to help me write. Sometimes I’ll go to a cafe and write too – if they do good coffee and cake! It’s a welcome contrast to the monastic stillness of my office. If I get stuck, I grit my teeth and force myself to sit in front of my computer screen. When I need to think big or wrangle with a knotty plot problem, I’ll go for a long walk.

What are some of your favourite contemporary thrillers?

Gone Girl has an incredible plot, the characters are chillingly Machiavellian and the prose is pitch-perfect for this kind of thriller. Flynn’s previous novel, Sharp Objects, doesn’t have such a rollercoaster plot, but it’s much edgier with a searing twist; perfect Southern gothic-noir. I loved Peter Swanson’s The Kind Worth Killing, Maggie Mitchell’s Pretty Is and The Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin. The prose in Jane Shemilt’s, Daughter and The Drowning Lesson is beautiful. On my bedside table is Holly Seddon’s Try not to Breathe.

A big thank you to Sanjida Kay for talking to us all about BONE BY BONE and her own writing process.

To find out more about Sanjida check out her website at www.sanjida.co.uk and follow her on Twitter @SanjidaOConnell

BONE BY BONE is out now. You can order it from Waterstones here, or from Amazon here.


The #SPYGAMES Blog Tour: Read an extract of Spy Games by Adam Brookes


Today I’m delighted to be hosting a sneaky peep extract of thriller writer Adam Brookes’ latest book SPY GAMES as part of the SPY GAMES Blog Tour.

Here’s what the blurb says: “Journalist Philip Mangan throws himself back into the dangerous world of international secrets in the follow-up to the highly acclaimed thriller NIGHT HERON. But this time, no one is to be trusted… Fearing for his life, Mangan has gone into hiding from the Chinese agents who have identified him as a British spy. His reputation and life are in tatters. But when he is caught in a terrorist attack in East Africa and a shadowy figure approaches him in the dead of night with information on its origins, Mangan is suddenly back in the eye of the storm. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away on a humid Hong Kong night, a key MI6 source is murdered minutes after meeting spy Trish Patterson. From Washington D.C. to the hallowed halls of Oxford University and dusty African streets, a sinister power is stirring which will use Mangan and Patterson as its pawns – if they survive.”

The book isn’t published until the 10th, but keep reading for a delicious little taster …


SPY GAMES (extract)

She moves well, thought the watcher.

She moves so that her size seems to diminish. She conceals her strength. She flits by a wall, a storefront, and she is gone before you give her a second glance. You don’t notice her, he thought.

You don’t notice how dangerous she is.

The wind was quickening, the sky the colour of slate. The woman was well ahead of him now, making for the park’s lurid front gate. The watcher quickened his pace, reeling himself in. She wore a scarf of beige linen that covered her hair and left her face in shadow. She wore a loose shirt and trousers in dull colours, and sensible shoes. From a distance, her silhouette was that of a woman from the Malay Peninsula or Indonesia, one of Hong Kong’s faceless migrants, a domestic, a housekeeper on her day off, perhaps. So, a trip to Ocean Park, for the aquarium, candy floss, a rollercoaster.

A treat! Even on this bleak day, with a typhoon churning in from the South China Sea. The woman hid her eyes behind sunglasses. Her skin was very dark.

She made for the ticket booth. The watcher stopped and searched passers-by for an anomaly, the flicker of intention that, to his eye, would betray the presence of hostile surveillance.


He reached into his pocket and clicked Send.

‘Amber, amber,’ he said. Proceed. You’re clean.


Patterson heard the signal, sudden and sharp in her earpiece. She responded with a double click. Understood.

She ran her hand over her headscarf, tugged it forward a little, eased her face further into its recesses. She walked to the window, turned her face down.

‘One, please,’ she said.

The girl at the ticket counter looked at her, confused.

‘Typhoon coming,’ she said. She pointed at a sign taped to the glass. It read: ‘Typhoon Signal Number 3 Is Hoisted’.

‘Yes, I know,’ said Patterson.

The girl raised her eyebrows, then looked to her screen and tapped. Patterson paid in cash, turned and walked to the turnstiles. She took the famous cable car up the headland, hundreds of feet above the rocks and crashing surf, sitting alone in a tiny car that bucked and jittered in the wind. Unnerved, she gripped the bars, looked out at a venomous green sea and watched the freighters fading in the gloom.

Another two hours of this at least, she thought. More. Surveillance detection runs are sent by the intelligence gods to try the soul.

Dogging her steps since morning was the wiry little man with the baseball cap and wispy goatee, his speech incised with the clipped sing-song of the Pearl River delta – her street artist, her watcher. They had come together through Kowloon on foot, then taken the Star Ferry across the heaving waters of Hong Kong harbour. She’d walked the deck while he scanned the eyes of the passengers. More footwork, then a bus. He sat near the door, monitoring the comings and goings.

Amber, amber. His voice thin in her ear, distant, yet intimate.



The cable car slowed, deposited her on a platform. The watcher was there ahead of her. How had he managed that? He sat on a bench smoking a cigarette, looking at a map of Ocean Park’s recreational

delights. She walked on, past the Sea Jelly Spectacular, the Rainforest Exhibit. The watcher inscribed wide arcs around her as the wind hissed in the palm trees. After this there would be another bus to take them through the Aberdeen Tunnel, followed by a taxi, then more pavement work in the rain, hour after dreary hour of it until the watchers pronounced her utterly, definitively, conclusively clean.

For this was China, where the streets were so saturated with surveillance that agent and case officer moved with the caution of divers in some deep sea, silent, swimming slowly towards each other in the dark.


Spy Games by Adam Brookes is published 10th March by Sphere priced at £7.99 in paperback. 

You can buy it here from Waterstones. And here from Amazon.

To find out more about Adam Brookes and his books hop on over to his website at www.adambrookes.com and follow him on Twitter @AdamBrookesWord

And be sure to check out all of the great stops on the SPY GAMES Blog Tour …

Spy Games blog tour

Book Launch Thursday! Quentin Bates, AK Benedict, Sarah Pinborough & Steve Cavanagh


The Ambassador of Iceland, Quentin Bates, and Mel Hudson

Last night I was invited to not one but two book events. Unable to choose between them – both were for fabulous books and great authors – I decided to try and get to both! Here’s how it went …

The first launch of the evening was for Thin Ice by Quentin Bates at the Embassy of Iceland. In the grand surroundings of the Embassy, Quentin’s agent, Peter Buckman of the Ampersand Agency, spoke about how Officer Gunnhildur’s no bullshit approach had attracted him to Quentin’s first book, and that it was one of the things that made the series a hit.

The Ambassador, H.E. Mr Þórður Ægir Óskarsson, proved he’d already read Thin Ice by saying he was pleased to note his home town – Akranes (about an hour’s drive north of Reykjavík) is mentioned three times in the story, and said that he hopes the next novel might be set there. And Quentin spoke about Thin Ice, and introduced Mel Hudson, reader of the audio books, who read a gripping extract from the story.


Ayo Onatade and Susi Holliday in the cab

After a bit more chatting to all the fabulous crime writerly types, and a quick cup cake (made by Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books and delivered by editor West Camel) it was time for me to make a quick dash across town to the second book launch of the night.

Joined by crime writer Susi Holliday and reviewer Ayo Onatade, we flagged down a cab outside the Embassy and hoped we’d get to the next event on time.

Just a few minutes late, we piled out of the cab outside Waterstones Piccadilly, hurtled across the road, and up to the fourth floor of the bookshop to the launch of AK Benedict’s Jonathan Dark or The Evidence of Ghosts and Sarah Pinborough’s 13 Minutes. It was standing room only for the panel session with AK Benedict, Sarah Pinborough and Steve Cavanagh (author of The Defence) who were all on great form talking to W!zard FM about their books and the process of writing (sadly no wizards were present).


W!zard FM interviewing AK Benedict, Sarah Pinborough & Steve Cavanagh

Steve Cavanagh revealed that he’d not been to New York when he wrote The Defence, but got a sense of the place from films and television, and Google. This caused great surprise from the audience as he evokes such a strong New York vibe in the book – a testament to his great writing. Sarah Pinborough spoke about how writers draw on their own experiences and emotions as they write, and AK Benedict spoke about writing a character who chooses not to see (Maria, one of the main characters in Jonathan Dark or the Evidence of Ghosts, wears a blindfold after having surgery to restore her sight, therefore the way she experiences the world is though her other senses). AK mentioned that she has Synaesthesia – a neurological condition where experiencing something through one sense (for example, vision) results in an automatic experience in another (for example, sound) and that this had made describing how Maria experienced the world one of the easiest things to write about. There was then a lot of laughter as Sarah held out her arm and asked AK what she smelt like. AK sniffed her and replied, ‘the sound of A Minor’.

All the fabulous books mentioned above are out now. Here’s the blurb, and the links to buy them:

Thin Ice by Quentin Bates

Snowed in with a couple of psychopaths for the winter… When two small-time crooks rob Reykjavik’s premier drugs dealer, hoping for a quick escape to the sun, their plans start to unravel after their getaway driver fails to show. Tensions mount between the pair and the two women they have grabbed as hostages when they find themselves holed upcountry in an isolated hotel that has been mothballed for the season. Back in the capital, Gunnhildur, Eiríkur and Helgi find themselves at a dead end investigating what appear to be the unrelated disappearance of a mother, her daughter and their car during a day’s shopping, and the death of a thief in a house fire. Gunna and her team are faced with a set of riddles but as more people are quizzed it begins to emerge that all these unrelated incidents are in fact linked. And at the same time, two increasingly desperate lowlifes have no choice but to make some big decisions on how to get rid of their accidental hostages…

Click here to buy Thin Ice from Waterstones


Jonathan Dark or The Evidence of Ghosts by AK Benedict

Maria King knows a secret London. Born blind, she knows the city by sound and touch and smell. But surgery has restored her sight – only for her to find she doesn’t want it. Jonathan Dark sees the shadowy side of the city. A DI with the Metropolitan Police, he is haunted by his failure to save a woman from the hands of a stalker. Now it seems the killer has set his sights on Maria, and is leaving her messages in the most gruesome of ways. Tracing the source of these messages leads Maria and Jonathan to a London they never knew. To find the truth they’ll have to listen to the whispers on the streets.

Click here to buy Jonathan Dark or The Evidence of Ghosts from Waterstones


13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough

I was dead for 13 minutes. I don’t remember how I ended up in the icy water but I do know this – it wasn’t an accident and I wasn’t suicidal. They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but when you’re a teenage girl, it’s hard to tell them apart. My friends love me, I’m sure of it. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t try to kill me. Does it? 13 MINUTES is a gripping psychological thriller about people, fears, manipulation and the power of the truth.

Click here to buy 13 Minutes from Waterstones


The Defence by Steve Cavanagh

It’s been over a year since Eddie Flynn vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn’t have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie’s back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter, Amy. Eddie only has forty-eight hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial – and win – if he wants to save his daughter. Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his ‘client’ and ensure Amy’s safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible?

Click here to buy The Defence at Waterstones


DON’T MISS: Bestselling Crime Writers auctioned in CLIC Sargent Charity Auction!


Over sixty authors are taking part in this year’s Get in Character eBay auction, an annual fundraiser organised by CLIC Sargent, which provides support for children and young people affected by cancer.

The auction started on Thursday 25th February and runs for ten days ending at 8pm on Sunday 6th March (so there’s still time to bid!) and lots of fab crime writers are taking part by donating meet-and-greet experiences, signed book bundles and the chance to have a character named after you (or a loved one) in their upcoming books.

Crime Writer Simon Kernick

Simon Kernick

You can bid to have afternoon tea with Mark Billingham, Amanda Jennings and Clare Mackintosh; or to have lunch at ROKA with Simon Kernick and Belinda Bauer.

Or, if you’d like to have a character named after you (or a loved one) you can bid to be part of upcoming books from the following authors: Alex Shaw, Ali McNamara, Anthony McGowan & Jo Nadin, Anouska Knight, Catherine Alliott, Clare Donoghue, Denise Mina, Elly Griffiths, Emma Donoghue, Emma Hannigan, Holly Martin, Jane Fallon, Jodi Taylor, Julie Cohen, Kate Ellis, Katie Fforde, Katy Regan, Lisa Jewell, Luca Veste, Lucy Clarke, Paula Hawkins, Renee Knight, Roger Ellory, Santa Montefiore, Sara Gruen, Sarah Hilary, Sarah Morgan, Simon Kernick, Stephen Edgar, Steve Robinson, Tim Weaver, Tammy Cohen.

Since it was launched in 2014 the auction has raised more than £18,000 for CLIC Sargent – the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people, and their families, who provide financial, practical, emotional and clinical support to help them cope with cancer and get the most out of life. For more information visit www.clicsargent.org.uk

And to find out more about all the great things you can bid on, check out the auction at www.clicsargent.org.uk/getincharacter