I love a psychological thriller and so I’m delighted to welcome Sara Bailey, author of Dark Water, to Linda’s Book Bag. Dark Water is published today 3rd October 2016 by Nightingale Editions, an imprint of Blackbird Books. Dark Water is available for purchase on Amazon and from Waterstones.
To celebrate Dark Water’s publication day, Sara kindly agreed to be interviewed.
When Helena returns to her childhood home in Orkney to care for her father after a heart attack, she is forced to face memories that she has spent half a lifetime running from.
Still haunted by the disappearance of her best friend, the charismatic Anastasia – who vanished during a daredevil swimming incident – Helena must navigate her way though the prisms of memory and encounter not only her ghosts but also her first love, Dylan, the only one who can help her unravel the past and find her way back to the truth of what really happened that night.
Sara Bailey’s haunting and lyrical debut: a psychologically intense portrait of adolescent yearning and obsession, set in the beautiful Orkney Islands.
An Interview with Sara Bailey
Hi Sara. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and Dark Water in particular.
Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?
An insomniac who is afraid of flying – apparently the two are connected, but don’t ask me how.
Dark Water is your debut novel. What made you choose to write a psychological narrative?
I don’t think I set out to write a psychological narrative. The book began as an exercise in remembering a past and distorting it. The first draft was all in third person and it wasn’t till I found Helena’s voice the psychological elements emerged.
To what extent do you think adults are shaped by their teenage years like Helena?
Hugely. I think we carry that teenage baggage around with us for the rest of our lives unless we find a way of resolving it. There’s so much angst going in in those years – it doesn’t just go away once you hit 20. I think we get better at disguising it, but events that happen in those years shape the adults we become.
Friendship in various forms underpins Dark Water. How important are friends in your own life and to what extent have they been included as characters in Dark Water?
Friends are very important. Although I’d have to say I’m not someone who talks to friends daily or even goes out with them a lot. My best friends are ones I sometimes don’t speak to for months or even years, but we pick up where we left off. As for using them as characters in Dark Water – no. There are elements of people I’ve known, I might take the eyes of one or the way another moves or speaks, but characters take on their own identity as you write, so often those early start off points get written out or lost as the work develops. I’ve skewed some of the nick names from ones I know for the Orcadians – nick names are very common up here and often have a story behind them, sometimes they’re even passed on from father to son.
How far have you always been fascinated by water and why did you choose Dark Water as your title (without giving away the plot if possible please)?
That’s interesting because the title of the book came right at the end. And actually I didn’t choose it. The book has had several titles and none of them really stuck. It wasn’t till talking about drowning and divers with my husband (he used to dive) that the title suggested itself and then it just wouldn’t go away. If the book is about anything it’s about that moment of not knowing which way is the right one – which truth is real?
Not sure if I am fascinated by water – it’s important to me to live near water though, so an island is pretty well my perfect location.
The Orkneys are the setting for Dark Water. Why did you choose that location in particular?
Orkney had a huge influence on me as a person. I came here when I was ten on a family holiday (we stayed in Rousay). It was clear my parents loved it. So when, a year later, Dad got a job up here, we moved. I was at boarding school for a while then moved to the local school. My teenage years were spent here and even when I left I knew I would come back one day. It gets into your bones and it’s home for me.
In Dark Water Helena goes back to her childhood home and I know you went beck there to write the novel. What advice would you give to readers thinking of completing a similar journey?
I don’t think I’d give advice on this. It was right for me at the time, couldn’t say for anyone else.
You have a Ph.D in Creative and Critical Writing. Was this a help or a hindrance in writing your debut novel?
Difficult to answer. If you’d asked me just after I finished the Ph.D, I’d have said it was a hinderance and destroyed my confidence. However, in hindsight, I can see that it made me stronger and was a fantastic opportunity to explore my writing in ways I would never have done otherwise. I was lucky to get the input of some incredible people along the way. I think anyone wanting a Ph.D in any subject has to think carefully about what it is they are after. The floppy hat isn’t enough, because it gets really tough at times and you need to keep going.
Dark Water explores obsession. Do you have any obsessions in your own life?
Hahah – no I don’t think so, chocolate maybe.
(Not a bad obsession in my opinion Sara!)
When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?
When the first copies of the book arrived this week. Up until then all I knew was I wanted to be a writer, but I hadn’t actually really thought of myself as one. Then the book arrived this week and I realised that’s what I am now – a writer (does that make sense?)
(Complete sense. I think it’s that moment when the realisation hits home that others think you’re a writer too.)
If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?
No idea – my family are all good artists but I can barely draw stick men, I can’t sew and my knitting is terrible. I like to bake, so maybe I’d have made a lot of cakes.
How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?
Different research methods, depending on what it is I’m looking into. I might google it or check with an expert, or go to the library. I purposely moved bits of Orkney around to fit with the story, so there are inaccuracies geographically – the graveyard is not as close to the Italian chapel as it appears in the book is one example. Also, some buildings have been renamed and shifted. I didn’t want to use the real names of hotels for instance. It is, after all, a work of fiction and I think that’s OK.
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
It’s all like pulling teeth. Although having said that, when the writing is going well, it’s wonderful and feels easy. The difficult bit is always sitting down and getting on with it.
(Haha – the typical writer procrastination!)
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
I try to write in the mornings as I’m at my most awake then. Afternoons are hopeless, as soon as I sit down to write I’ll want a nap, so I try to avoid sitting at my desk in the afternoons and do other practical things then.
I write upstairs in our house, where we have amazing views from all the windows. I tend to write on my laptop, sitting on the sofa looking out of the window, which sounds very Barbara Cartland, but really isn’t! (Not a pink robe in sight, honest!). Editing and teaching work is all done at my desk which faces the wall so I’m not distracted.
View from house
(Those are very distracting views.)
When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
I read a lot and all different things. At the moment I’ve just finished reading Moondance by Diane Chandler (from same publishers) and Susie Kelly’s Swallows and Robins (hilarious). If I wake in the night (which I do frequently) I’ll read something soothing like Georgette Heyer (my secret indulgence).
Do you have other interests that give you ideas for writing?
I don’t know about other interests giving me ideas, but I do walk and that gives me space and time to think.
Dark Water has a very atmospheric cover. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?
I’m so glad you like the cover. We had a fantastic designer, who had a very detailed brief and who was sympathetic to the ideas in the book. We had a variety of ideas to choose from and all had different favourites but this was the one that we all immediately liked and when it was mocked up it became obvious that it was the one.
If you could choose to be a character from Dark Water, who would you be and why?
I couldn’t possibly say! LOL
If Dark Water became a film, who would you like to play Helena?
Edie Campbell has the right look. Otherwise someone like Gemma Arterton.
If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Dark Water should be their next read, what would you say?
Tricky…. If you’re still haunted by the relationships you had as a teenager, you’re not alone.
Thank you so much, Sara, for your time in answering my questions.
About Sara Bailey
Dr Sara Bailey is a writer, consultant and lecturer who has been working with authors and screenwriters for many years, in Richmond-upon-Thames, Winchester and Southampton. She has a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing from Bangor University. Her first book was published by Bloomsbury in 2013, Writing the Horror Movie, which she co-authored whilst hiding behind a cushion. Recently she has returned to her home of Orkney, the setting of her debut novel, Dark Water.
You can find out more with these other bloggers too: