10 Questions With… Sarah Pinborough

Hi everyone, this morning I’m delighted to welcome Sarah Pinborough to the blog. She was kind enough to answer my questions on her writing process. She is the author of the bestselling psychological thriller, Behind Her Eyes.

Over to you, Sarah…

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author? Was there a turning point with any particular book that made you go ‘Wow!’

I read so much as a child but I think as a young child it was Peter Pan, a copy of which I got for my 6th birthday and I can still see the pages even now, and also The Magician’s Nephew. As I got older I read pretty widely because I was at boarding school so there wasn’t that much else to do and there were always books, and then fell in love with all sorts of writers like Wilbur Smith, James Herbert and Stephen King. I read quite a lot of fantasy when I was young but that faded as I got older. No idea why.

2) Did you enjoy English at school?

I enjoyed the creative parts of it, and it was probably my best subject, so I guess yes. It was a long time ago!

3) Do you find that your day job helps you in your writing? If so, how?

I haven’t had a day job for about twelve years, so no;-). Although when I was teaching it probably helped a bit with teenage psyches when I later came to write some YA novels such as The Death House and 13 Minutes.But I think unless you were a police person and writing crime or whatever I don’t think day jobs tend to help in writing. Not for me anyway.

4) What was your route to publication? How did you find your current agent?

My first book was published at the end of 2004 and it was a straight horror novel for a mass market paperback company in America. They published my first 6 books. I was, I guess lucky, because I’d picked up a couple of their books in a US airport when I was writing my first book, and when I checked their website I saw that they accepted unsolicited manuscripts. So when I’d finished The Hidden, I sent the first 3 chapters and an outline and they bought it. I got my first agent after that. Then I just kind of worked my way up the publishing ladder from there!

5) Do you have any plan formed when you come up with ideas? How does your idea generation work?

I don’t really know! I don’t analyse where ideas come from really, but obviously you have to tailor them to what you’re contracted to write. So, if I’m contracted to write three adult psychological thrillers and I hand in a YA fantasy, that’s not going to end well. The more you write though, the more you look for ideas in every day life. If you read an interesting article and bookmark it, sometimes that will create an idea.. or at least the germ of one. When I get a sense of who my main character is then it starts to come to life. After that I spider diagram plot ideas etc. I’m a planner, so I do a lot of thinking and notes before I start, and I HAVE to have the end in place before I start. The rest can change as I go, but the ending is fixed and I’m working towards it.

6) How many times, roughly, would you say, that you polish a draft before you send it off to your agent?

Oh god, I’m normally late so I don’t! I finish it and then send to my UK editor and agent at the same time, and prob my US agent. I don’t see the point in polishing it at that point because there will be an edit anyway so the polishing can come later. I don’t write on spec so I’ve already sold the books before I write them so it’s different. And my agent doesn’t see them before my editor. Although I sometimes send her first 20,000 words so she’s got a feel for it for the foreign rights team.

7) Do you have any advice for writers looking to send their work to agents?

Obviously first check that the agency represents what the kind of fiction you’re writing. Make sure your book is finished and the first page – the first paragraph and first line – is really engaging, because to be honest, if your first page is dull they won’t read anymore. Make sure your accompanying book outline is clear, and your cover letter is professional. Don’t compare yourself or your book to other writers. Don’t sing your own praises. This is a business letter really. If there’s an interesting back story to your book, maybe a paragraph on it, but the work is what will sell itself or not. And whatever you do, don’t take rejection personally. I still have the notebook with my list of crossed out agencies that I sent my book to! One of the companies is now my agency, many years on;-) The Writer’s Handbook normally has a comprehensive list. Or if there is an author whose work is similar, check the acknowledgements, where they will no doubt thank their agent, and so you can find someone who may be a match that way.

8) What was the last book you read, and did you enjoy it?

I just read Lisa Hall’s upcoming book, ‘The Perfect Couple’ and I really loved it. A great psych thriller with echoes of Hitchcock and Rebecca.

9) When you leave your desk on a Friday, what’s the first thing you do? On a Friday evening/on the weekend, what do you do to relax?

I don’t work a Monday to Friday schedule so I tend to work seven days a week when I’m in the mood, or I may take a Monday of or whatever and my timings are fluid. It’s not a set ‘at my desk’ routine. But I’m quite boring really, I like watching movies. Sometimes I’ll just get a lot of crap food and watch 3 films back to back or whatever if I really want to switch off for a while. I walk the dog, work, watch movies and read.

10) If you had to choose between Rod Stewart and Freddie Mercury, who would it be and why?

Oh Freddie Mercury all the way! So much drama and magic. Love him!

Thank you so much for visiting my blog today, Sarah. It has been a pleasure to interview you.


Sarah Pinborough is a Sunday Times Number one, New York Times and Internationally bestselling author who is published in over 25 territories worldwide. Her recent books include Behind Her Eyes which will be a global Netflix series in summer 2020, and Cross Her Heart which is in development with World Productions. Her next thriller, Dead To Her (August 2020) has already been optioned by a major studio for development as a US TV series.

Sarah has been shortlisted for the Crime and Thriller Book of the Year at the British Book Awards and was the 2010 and 2014 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Novella. She has four times been short-listed for Best Novel. She is also a screenwriter who has written for the BBC and has several original television projects in development.’

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