Guest Post: Writing Our Fears



Sarah Hilary portrait and collects of her grandparents and mother that were taken in a Japanese POW camp. Mementos - a heart shaped pendant and a crucifix carved from the canopy of a plane and a book.  Photo by Linda Nylind. 31/1/2014.


Today I am happy to be hosting a guest post by Sarah Hilary, author of

  • the superbly disturbing Someone Else’s Skin which recently won the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year award;
  • No Other Darkness which was published in paperback last week and which I enjoyed even more than her debut.

If you enjoy quality crime fiction then you want to read these books. In the mean time, enjoy this post. 

Writing Our Fears by Sarah Hilary

‘Write what you know’ always struck me as bunkum. ‘Write what you want to know’ was my maxim for many years, but now I have a new one that sums it up much better (for me, at least).

‘Write what you fear’ is my new mantra.

No Other Darkness was a scary book to write and is, I hope, a scary book to read because so much of its story spoke to the under-the-bed monsters in my head. Here, then, is a rundown of my fears as manifested in Marnie Rome book two.

Going underground

So, bunkers. While I’m not quite claustrophobic, I can think of several places I’d rather spend time than in an underground bunker. I could feel its bruising damp as I started to write and that’s what I need—to be where I’m writing. I could smell the green-black rot, and feel the raw cement walls squeezing me. My palms were sweating the whole time I was writing the scenes towards the end of the book when Marnie’s trapped underground.

Angry teenagers

I’m scared of them. I’m scared for them. Marnie’s bogeyman is an angry teenage boy, but it’s more complicated than that because she herself was an angry teenager—something that haunts her throughout the series.

Creepy dolls

Anyone who’s seen the Penguin US cover of No Other Darkness will be with me on this one. I used to collect dolls as a girl. My ‘Mama’ doll went in the bath with me so many times she ended up saying, ‘Murder’. True story.

Lost children 

I’m a mother. I cried when I wrote the opening chapter of No Other Darkness. Like Marnie, it mattered to me that I was with the lost boys every step of the way. When Marnie sits in silence with them in the bunker—that was a seminal scene in terms of her character.

Losing yourself

‘There is no other darkness than this: what’s inside us. Where we hide; what we hide.’ The character who speaks this line in No Other Darkness scares me because of who she is and what she’s done. Her despair scares me, and her loss. Her fear scares me. The idea of losing yourself so completely that you’re no longer in control of your thoughts or actions—terrifies me.


So, there you have it. A handy list of the buttons to press to send me over the edge. But if you think this is frightening, you should see where book three is taking me. It’s not called Tastes Like Fear for nothing.


This post is part of the No Other Darkness blog tour. Check out the other stops on the tour, detailed below.

No Other Darkness pb.indd        Blog Tour


If you are on Twitter and live in the UK then, for today only, you can enter to win a copy of No Other Darkness. Check out my feed for details: Jackie Law (@followthehens) | Twitter.


Book Review: No Other Darkness

no other darkness

No Other Darkness, by Sarah Hilary, is a tense and gripping crime thriller which opens with the grisly discovery of two little boys entombed in an underground bunker. It features DI Marnie Rome who first appeared in the author’s debut novel, Someone Else’s Skin. Like the first book a challenging crime involving families and their dark secrets is explored. The story has depth and complexity but is presented effortlessly, thereby confirming the skill of the writer.

The boys’ bodies are found by the owner of a house which was built above the bunker eighteen months previously. It is estimated that the boys have been dead for around five years. With little to go on as to who these children could be or why they were entombed DI Rome’s team struggle to deal with what is threatening to become a cold case. They are not the only ones adversely affected by the tragedy. The home owner who found them has been rehomed while the investigation is ongoing. He and his family are struggling to come to terms with the effect the find and their enforced move has had on their psyches. As their home is exposed to outside scrutiny questions arise about how they chose to live and why.

The family have two young children, another on the way, and are also fostering a teenager. When the press become interested in the case an old flame of Marnie’s emerges, taunting her with parallels from her past. The teenager is the same age as the foster child who killed her parents.

At various stages I correctly guessed ahead of the plot yet each time found that this was not the conclusion but merely a step along the way. The story is heartbreaking on so many levels, the final few chapters oozing the terror of the darkness.

For crime fiction fans this thriller is an absolute treat. Graphic but never gratuitous it explores the potentially devastating consequences of untreated mental illness, of paranoia, and the damage that can be wrought by guilt, grief and fear.

I was fortunate enough to receive two proof copies of this book to review: one from the publisher, Headline, and one from Goodreads via a First Reads giveaway.