Author Interview: Sarah Hilary


Sarah Hilary lives just down the road from me, is also a wife and mother, but has recently become a published author with rave reviews in the national press. I love to see a writer succeed. Her debut novel, Someone Else’s Skin, is available from Headline in the UK and Penguin in America. It is the first in a series and at least three other books featuring the protagonist, DI Marnie Rome, will follow.

It has taken Sarah nearly thirty years to get to this point. Despite many rejections along the way she continued writing, listening to feedback, improving and not giving up. The result is an impressive crime thriller that I and many others have very much enjoyed. She deserves the long awaited accolades that are now coming her way.

So many people have a story inside, but few have the patience and skill to craft these into a book that others will want to read. If you are looking for a crime thriller with power, depth and a compelling plot then you will enjoy this author’s work.

Please welcome to neverimitate, Sarah Hilary.

Where do you typically write?

For preference? In cafés. Im a big fan of white noise. Im trying to get better at working at my desk at home, so if anyone has any suggestions for neat shelving or pin-boards to make my writing space exciting, please let me know!

Tell us about your writing process.

Im not a great plotter, as I get bored easily; one of the reasons I write is to find out what happens, and to be surprised by the characters. I found a really good (fun) list of different ways to plot on Chuck Wendig’s blog, so Im going to take a crack at a couple of his methods to see what gives. Usually, I start with a rough idea and write around 4,000 words to see if it excites me. Then I start jotting down questions, and twists. The story grows out of those. After that, its a matter of sitting down and writing a couple of thousand words every day until the first draft is done. Usually a lean draft that needs layers, but Im much happier when I have the whole story down, as thats my map for rewrites.

Tell us about your publishing experience.

It took me a long time to get good enough to be signed by the agent of my dreams (Jane Gregory) but after that it happened quite quickly. Someone Elses Skin and the follow-up, No Other Darkness, sold after an auction in the UK, and I have publishing deals in seven other countries, which is beyond a dream come true. I have a terrific editor at Headline (Vicki Mellor), and a great publicity team who launched Someone Elses Skin with fanfare earlier this year. Since then its been pretty much non-stop, as Ive been finishing No Other Darkness at the same time as travelling to events around the UK to promote Someone Elses Skin. And now Ive started the third book in the series; my heads still spinning a little, and I feel Ive learned a heck of a lot, very quickly, about the publishing process.

In what ways do you promote your work?

With the help of my publicists here and in the US, Ive done a lot of blogs and interviews, and a couple of live Twitter chats (it really helped that Id been active in social media for some time before I got a book deal, as I had a head-start). Ive also done events at independent bookshops, some first person features for newspapers and magazines, and radio interviews.

What are some of your current projects?

Ive just started the third book in the Marnie Rome series, and Im making notes for the fourth book, so that the long-term character arcs are in place.

Where can my readers find you?

On Twitter: Sarah Hilary (@sarah_hilary)

Author’s Blog: Crawl Space (

Facebook: Sarah Hilary (

Someone Else’s Skin is available from the publisher, Amazon and all good bookshops.


Sarah Hilary lives in Bath with her husband and daughter, where she writes quirky copy for a well-loved travel publisher. She’s also worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. An award-winning short story writer, Sarah won the Cheshire Prize for Literature in 2012.

Someone Else’s Skin is her first novel, published by Headline in the UK, Penguin in the US, and in six other countries worldwide. A second book in the series will be published in 2015. Set in London, the books feature Detective Inspector Marnie Rome, a woman with a tragic past and a unique insight into domestic violence.

The Observer chose Someone Else’s Skin as its Thriller of the Month in March 2014, describing the book as Superbly disturbingan extraordinarily good debut.



Book Review: Someone Else’s Skin

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Someone Else’s Skin, by Sarah Hilary, explores the frightening and messy world of domestic violence with searing aplomb. It introduces us to Detective Inspector Marnie Rome, a rising star in the ranks of the police, who is struggling to deal with her own demons. All of the characters in this book have weaknesses and flaws which come across as recognisable and real. This is a crime story where prejudices exist and mistakes are made with potentially devastating consequences. It is all the more compelling and believable because of them.

The story centres around a group of abused women who have found sanctuary at a Women’s Shelter. The police arrive to interview one of the residents, only to find the front door unlocked and a man stabbed and dying on the floor inside. Stretched to their limits by the escalating violence that this turn of events unleashes, they try to unravel what has gone before, a task muddied by the victims and witnesses inability and unwillingness to share their experiences. What is gradually exposed is a frightening world of skewed moral compasses, family secrets and damaged people.

I did not warm to Marnie Rome but was impressed with the supporting cast that the author created. The level of diversity, experience, complacency and prejudice in the police force came across well, as did the officers reactions to each other. If literary licence were taken to achieve the fast-moving and tightly woven action then it was played out by credible crime fighters.

Amongst those being investigated by the police, I did find it hard at times to remember who was who. The back stories were complex and mattered. They did not make for easy reading due to the sadistic nature of the crimes. Although exploring the impact of psychological damage, this tale contains a disturbing level of physical violence that was challenging to read. It cannot have been an easy book for the author to research.

The various emotions evoked highlight the quality and power of the writing. The violence described is in no way gratuitous with much being suggested more than dwelt upon. That this happens in the world is sickening. That it is often overlooked for the sake of community relations, respect for cultural differences or because of a simple lack of manpower to deal with the scale of the problem is depressing.

I loved the ending. Not everything is neatly wrapped up, but this is intended to be the first of a series. I am sure that I am not the only reader who will be eagerly looking forward to the next book.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Headline.