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The Real Writing Process of Sarah Pinborough
Episode 40431st December 2023 • The Real Writing Process • Tom Pepperdine
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Tom Pepperdine interviews best selling author and screenwriter, Sarah Pinborough, about her writing process. Sarah discusses how she develops her ideas, adapting her work for the screen, and why she ditched a major storyline in her latest book after watching a terrible film.

Sarah hasn't updated her website since 2017, but she's on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/sarahpinboroughbooks/

And Threads here: https://www.threads.net/@sarahpinboroughbooks

And you can find more information about this podcast on the following links:

https://www.threads.net/@realwritingpro

https://www.instagram.com/realwritingpro

https://www.facebook.com/therealwritingprocesspodcast

Transcripts

Tom:

Hello, and welcome to The Real Writing Process.

Tom:

I'm your host Tom Pepperdine, and this week my guest is the best selling author

Tom:

and screenwriter Sarah Pinborough.

Tom:

Sarah has been one of my top 10 wishlist guests since the very beginning, so

Tom:

I'm thrilled to have her on the show, especially when she is working on so

Tom:

many exciting things at the moment.

Tom:

I've had screenwriters on the show before, I've had authors with adapted works on

Tom:

the show before, but having an author who is directly involved in adapting

Tom:

one of their most successful books is a fascinating thing to discuss, and

Tom:

we really get into it on this episode.

Tom:

If you're new to Sarah's writing, then Behind Her Eyes is the book that got

Tom:

adapted into the popular Netflix series.

Tom:

Definitely worth a read, and its ending is one of the best you'll ever come across.

Tom:

The Death House is a beautiful gothic masterpiece and my personal favourite,

Tom:

and her subversive take on Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty in the

Tom:

Tales from the Kingdom trilogy are a lot of fun, and I feel showcase Sarah's

Tom:

personality and humour the most.

Tom:

But basically, she's a great writer who has written in a lot of genres and

Tom:

been successful in all of them, and she's really generous with her time

Tom:

and talking through her process today.

Tom:

She's also just struck a six book deal with Orion, and we discuss that

Tom:

in as much detail as she's allowed.

Tom:

So you'll be seeing and hearing from Sarah a lot in the next few years, and trust

Tom:

me when I say that's a very good thing.

Tom:

Today though, you get to hear her on this podcast.

Tom:

Apologies for my very clear fanboying in places, but if you know Sarah or

Tom:

her writing, then you know why I did.

Tom:

Anyway, on with the interview.

Tom:

And this week I'm here with Sarah Pinborough.

Tom:

Sarah, hello!

Sarah:

Hello!

Tom:

My first question as always, what are we drinking?

Sarah:

Today we are drinking the blood of Christ, or otherwise known red wine.

Tom:

A cheeky red, lovely.

Tom:

Well, cheers!

Sarah:

Cheers!

Sarah:

What cheeky red are you drinking?

Sarah:

Mine is a Malbec.

Tom:

Oh, I've got 19 Crimes.

Sarah:

Mm.

Tom:

Which is, uh.

Sarah:

Yes, I think appropriate.

Tom:

Yeah.

Tom:

Yes.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Tom:

Um, it's one of those very easy, and it's a blend.

Tom:

It's, it's common as muck, but it's so drinkable.

Sarah:

I like it.

Sarah:

It also sounds like my dating history.

Sarah:

. Tom: Yes.

Sarah:

Well, that's not the, the topic of conversation, but we may,

Sarah:

maybe it'll have a, an extra cut.

Sarah:

Um, So, where am I speaking to you now?

Sarah:

Is this where you write?

Sarah:

Is this just your front room?

Sarah:

This is my sitting room in Milton Keynes, innit.

Sarah:

And I do, I do have a very big desk over here with a big iMac on it, which never

Sarah:

gets used for anything other than admin.

Sarah:

And I tend to sit on the sofa and write.

Sarah:

I mean, I used to, before I had the dog, I would write in bed.

Sarah:

And when I'm in Chiswick, I rented a flat in Chiswick for a couple

Sarah:

of years as well to try and split my time, which is not working.

Sarah:

You know, it's really hard to split your time, especially when you've got

Sarah:

a dog who I very quickly realized did not like London, quite scared of it.

Sarah:

But when I'm there, I work in bed again and I'm like, Oh, I remember this.

Sarah:

And I just get up and get a cup of tea and go back to bed get like a load of

Sarah:

work done before anyone else woke up.

Sarah:

Whereas now the dog has to have stuff, you know?

Tom:

Yeah, Ted's the priority.

Sarah:

Ted is the priority.

Sarah:

He's just emerged from his thunder blanket.

Sarah:

Bless him.

Tom:

Oh, has it been quite stormy where you are?

Sarah:

Yeah.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Sarah:

I think there's a bit more coming.

Tom:

Okay.

Tom:

And, so you're a laptop writer?

Sarah:

Yeah, absolutely.

Sarah:

Well, I've got, uh, notebooks, pens.

Sarah:

I've got a Remarkable, which I really like editing scripts on.

Sarah:

But yeah, mainly notebooks, pens, paper, laptop, I'm quite into there's

Sarah:

a called Milanote, and that's quite good for planning, rearranging ideas.

Sarah:

And I do use that sometimes.

Sarah:

So I'm getting more and more online, but I still have to have

Sarah:

a notebook for each project.

Tom:

Okay.

Tom:

So, do you like to choose a specific notebook or is it just like you have?

Sarah:

Oh, very specific and the more.

Sarah:

pretentious I get as I get older.

Sarah:

It used to be, I would go into Ryman's and spend hours staring at the notebooks.

Sarah:

And now I go online to the journal shop and I look at their Japanese notebooks.

Sarah:

I think, Oh, if I buy this Japanese notebook, this book is just going to flow.

Sarah:

There's going to be no problem whatsoever.

Sarah:

And then, you know, there's a mistake on page one.

Sarah:

I think, okay, that's how we're going to carry on.

Sarah:

But yeah, the A4, they have to be A4.

Sarah:

I can't use small notebooks.

Tom:

Are you special about pens?

Tom:

Do you have special pens?

Sarah:

Yes, I do.

Sarah:

I have a Uni ball fine line.

Sarah:

And I have black and red.

Sarah:

Don't mess around with any other colours, just black and red.

Sarah:

And do little brainstorms with like, either black on the inside, red on

Sarah:

the outside, then mix it up a bit.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Tom:

Yeah, I was going to say with having two colours, because I know Neil

Tom:

Gaiman will write one day in one colour, the second day in another colour to

Tom:

see progress, but is it more you have black as your main and red for edits?

Sarah:

Not really.

Sarah:

I think it just can sometimes separate out ideas on the page.

Sarah:

So, it's very messy.

Sarah:

I'm going to actually show you because what really works

Sarah:

well on a podcast is to show.

Sarah:

It's sort of like, if you see there.

Tom:

Okay.

Tom:

It's not linear.

Tom:

There's definitely little subsections.

Sarah:

I'm like, I write like quite small.

Sarah:

And so there'll be little boxes with writing.

Sarah:

And so it just helps me see what I might have written.

Sarah:

Yeah, And it just looks better than just black.

Sarah:

It always used to be just black.

Sarah:

I don't know when I started in on the red, but that's a new addition.

Tom:

Yeah, and you don't have like reds for more important things.

Tom:

It's just, there's too much black on this page?

Sarah:

Yeah, I just like to mix it up a bit.

Sarah:

Yeah, yeah.

Sarah:

Living on the edge, you know me Tom.

Tom:

And with the starting of a story, that you think of a central character

Tom:

and then the world they inhabit, or are you currently exploring worlds?

Sarah:

Hmm.

Sarah:

It's very hard to separate, isn't it?

Sarah:

Often, I often come up with a scenario.

Sarah:

So like Behind Her Eyes, I had the ending.

Sarah:

And then I was like, what kind of people would be in this situation?

Sarah:

And then populated that story.

Sarah:

And with Insomnia, again, I kind of had the concept of it.

Sarah:

So I think if you're working with supernatural elements or paranormal

Sarah:

elements, I think that kind of, that element of it, that twist part of

Sarah:

it maybe comes first and then you build out the characters from there.

Sarah:

You know, with A Matter of Blood, I remember thinking I wanted to

Sarah:

do a retelling of Paradise Lost.

Sarah:

And then I was like, who would be the weirdest character to stick in this?

Sarah:

Okay, a policeman.

Sarah:

And then the characters come to life, but they only really come

Sarah:

to life when I give them a name.

Sarah:

Even though I am epically rubbish at names, like there

Sarah:

are a lot of Wills in my books.

Sarah:

And there was going to not be a Will in Insomnia, but I realized

Sarah:

just before I pressed to action it, that find and replace on Will

Sarah:

in a novel badly, badly wrong.

Sarah:

So, um, yeah, but I think the two very much go hand in hand for

Sarah:

most people, story and character.

Sarah:

It's hard to define quite what, what comes first.

Sarah:

I mean, there might be, I guess if I wanted to write something about

Sarah:

an agoraphobic, then I might come up with the character first, but I

Sarah:

still think that's almost concept rather than character, isn't it?

Sarah:

Cause that's a part of that person.

Sarah:

It's not who that person is.

Sarah:

It's something that they deal with rather than who that person is.

Tom:

And with your latest work, we won't go into spoiler details,

Tom:

but was it definitely a concept that grabbed you with the latest?

Sarah:

The one I'm just editing now?

Tom:

Yeah.

Sarah:

Well, I'll tell ya for what happened with that, Tomothy.

Sarah:

Okay.

Sarah:

I was going to write a very different book and I couldn't quite get the

Sarah:

story, which was quite a problem when you're trying to write a book.

Tom:

Yeah.

Sarah:

You know, and I was a bit worried that like most people, if I read a

Sarah:

really great book, I think, Oh God, I want to write a really great book.

Sarah:

And I'd read a couple of really, really great books.

Sarah:

And, and I think I was almost in that arena of trying to mimic.

Sarah:

You know, I was trying to come up and then I watched a really, really

Sarah:

bad film called, I think it was a Patricia Highsmith adaptation.

Sarah:

I think I want to say Dark Water or something like that.

Sarah:

And it had that very, very beautiful woman who played Marilyn Monroe.

Tom:

Oh, Ana de Armas.

Sarah:

Yes.

Sarah:

And it had...

Tom:

ben Affleck?

Sarah:

Yes.

Tom:

Yes.

Sarah:

Truly atrocious, very watchful tripe, but it was utterly tripe.

Sarah:

And I just then watching that thought, Oh my God, I suddenly

Sarah:

wanted to write about couples who'd been together a very long time.

Sarah:

You know, like in their thirties or whatever, but had been

Sarah:

together since they were 20.

Sarah:

And all the boredom and irritation that comes along with that.

Sarah:

And it's morphed a little bit from there because as I'm editing it, I've changed

Sarah:

quite a lot of how it's playing out.

Sarah:

But that was what came there.

Sarah:

So I guess really, that was, character came first, maybe, on this one.

Tom:

Yeah, I think, I've definitely seen, sort of stories that had

Tom:

a great concept badly executed.

Tom:

Hmm.

Tom:

And I can see how that could motivate.

Sarah:

They're my books aren't they?

Sarah:

LAUGHING

Tom:

No, mostly, like, bad films, just cheesy films.

Sarah:

Because they're sold on the concept.

Tom:

Yeah.

Sarah:

And that's all the studio cares about is the concept.

Sarah:

Because that's what they'll do the marketing on and trailer on.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Sarah:

But yeah, this one's been a bit of a journey.

Tom:

Okay.

Tom:

Have you had to do much research for it?

Sarah:

I try not to bother too much with that.

Sarah:

No, not for this one.

Sarah:

I think, no, not really.

Sarah:

No, it wasn't that kind of book.

Sarah:

I had the conceit and there was a little bit of stuff for plot line

Sarah:

that I've pulled out that I had to research, which was financial stuff.

Sarah:

And then when I got to do the edit after quite a big gap away from it,

Sarah:

I looked and I thought, I don't think I want the storyline in it at all,

Sarah:

which was a bit of a problem because it was the main storyline, Tom.

Tom:

Right.

Sarah:

Which is now no longer there.

Sarah:

So I've taken that out and replacing it.

Sarah:

So yeah, I think this book thankfully isn't coming out till 2025.

Tom:

Okay, well at the moment, she said.

Sarah:

At the moment.

Sarah:

Because I don't normally do Big Edits, this is a whole new ball game for me,

Sarah:

I normally hand in my first draft.

Sarah:

It gets a little bit like, bring this up, drop that down, and then that's it.

Sarah:

But this one's the biggest edit I've done.

Tom:

Okay.

Tom:

And is that driven by your need to make it the best story?

Tom:

Or are people telling you, no, Sarah?

Sarah:

Uh, I think there's a bit of both.

Sarah:

In that while I was writing this book, I also wrote six episodes of

Sarah:

greenlit television, which quite naively when people said, you're

Sarah:

writing the whole show yourself?

Sarah:

And I was like, yeah, how hard can it be?

Tom:

Very hard.

Sarah:

It's quite high pressure, you know?

Sarah:

So the book wasn't always getting the love it deserved and also I was

Sarah:

a little in a knot with it because I, I kind of figured that my publisher

Sarah:

wanted a psychological thriller, which is what was in my contract.

Sarah:

I am bored out of my tiny mind by psychological thrillers these days.

Sarah:

And so I think that was coming across.

Sarah:

And so when the edit came through, it was still quite a big edit.

Sarah:

But then I was like, actually, if you strip this out.

Sarah:

Concentrate on this element.

Sarah:

So it's now going to be much more of a gothic novel, which

Sarah:

I'm much more excited about.

Sarah:

It's going to be the closest to a horror novel that I've written in a long time.

Tom:

I was going to say, because you started in horror, you dabbled in fantasy.

Tom:

And then yeah, you've done oh, a few police procedurals,

Tom:

but they were kind of...

Sarah:

It was still supernatural.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Tom:

Yeah.

Tom:

And, you have your, yeah, sci fi horror roots.

Tom:

Because I'm really excited about the Death House adaptation.

Sarah:

Yeah, I'm less excited about doing that.

Sarah:

I'm just literally looking at it right now going, bloody hell.

Sarah:

But I'm really hoping we can get the director that I'm working with now.

Sarah:

I think he would be great for it.

Sarah:

So I'm trying to kind of schmooze the producer and him

Sarah:

together to get that done.

Tom:

How is it revisiting your work, for adaptation?

Sarah:

Well, The Death House has been tricky because it's a character story.

Sarah:

So we've had to instill an engine.

Sarah:

And it's quite hard to instill an engine when it's about kids who are all dying.

Sarah:

So we've had to change quite a few bits.

Sarah:

I mean, it's still the key components of it are still there.

Sarah:

But we've changed quite a bit of it.

Sarah:

Um, mainly, with me, I have to be told to stop changing too much, you know?

Sarah:

Like I get quite into the sort of, Oh, tell it from a

Sarah:

different angle kind of thing.

Sarah:

I'm not very precious with it, with the adapting.

Sarah:

I mean, with A Matter of Blood in the pilot, it's recognizable as from the book.

Sarah:

We've glossed it more because, you know, no one wants too dark right now.

Sarah:

And we've had some characters meeting that don't meet.

Sarah:

And often if you're, if you're adapting something you wrote.

Sarah:

So I wrote.

Sarah:

Matter of blood in 2009.

Sarah:

It came out in 2010.

Sarah:

You know, I'm many, many years and many books older.

Sarah:

So I look at it and my eyes were bleeding with some of the

Sarah:

writing, the overwriting in it.

Sarah:

But, um, you see ways you would change the story slightly.

Sarah:

So you get to do that.

Sarah:

And other people have opinions too, you know.

Tom:

I was going to say, because you were talking about, you know, director

Tom:

that you're trying to work with.

Tom:

Do you find that quite a collaboration?

Sarah:

I think it really has to be.

Sarah:

And so with the insomnia, so Borkur Sigthorsson he's directing

Sarah:

all six, so it's as much, so it becomes his show as well as mine.

Sarah:

It's not like they're coming in to do two episodes and buggering off, you know?

Sarah:

So it was really important that, that we both understood

Sarah:

the story that was being told.

Sarah:

And, we've had some funny moments, we've had some rare moments, but really

Sarah:

now we're really in tune story wise.

Sarah:

And he will ring me up and go, like in the car on the way to

Sarah:

set, and say, I've had an idea.

Sarah:

You know how later on Emma says this to so and so well how about if Robert says

Sarah:

this to so and so then we mirror it?

Sarah:

And I'm like yeah brilliant, where am I rewriting that what scene is that?

Sarah:

So we would love to keep working together, it's that kind of dynamic and the DOP is

Sarah:

brilliant and the whole team is great.

Sarah:

But you have a lot of people with say, because there's

Sarah:

a lot of money being spent.

Tom:

Yeah.

Sarah:

And then the actors, you know, like the stupid things that we had

Sarah:

to change a name of a character.

Sarah:

It wasn't even a character.

Sarah:

It was just an off scene character, so that they gave me some names

Sarah:

to pick cause everything has to be cleared, to see if we can use it.

Sarah:

And they said, Oh, we can't use the name you have.

Sarah:

So I just randomly picked one from the list and it transpired that it came in

Sarah:

the middle of quite a tricky sentence.

Sarah:

And Vicky was like, I can't say it.

Sarah:

There's like a tongue twister.

Sarah:

So then they changed it again.

Sarah:

So things change, as long as the cast are getting the meaning of the

Sarah:

scene across, I don't care if they tweak a line here or there or change

Sarah:

it to how it feels more natural.

Tom:

Oh, that's cool.

Tom:

Yeah, because I know some writers can be very, you know, read it as written.

Sarah:

I think it's really arrogant.

Sarah:

Because actually, like now, they're all way more in that story than me.

Sarah:

They're in the heart of filming.

Sarah:

I'm doing the odd tweak on a scene here and there or whatever.

Sarah:

But, Vicky McClure is Emma right now.

Sarah:

Every day she's on that set for 10 hours being Emma.

Sarah:

So I'm kind of like, if she thinks Emma might say the line slightly

Sarah:

differently, I mean go for it.

Sarah:

If you think that sounds better on the day, go for it.

Sarah:

Because sometimes you hear it at the read through, we'd hear things and be like,

Sarah:

Oh no, that we need to tweak that line.

Sarah:

Because written is not the same as spoken.

Tom:

And do you like to visit set and be involved there or is it?

Sarah:

I was supposed to go on Friday.

Sarah:

We all went out for dinner Friday night.

Sarah:

We had such a lovely night.

Sarah:

We met at 6 30 and there was a lot of drunken people by half past 12.

Sarah:

But I was supposed to have gone in that day and it was in a dodgy location

Sarah:

and a bit cold and I was a bit like, yeah, we can get to the main house.

Sarah:

I mean, it's really boring.

Sarah:

It's really boring.

Sarah:

And I get the rushes every day.

Sarah:

They send me through everything they filmed.

Sarah:

So I'm kind of doing it from my sofa.

Sarah:

That's fine.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Sarah:

But I will go.

Tom:

I think it's just filming is a lot slower than I think people realize

Tom:

because of all the lighting setups and blocking and things like that.

Sarah:

And even when it's all set up, even if they're keeping it set up for

Sarah:

days, it's just the, we'll do it from this angle and we'll do it from that angle.

Sarah:

Then we'll do it again from that angle.

Sarah:

Then we're going to film a walking down the corridor 10 times.

Sarah:

I'd be the most rubbish director in the world.

Sarah:

I'd be like, yeah, it's all right.

Sarah:

Let's do the next bit.

Sarah:

Let's get on.

Tom:

They're vaguely in frame.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Sarah:

Who cares about that hanging microphone.

Tom:

And, yeah, I think moving on from the planning and adapting sort of stuff.

Tom:

Actually on the drafting of a manuscript or drafting of a screenplay firsthand.

Tom:

You mentioned earlier that, you know, you used to just roll out

Tom:

of bed and it was the first thing.

Tom:

Are you very regimented with the times that you write?

Sarah:

No, I used to be a lot more, and I think from anyone who's gone from a full

Sarah:

time job to writing full time, it's hard to break that cycle for a little while.

Sarah:

As a rule, I much prefer working early in the morning.

Sarah:

But at the moment it's like my dog walker friend broke her knee.

Sarah:

So, so this morning I went out later with my dog and then I went around to see her.

Sarah:

So by the time I got back to my desk, it was like 10 o'clock before I

Sarah:

started doing anything, which for me would normally be like, Oh, I've done

Sarah:

two or two hours work or whatever.

Sarah:

So I know that I'll have to work this evening to catch up those hours.

Sarah:

But no, I, I'm not very regimented and I'm not, you know, it's one of

Sarah:

these things people always go on about my work ethic, but I'm not even sure

Sarah:

I have that an amazing work ethic.

Sarah:

I think I just work smart.

Sarah:

When I do work, I like click freedom on for half an hour and think,

Sarah:

right, I'm going to hammer out 500 words in that half an hour.

Sarah:

And I rough write first in Scrivener.

Sarah:

So I kind of plan, I always have the ending and then I plan some

Sarah:

tent poles, this for a book.

Sarah:

And then obviously those change as you go along, but I try and plan

Sarah:

out in little brainstormy bubbles, like 10, 000 words at a time maybe.

Sarah:

So then I'll have that on paper and then I rough write it into Scrivener.

Sarah:

And then I write it in neat in Word, which is why often I don't need a

Sarah:

second draft or a third draft because I've done kind of three drafts.

Sarah:

By putting my hands in, you know, and because my plotting's normally tight,

Sarah:

it's hard to deconstruct, you know?

Tom:

Yeah.

Tom:

So with all your note, your notepads, you're really mapping out the plot.

Tom:

And making sure you're getting, as you say, the tentpoles, the

Tom:

beats of the story through.

Sarah:

Yeah, and then rough writing in Scrivener, I quite like because...

Sarah:

I don't feel like I'm committed to these words, as it were, so I just write it and

Sarah:

then I tidy it before it goes into Word.

Sarah:

And then it goes into Word, so in the morning I quite like to do the hard

Sarah:

graft, like the rough writing where you're actually coming out with it

Sarah:

and then in the afternoon tidy it up.

Sarah:

Or often in the afternoon it would then be a script.

Sarah:

But scripting is different.

Sarah:

You have to plan the whole episode out before you, I mean, if you're writing

Sarah:

it on spec, do what you want, but if someone's paid you to do it, they

Sarah:

want to see what you're writing first.

Sarah:

So you write the whole outline and you know, they pay for that.

Sarah:

You know, you paid for the Bible and you're paid for the outline and whatever.

Sarah:

So, yeah.

Tom:

So, with rough writing is a lot of the previous guests I've had

Tom:

tend to refer to the vomit draft.

Tom:

And I guess that's, just to clarify for listeners, that's

Tom:

you telling yourself the story.

Sarah:

No, I'm writing the book.

Tom:

Okay.

Sarah:

But, you know, it just means that I'm, I don't feel

Sarah:

like I'm doing the neat draft.

Sarah:

Then I copy it over and then I just tidy it . So yeah, it's not, it's

Sarah:

not really a vomit draft per se.

Sarah:

Because I do it in tiny bits and I'm not a vomit draft person.

Sarah:

I tried it once.

Tom:

Yeah.

Sarah:

Just stared at the page and was like, no, can't do that.

Tom:

Okay.

Tom:

So rough is just like you say, you're not precious over the words.

Tom:

It's just like, okay, get it down.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Tom:

Cause, the thing that a few recent guests have said is like,

Tom:

you can't edit an empty page.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Tom:

So I guess it's going on that ethos.

Sarah:

And it's why I don't do it in Word.

Tom:

Yeah.

Sarah:

It's basically like some people would write and I used

Sarah:

to then literally rewrite it.

Sarah:

But now I just cut and paste it in, turn into Times New Roman and

Sarah:

then read it through and tidy.

Sarah:

I know some people who splurge their first draft in like six weeks, eight weeks, but

Sarah:

then they spend five months rewriting it.

Sarah:

I tend to just do it slower than that.

Sarah:

And I think there's a great, there are a lot worse.

Sarah:

Prolific is not the best adjective to be described as, as a writer.

Sarah:

And I see a lot of people on the internet, like, yeah, I'm going

Sarah:

to write this book in a month.

Sarah:

And you're like, well, it's going to be shit.

Sarah:

I don't care who you are.

Sarah:

It's going to be shit.

Sarah:

And speed is not, and the word count and all that stuff that

Sarah:

people really get so excited about.

Sarah:

I'm, I now think.

Sarah:

Let it go.

Sarah:

Chill.

Sarah:

The thinking time is, is valuable.

Sarah:

You rush it.

Sarah:

You're not thinking about your plot enough.

Tom:

Yeah.

Sarah:

You know, cause sometimes there's gaps.

Sarah:

Those gaps allow you to think, Oh, actually, is that the best way to do that?

Sarah:

Would it be more fun if this happened or, you know?

Tom:

Because our mutual friend, Tim Lebbon, previous guest

Tom:

on the show, The Lebbonator.

Tom:

He likes to write his stories to find out how they end.

Sarah:

Yeah, he's a psychopath.

Tom:

Um, but obviously very different to you.

Tom:

So you, before you start your first draft.

Tom:

You've plotted very tightly, you know.

Sarah:

No, God no.

Sarah:

No, I have the ending.

Tom:

Okay.

Sarah:

The ending is often exactly how it will be in the book.

Sarah:

I have the ending.

Sarah:

But I haven't tightly plotted, no.

Sarah:

I'll have a rough kind of like maybe ten points that, then turns maybe.

Sarah:

But they'll change.

Sarah:

They're not like, I think Claire McIntosh, she has a proper board of

Sarah:

cards with every chapter pretty much summarized before she starts to write.

Sarah:

That's not happening in my world.

Sarah:

I've got the ending, you know, and then I kind of slowly build it from there.

Sarah:

But as I go.

Tom:

So when you're drafting out your rough in Scrivener

Tom:

er and then moving into Word.

Tom:

In a writing session, if you've got these 10 story beats, are you writing

Tom:

to the first story beat and sort of...

Sarah:

Yeah, and then often it will change or I'll write to the end of the first act.

Sarah:

I might think, okay, we're going to get to the bit where she's definitely

Sarah:

going to start investigating this.

Sarah:

And then the middle act is always the worst bit.

Sarah:

That that's always the messiest.

Sarah:

And then the last bit, you kind of know where you're headed.

Sarah:

So like I've currently in my redraft, I know that I've probably got

Sarah:

enough plotting till Friday, and then I'm gonna have to think, okay,

Sarah:

so what do we need to get to next?

Sarah:

What's the next bit we really need to figure out and just

Sarah:

see where it feels right.

Sarah:

And yeah.

Tom:

And when you've got these thinking time periods, do you have any

Tom:

rituals, any exercises that you do that help with the problem solving?

Tom:

Is it like, right, Ted, we're going to have...

Tom:

a very long walk today.

Sarah:

The lunchtime walks, to be fair.

Sarah:

Like morning walks, uh, sort of much more about the business

Sarah:

of the dog walk, as it were.

Sarah:

Uh, the lunchtime walks, if it's the day's nice and it's quiet in the park.

Sarah:

I don't like it if it's too busy, especially since that dog took me down.

Sarah:

I'm a bit dog wary, you know, so I avoid it in the early morning and then I go

Sarah:

about 11 with him for a second one.

Sarah:

Then there's a lot more thinking time.

Sarah:

But no, I don't really have any rituals.

Sarah:

And like everybody, it's when you're lying in bed at night and the light's

Sarah:

off and your brain starts going tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.

Sarah:

You know, and then bits come, but sometimes it's just like watching telly.

Sarah:

Put something on the telly and then you think, Oh yeah, I

Sarah:

know what I'm gonna do there.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Tom:

And if you are thinking at night, do you have a notebook by the bed?

Sarah:

No, no, I just email myself.

Tom:

Okay.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Sarah:

Yeah, grab my phone.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Tom:

Nice.

Tom:

And, yeah.

Tom:

So you've mentioned that you're not someone who word counts.

Tom:

But you also said how you went from, you know, day job to full time

Tom:

writer and the structure of a day.

Tom:

Do you have working hours?

Sarah:

No, no, because I, I work all the time.

Sarah:

And it's, my hardest thing is not working.

Sarah:

Mainly because, I mean, it's ludicrous because without sounding

Sarah:

like a twat, I'm not broke now.

Sarah:

I could quit working.

Sarah:

But you still worry, like, am I going to earn any money next year?

Sarah:

For some reason, you just always have that.

Sarah:

How much money is enough money?

Sarah:

And so then I find myself just saying yes to loads of things

Sarah:

and also exciting things.

Sarah:

You get new deal, you get new TV stuff, film stuff, exciting.

Sarah:

And then you suddenly have gone from worrying about having no work to

Sarah:

having work coming out of your ears.

Sarah:

And then it's, it's more about portioning up the day.

Sarah:

And I think it was Mark Chadbourn years ago, I saw something on his Facebook.

Sarah:

And he does a bit of screenwriting, and his thing was always like,

Sarah:

do the words on the novel first.

Sarah:

And I get it now because screenwriting is all consuming.

Sarah:

Because it's not like if you're doing 10 pages on a draft, so let's say an

Sarah:

episode of TV, 55 pages, so actually 10 pages, you're quite a way through the

Sarah:

draft, you're kind of chasing the end.

Sarah:

Whereas in a book, you're more like, okay, I've done 10, 000 words, oh,

Sarah:

look, there's still 80, 000 words to go.

Sarah:

You're slower, so it's much easier to push the book to one side and work

Sarah:

on the scripts, but actually if you do an hour or so on the book every

Sarah:

morning, your book will progress.

Sarah:

But scripts, scripts take as long as a book, but they're just more intensive.

Tom:

Yeah.

Tom:

Just with scripts.

Tom:

Cause I know seems archaic now, commercial television with commercial breaks.

Sarah:

Cause we had to write to the ad break, right?

Tom:

Yeah.

Tom:

Is that something that you've come across?

Tom:

I know you've written for the BBC and you've written for streamers.

Sarah:

It's not really a thing anymore.

Sarah:

Maybe on ITV, but that's about it.

Sarah:

I've never had to write to the ad break.

Sarah:

But you still, I mean, you want hooks within the episode, obviously,

Sarah:

but it's a lot more freeing now.

Sarah:

Because if you're writing a Netflix show, you can have one episode, it's

Sarah:

an hour, one episode is 45 minutes.

Sarah:

I mean, they tend to like more to come in at a certain amount, but yeah.

Sarah:

God, that would be painful having to write a certain amount of minutes per quarter

Sarah:

of an episode and have a hook at each.

Sarah:

Yeah, no, fuck that shit.

Sarah:

I'll stick to this.

Sarah:

(laughs)

Tom:

And I suppose the stuff that you've had adapted.

Tom:

I mean, it's probably a sort of a bigger challenge with the Death House, because

Tom:

that's a TV series as well, isn't it?

Sarah:

No, movie.

Sarah:

Movie.

Tom:

Oh, it is a movie.

Tom:

Okay, okay, that makes sense.

Tom:

Because when you've got the thrillers, there are these hooks, like your

Tom:

ten tentpoles throughout the story.

Tom:

So, breaking those down into episodes.

Sarah:

Although they change, like, I mean, Insomnia is quite different

Sarah:

from the book in a lot of ways because you're visualizing way.

Sarah:

I mean, it's hard.

Sarah:

The death house has been really hard to adapt because it

Sarah:

doesn't have plot points per se.

Tom:

Yeah.

Sarah:

Stuff happens.

Sarah:

I mean, obviously, we've had to change some bits, but some of

Sarah:

the same stuff obviously happens.

Sarah:

But we've instilled more engine in there and more hope maybe and what.

Sarah:

Because otherwise, you're literally just, there's no twists, there's no turns, it's

Sarah:

just quite a sad love story, you know?

Sarah:

Like, yeah, I've killed that little boy so many times now, I don't know.

Tom:

Oh, is it John Green?

Tom:

Does he write those sort of sick novels?

Sarah:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Tom:

Yeah.

Tom:

You know, just, oh, whatcha doing today?

Tom:

Killing another child?

Sarah:

Killing, yeah, another child dying in my book.

Tom:

That's it.

Tom:

And this is where we drink wine.

Tom:

There we go.

Tom:

Chin chin.

Tom:

Yeah.

Tom:

Okay.

Tom:

So the work life balance at the moment, out of kilter, but do you, when you

Tom:

finish a story, do you then take a break?

Tom:

Or I suppose at the moment you've kind of got so many projects on the go.

Sarah:

There's overlaps, so one ends, something else comes up.

Sarah:

Um, no, I should do though, because a friend of mine who's on telly,

Sarah:

he took six months off recently and said it was the best thing he did.

Sarah:

Because otherwise the projects just keep coming and mounting up.

Sarah:

So, yeah, I mean, I was never very good when, when I was just writing

Sarah:

books, if I finished a book, I was never really very, very good until I

Sarah:

was in a new book in my head space.

Sarah:

But now I do think it would be quite nice to just have a couple

Sarah:

of months off, but I don't see that happening in the foreseeable.

Sarah:

I mean, I'm going on holiday at the end of October for 10 days,

Sarah:

so that's going to be quite nice.

Sarah:

But, um, as a rule...

Sarah:

And also there's a bit of make hay while the sun shines, isn't there?

Sarah:

You know, and, you know, next year when Insomnia comes out, hopefully that'll

Sarah:

profile boost me for the screenwriting.

Sarah:

You know, it already has to a certain extent.

Sarah:

I'm not out of work.

Sarah:

And I'm just doing this new book deal, which I can't talk about yet.

Sarah:

So that...

Sarah:

When does this, when do we put this out?

Tom:

I can put it out whenever I want.

Sarah:

Oh, okay, cool.

Sarah:

Ah, okay, so I've just done this great new deal with Orion and Galant.

Tom:

Okay.

Sarah:

Yeah, so that's me kind of tied up for the next few years.

Tom:

So a multi book deal?

Sarah:

It was seven figures.

Tom:

Woah.

Tom:

So there's going to be just one book, but really fucking good.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Sarah:

Can you imagine?

Sarah:

Yeah, no.

Sarah:

They've read my book, that's never going to happen.

Sarah:

Well, actually what was really great.

Sarah:

They did this amazing presentation to me.

Sarah:

It was amazing with this big booklet and the whole of Orion

Sarah:

was there, like from the MD down.

Sarah:

And like how they wanted me to come back, and so some of it is, I'm doing a

Sarah:

prequel and a sequel to the fairy tales.

Tom:

Oh, nice.

Sarah:

Um, so what's really good about it is that I can basically write what I want.

Sarah:

So if I want to write a crime novel, it'll come out with Orion.

Sarah:

If I want to write a fantasy novel, it'll come out with Gollancz.

Sarah:

So I've got to write two new novels and these prequel, sequel, fairytale.

Sarah:

So that would be...

Sarah:

Yes!

Sarah:

Yeah.

Tom:

For the listeners, I'm holding Tales from the Kingdom,

Tom:

which is all three in hardback.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Tom:

Yeah, I've got, this is, this is a rare one.

Sarah:

And they are also publishing that.

Tom:

Okay.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Tom:

So,

Tom:

At this moment I have redacted the title that I just said, which

Tom:

will become clear in a moment.

Tom:

I've left the rest of the conversation though, because it's

Tom:

Christmas and I thought it'd be fun.

Sarah:

Yes.

Tom:

so yeah, cause this is, is it a novella?

Tom:

It's not very long.

Sarah:

It's about 70, 000 words.

Tom:

Okay.

Tom:

Yeah.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Sarah:

It was a limited edition.

Tom:

Yeah.

Tom:

I've got edition 284.

Sarah:

Oh, thank you.

Tom:

That's numbered.

Sarah:

So yeah, I was glad that they're going to take that out,

Sarah:

because also that's a book I don't actually have to write, sorry.

Sarah:

Yes.

Sarah:

Um, yeah, we might need to edit that bit out, because I'm not sure that

Sarah:

they're going to announce that they're publishing that book that came out.

Tom:

Yeah, no, no, that's fine.

Tom:

You've got lots of, projects on at the moment.

Tom:

Is there any point where you get critical self doubt?

Tom:

Because obviously you've had massive success.

Sarah:

I wouldn't say imposter syndrome per se, because I don't feel like I've

Sarah:

had that level of success, really.

Sarah:

And I feel also I've worked really hard for it, you know?

Sarah:

Like my new tricks was 10 years ago, my episode of new tricks on TV.

Sarah:

So it's not like I've not been building my way up to, and I know

Sarah:

that luck and whatever comes into it.

Sarah:

And, you know, I know a lot of great screenwriters who haven't got their

Sarah:

own shows and that's not that they couldn't have their, you know, like,

Sarah:

I know it's there are elements.

Sarah:

But, yeah, I constantly have moments of, Oh God.

Sarah:

I don't worry about reviews per se.

Sarah:

Like behind her eyes TV show got such bad reviews to start with.

Sarah:

And then they realized that millions and millions and millions and

Sarah:

millions of people were watching it.

Sarah:

And then the reviews started to change, you know, and it's so subjective.

Sarah:

I was going on Twitter and saying to the producer, look at the

Sarah:

hashtag then tell me whether you're worried about that review or not.

Sarah:

And she was like, Oh my God.

Sarah:

I was like, yeah, reviewers are, their job is to be snarky or whatever.

Sarah:

You know, And I think if I'm happy with something, like everything I've seen of

Sarah:

Insomnia so far, I'm really happy with.

Sarah:

They've got a great cast, great director, great DOP, great producers.

Sarah:

And if we're happy with it, then that's all that matters to me.

Sarah:

But yeah, I do have the fear.

Sarah:

I always have had a fear of failure and being shit.

Sarah:

But then I don't ever think I'm great.

Sarah:

I'm quite happy being a grafter, you know, I think, I don't

Sarah:

think I'm an amazing writer.

Sarah:

I think I'm a good writer, solid writer.

Sarah:

I don't think I'm anything extra special, but I think I'm very

Sarah:

good at the business side of it.

Sarah:

And I understand how much work is involved.

Sarah:

And I never skimp on the work.

Sarah:

And I'm never caught up with being an author, which so many people, you know,

Sarah:

you look at the internet's full of people who are super keen to, you know,

Sarah:

be a brand or be the next big thing.

Sarah:

And I'm like, you know what?

Sarah:

You're wasting all your time on the internet.

Sarah:

Just go and write a good book.

Sarah:

Cause actually it's the only way it's going to happen.

Sarah:

Twitter's not going to make you famous or get you a book deal or whatever.

Sarah:

A good book will get you a book deal, you know, a good script will get

Sarah:

you an agent and that kind of stuff.

Tom:

And how much weight and importance do you put on how good your relationship

Tom:

is with your editor and how good your relationship is with your agent?

Sarah:

Oh, massively, massively.

Sarah:

I mean, I've fired agents, I've fired editors.

Sarah:

And you know, I've been dropped.

Sarah:

I think your relationship with publishing across the board is important.

Sarah:

Don't be a dick.

Sarah:

You know, I think it's a business.

Sarah:

You have to be professional.

Sarah:

My agent now I've had Veronique since 2008, my UK agent.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Sarah:

I've gone through three before her.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Sarah:

I'm always, I'm always telling people to fire their agents if they're not happy,

Sarah:

you know, it's a business relationship.

Sarah:

It's like, you're not, they're not your mate.

Sarah:

I mean, Veronique is now my friend, and I've got a great agent in New York.

Sarah:

I've got a manager in LA.

Sarah:

I've got a screenwriting agent.

Sarah:

My agent, Sean has been my screenwriting agent here at United for 10 years more.

Sarah:

So once you get the right people, it's good, but they

Sarah:

will also keep you grounded.

Tom:

Yeah.

Tom:

What do you think is important?

Tom:

What's a key part of those relationships?

Tom:

Like you say, it's like keeping you grounded.

Tom:

Is it that they see what the story is and

Tom:

It's not so

Sarah:

much that.

Sarah:

They have to be good at the business.

Sarah:

Like Veronique, I trust her with my stories, but she doesn't edit anything.

Sarah:

You know, we kind of had chat about it, we'll pitch some ideas,

Sarah:

but she's good at the business.

Sarah:

That's her job, is the business.

Sarah:

And my screenwriting agent, Sean, I mean, he's, he's, he's so funny.

Sarah:

We're doing a deal at the moment.

Sarah:

And I'll be like, are we going to take that?

Sarah:

We're going to take that aren't we?

Sarah:

And he's like, no, they can pay more on this.

Sarah:

They can pay more on that.

Sarah:

And, you know, that's his part of the deal, but we're great friends now.

Sarah:

And he will, if he reads a pilot or whatever I've written and he always

Sarah:

reads quick, which is to be important.

Sarah:

They've got to read fast.

Sarah:

They've got to answer your calls.

Sarah:

That kind of stuff.

Sarah:

Like when I hear people say, Oh, I sent my agent my book three

Sarah:

months ago, I'm like fire him.

Sarah:

What if I don't get another agent?

Sarah:

Well, you don't really have one, do you?

Sarah:

Because you've been waiting three months.

Sarah:

You know that's not an agent.

Sarah:

My mom would have read it quicker.

Tom:

And so also, I guess, when you've had sort of relationships that long.

Tom:

Because you've, you've written horror, you've written fantasy, you've

Tom:

written psychological thrillers.

Tom:

Moving through genres, having someone who's embracing your,

Tom:

your evolution of writing.

Tom:

And being like, okay, well, we can market this like this and we can

Tom:

market this, you know, something else.

Tom:

Are they happy with your constant changes or?

Sarah:

Well, I mean, I haven't changed that much of late.

Sarah:

And I think, I would never advise anyone to try and do too many genres at once.

Sarah:

You know, at the moment, if they're starting out.

Sarah:

I think it's very tricky.

Sarah:

Like it was tricky for my publishers when I was starting out and you're

Sarah:

writing a historical horror, then you're writing something else.

Sarah:

And you know, it's hard.

Sarah:

And especially if you're not getting paid huge amounts in advance.

Sarah:

You're not going to get a push.

Sarah:

You know, you're not going to have that breakthrough book where suddenly

Sarah:

you can write whatever you want or whatever, like the, the woman who

Sarah:

wrote Babel and then Yellowface.

Sarah:

You know, very different books, but both massive bestsellers, so who cares, she

Sarah:

can write whatever she wants, you know?

Sarah:

But if you're just plodding along in the kind of mid list, it's not

Sarah:

the easiest for your publisher.

Sarah:

But now, you know, and this is going to sound awful, but I walked out of

Sarah:

a writer's room a couple of years ago because I thought it was shit.

Sarah:

I didn't like it.

Sarah:

And it was paying me 10 grand a week.

Sarah:

For three hours a day, five, four hours a day.

Sarah:

And I walked out of it.

Sarah:

And everyone was like, how could you walk out?

Sarah:

And I just didn't like it.

Sarah:

It's never going to get made, the people running it are shit.

Sarah:

You know, like I was peak menopause.

Sarah:

There was no messing around there.

Sarah:

And as my agent put it at the time, there is a power in having fuck off money.

Sarah:

So if you've got enough money that you can say, fuck off, I don't want to do that.

Sarah:

You then get your choices.

Sarah:

But you just have to be aware of the outcome of your choices.

Sarah:

So I could have, until I did this new deal, I could have said, I don't want

Sarah:

to write any more psych thrillers.

Sarah:

I want to write a fantasy novel.

Sarah:

Now I might have only got paid 10 grand for that fantasy novel, but the choice

Sarah:

would have been mine to write it.

Sarah:

I just need to be aware of the consequences of that choice

Sarah:

you know, kind of thing.

Sarah:

So now only really want to write what I want to write from now

Sarah:

on in, you know, which is where the new deal is so liberating.

Sarah:

Because I can literally write whatever I want to write, you know, so that's great.

Sarah:

And it's what I love about TV and screenwriting.

Sarah:

You know, the guy who wrote The Hangover also wrote Chernobyl.

Sarah:

So like, if I say to my manager, I fancy writing a sci fi, they're

Sarah:

not going to say, Oh no, your last show was a psych thriller.

Sarah:

Which is the opposite of publishing.

Tom:

Well, it's Christopher nolan writing a Batman movie and then going,

Tom:

all right, I'm going to do a story on the guy who invented the atomic bomb.

Sarah:

Yeah, exactly.

Tom:

And also Greta Gerwig given free reign to write Barbie,

Tom:

how she wanted to write it.

Sarah:

Yeah, it's that kind of, you know, you can jump around genres much more

Sarah:

in screenwriting than you can in books.

Sarah:

So, for new people, I would always advise pick a lane.

Sarah:

Because you'll confuse editors as well.

Sarah:

I think if they're getting one thing on submission, then they're getting

Sarah:

another thing that's so different.

Sarah:

They'll be a bit like, what does this person really want to do?

Sarah:

You know, what, what are we selling here?

Sarah:

But I think for me, it was in the pandemic actually, was before I'd sold insomnia and

Sarah:

I was pitching lots of different ideas.

Sarah:

And I remember just thinking when I started out in this business,

Sarah:

the plan was to own my own home.

Sarah:

Because I think that's important and I don't have a big house.

Sarah:

I've got three beds semi, you know, Milton Keynes.

Sarah:

So I have no mortgage, have some money in the bank and then write whatever you want.

Sarah:

And it dawned on me as I was pitching Psych Thriller after Psych Thriller

Sarah:

and they were saying, this isn't a Psych Thriller, this is a horror.

Sarah:

I thought I'm done with writing those kind of books anymore.

Sarah:

And that was a real, I want to just write what I want to write

Sarah:

and see how that plays out for me.

Sarah:

But then I'm in a very, very lucky position to be able to do that.

Sarah:

And it might backfire on me, but financially I'm all right.

Sarah:

So it's not that, you know, like I'm not worrying about that side of it.

Tom:

You can take the risk.

Sarah:

Yeah, exactly.

Sarah:

Exactly.

Tom:

And...

Tom:

We touched on it earlier, but I haven't really probed you on it, your

Tom:

editing, and how it's very light.

Tom:

You have your first draft, and there may be some notes, but you're

Tom:

currently writing a story where there's a much bigger edit where

Tom:

you're taking out the main storyline.

Tom:

Are you someone who likes to work in writing a complete draft or is it just

Tom:

tinker on the scenes and just go, no, like this is the problem area or how

Tom:

do you break it apart for a redraft?

Sarah:

Well, you know, you've always got your big headline notes and then

Sarah:

there'll be more detailed notes.

Sarah:

And I often think I'll work through each headline note and

Sarah:

then go back to the beginning.

Sarah:

But I end up working on them all at once as you go through,

Sarah:

cause it just seems easier.

Sarah:

But with this one, because also I've got the notes from the American publisher, as

Sarah:

well as the notes from the UK publisher.

Sarah:

So they've kind of bandied their notes together.

Sarah:

But then when I decided to change the whole tone of it by

Sarah:

ripping out this whole storyline.

Sarah:

And then I emailed them and they all went, that sounds great.

Sarah:

And I thought, fuck, now I've got to do it.

Sarah:

And it is a massive rewrite.

Sarah:

But it's a lot faster because I know the story so well but it's

Sarah:

been a learning curve for me.

Sarah:

And I don't overly want to do it again.

Sarah:

I need to be more respectful of giving books the time they deserve.

Sarah:

I didn't enjoy writing it, the first time.

Sarah:

And I think that's, that's probably part of the problem.

Sarah:

So now I am enjoying writing it because it's creepy quite creepy.

Tom:

It's just, yeah, getting that gothic edge to it.

Tom:

And also, you know, the nights are drawing in, it's dark and stormy out.

Sarah:

Although it's like baking hot still, isn't it?

Sarah:

It's like, oh my God, it's still summer out there.

Sarah:

Climate change.

Tom:

Yeah.

Tom:

I was literally just about to say that.

Tom:

Uh, yes, exactly.

Tom:

And once it's actually finished, obviously, you've kind of got

Tom:

several projects on the go.

Tom:

When you've final sign off on the publishers or when you get a proof

Tom:

copy through and you're like, Oh, I'm not doing any major edits anymore.

Tom:

Is it just a sense of relief of like, okay, that's done on to the next thing?

Sarah:

Yeah.

Tom:

Oh, yeah?

Tom:

Cause the other thing is like, sometimes people have a sense of grief of they

Tom:

spent so long with these characters and now they're not going to spend

Tom:

time with those characters anymore.

Sarah:

I think maybe with the trilogies.

Sarah:

I think maybe fantasy people who've written three big novels.

Sarah:

I mean, I had it with A Matter of Blood a little bit, and especially

Sarah:

with the Nowhere Chronicles, which was children's YA trilogy.

Sarah:

I really love those characters.

Sarah:

But I was also very glad to be done.

Sarah:

Especially when those early days when you're writing.

Sarah:

And if the first book of a trilogy doesn't land, then you sell less of

Sarah:

the second and even fewer of the third.

Sarah:

And so you know your book's coming out to nothing.

Sarah:

So it's quite wearying.

Sarah:

But no, not on an ordinary novel, I don't ever.

Sarah:

I mean, so with insomnia, so my, my main character in my

Sarah:

current book is called Emily.

Sarah:

Because I promised someone I would name after their child.

Sarah:

And even after falling out with a friend, I still feel I

Sarah:

need to stick to the promise.

Sarah:

And in Insomnia, the character's Emma.

Sarah:

And of course I've been working on Insomnia for a very long time between

Sarah:

the book, the book edits, the screen, you know, like it's been, and I

Sarah:

keep writing Emma instead of Emily.

Sarah:

Like, no!

Sarah:

Leave me alone.

Sarah:

Haha.

Tom:

Just shorten it to Em.

Tom:

Everyone calls her Em.

Sarah:

Everyone's calling her Em in the show.

Sarah:

She's always Em.

Tom:

Yeah, it's fine.

Tom:

Now I've got my final two questions.

Tom:

It's my belief that writers continue to grow and develop their writing

Tom:

with every story they write.

Tom:

Was there anything particular about the last project you finished that

Tom:

you felt that you learned from that you're now using on future projects?

Sarah:

Obviously the screenwriting, writing the whole show has been a massive

Sarah:

learning curve in so many regards.

Sarah:

And that has fed into my editing of the book and how I'm approaching,

Sarah:

approaching future projects.

Sarah:

Um, book wise?

Sarah:

It's just interrogating every scene.

Sarah:

Just interrogating it.

Sarah:

And just seeing what, what is the scene doing?

Sarah:

How many things is it doing?

Sarah:

Is it doing too many things?

Sarah:

What is the one thing the scene should be doing?

Sarah:

How honest is the character being here?

Sarah:

Or are they doing something that I just want them to do, rather

Sarah:

than what this character would do?

Sarah:

You know, like, would she do this or do I just need her to do that?

Sarah:

So if I need that to happen, how can I get to that space without her being untrue?

Sarah:

I shared some, quite interesting.

Sarah:

I had lunch with a book editor last week and she'd never

Sarah:

seen a TV pitch, like a Bible.

Sarah:

So I said, well, I've got a couple that are of mine that for things

Sarah:

that we never got made, that I've done with various companies.

Sarah:

So I sent them to her.

Sarah:

And she said, it's amazing how much they focus on character so

Sarah:

intently and plot so granularly.

Sarah:

She said, which we never do in publishing.

Sarah:

So it's really interesting we never do that.

Sarah:

We never, in our pitching, you know, we go with a hook.

Sarah:

Whereas actually you really get, it's much harder to hide flaws on a

Sarah:

script than it is in a book because it's such a shorter piece of work.

Sarah:

And structure is everything.

Sarah:

So I think structure is maybe something I've learned to carry over.

Sarah:

Like even with the Death House after finishing Insomnia, I was like, yeah,

Sarah:

still got a ticking clock problem.

Sarah:

And I thought we're trying to get the ticking clock from the kids and

Sarah:

it's not going to come from that.

Sarah:

We've got to get it from somewhere else so then it's suddenly clearer.

Sarah:

But, um, yeah, the whole thing, the TV stuff is, I think what

Sarah:

I'm loving about it is with novel writing, I'm quite jaded with it.

Sarah:

I've written 28 books, all published.

Sarah:

They're not, you know, like, I may not be the best writer in the world,

Sarah:

but I know how to write a book.

Sarah:

You know, I understand my process.

Sarah:

Whereas with screenwriting, I'm learning all the time, you know?

Sarah:

Learning from everybody around me.

Sarah:

I'm just absorbing it all.

Sarah:

So that's, that I think is hopefully going to help me in the future.

Tom:

it's great.

Tom:

It's it's very different from a lot of my guests that I've had before because not

Tom:

many have done screenwriting and certainly not in big adaptions of their own work.

Tom:

So it's really nice to get that take.

Tom:

My final question.

Tom:

And it's been lovely having you on, Sarah.

Tom:

And I'm still finishing my wine.

Sarah:

I'm now on my tea.

Sarah:

I was talking too much.

Tom:

Is there one piece of advice?

Tom:

That you've had either you've read or you got told that you find really

Tom:

has helped you with your writing that when you do get stuck, there's that

Tom:

one thing that you return to that resonates with the way that you write?

Sarah:

I do think, and it's boring, but I do think prolific is not the

Sarah:

best adjective for a writer is key.

Sarah:

Because I think, and it's the damage of social media, it's very easy to get

Sarah:

caught up in what other people are doing.

Sarah:

And actually your own track is the only thing that's important.

Sarah:

If someone else has a great success, doesn't stop you having great success.

Sarah:

If someone else fails, that doesn't mean you're going to fail.

Sarah:

And actually, people saying, Oh, I've written 5, 000 words

Sarah:

today, doesn't help anybody.

Sarah:

You know, one great book is better than five shit ones.

Tom:

Yeah.

Tom:

And a story can be epic and really, examining the human

Tom:

condition in 300 pages.

Tom:

It doesn't need to be a thousand.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Sarah:

Totally.

Sarah:

And you know, there's a paper shortage.

Sarah:

Keep your book short.

Tom:

We're all busy people.

Tom:

We're all busy.

Tom:

We don't wanna read

Tom:

. Sarah: Yeah.

Tom:

And you'll sell more foreign rights with the 75,000 word book than

Tom:

you'll sell with a hundred thousand.

Tom:

That's my final piece of advice.

Tom:

Okay.

Tom:

Yeah.

Tom:

Keep it, keep it short.

Sarah:

Look at me.

Sarah:

Like everyone else is coming up probably with like deeper, meaningful things.

Sarah:

Mine's like practical.

Tom:

No, no, no, no.

Tom:

It's all right.

Tom:

No, that's great.

Tom:

And, uh, well, that's it.

Tom:

Well, thank you very much, Sarah.

Sarah:

Well, thank you.

Sarah:

Sorry to waffle at you so much.

Tom:

I mean, that's what a podcast is, Sarah.

Tom:

All right.

Tom:

Thanks.

Sarah:

All righty.

Tom:

And that was the lovely Sarah Pinborough.

Tom:

Insomnia is out in paperback now.

Tom:

If you want to pick up a copy before you see the show.

Tom:

I know some people like to do that so feel free.

Tom:

Looking back on this interview, it's quite noticeable to me that

Tom:

it's the only one where I don't make a passing reference to my wife.

Tom:

My wife Becky also noticed this and she finds it hilarious.

Tom:

We all get crushes on people.

Tom:

Mine is now just recorded and published worldwide.

Tom:

It's fine.

Tom:

Um, so if you'd like to follow Sarah's social media, then she's on

Tom:

Instagram and threads under the handle @sarahpinboroughbooks uh, where you can

Tom:

hear a lot more about her books, views on writing, and the industry, and see

Tom:

pictures of her dog Ted, who's beautiful.

Tom:

Also, I'd like to give an apology on another delayed episode.

Tom:

I was aiming for a pre Christmas release, but I got ill again.

Tom:

Fortunately, I seem to have survived 2023 and got a few treatment

Tom:

options and lifestyle changes to make 2024 a healthier one.

Tom:

There will also be some great episodes to look forward to too.

Tom:

I've been blessed with some great guest submissions recently and I'm really

Tom:

looking forward to chatting to some amazing writers about their process.

Tom:

So, I wish you all well.

Tom:

Uh, congratulations for surviving 2023, and let's hope 2024 is a good one.

Tom:

I'll speak to you soon, and until then, keep writing until the world ends.

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