Interview: Sharon Bairden

The Five By Five Interview with Sharon Bairden

“Five By Five?” Um, well… I wanted a name for this (hopefully regular) feature, and as well as being a big crime fiction fan I am also a big Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan, with a soft spot for “rogue slayer” Faith, who uses the phrase constantly – though she never explains what it means, it’s an expression used in telecoms/military coms to confirm a signal is being received clearly, so hopefully this means we’ll get a clearer picture of our interviewees!

When I first met Sharon Bairden, it was definitely at a book event… To someone new to that world she was a recognisable face and name thanks to her championing of crime fiction authors and books via her blog and social media. She’s also keen to share that love of books in person, so if you see her at an event, go and say hi! She has become a friend, and it has been awesome seeing her writing her own novels, but like everyone else her books make it on to the blog on their own merits. At Bute Noir a couple of years ago, she silenced a roomful of established authors and book fans with a reading from then-unpublished novel Sins Of The Father, and since it was published she’d blown a few minds with it too (find my review over here). Ahead of appearing at Bloody Scotland 2021, she agreed to be gently grilled…

By day Sharon Bairden manages a small local independent advocacy service and has a passion for human rights; by night she has a passion for all things criminal. She blogs at Chapter In My Life (https://chapterinmylife.wordpress.com/) and is delighted to have crossed over to the writer side of the fence. Her debut novel, Sins Of The Father, was published last November and her second book, You Need Me, is out on 12 October, both published by Red Dog Press. Find her on Twitter at @sbairden

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First, the sensible questions…

Q1 Tell us a bit about your journey to publication and how you got to where you are now. Why crime fiction rather than another genre?
I was always one of those people who wished they could write a book but always thought book writing was for “other people”. It wasn’t until I started book blogging and getting to know the crime writing community that I began to think that maybe I could give it a go! So I joined writing groups, went to workshops, and sucked up all the information I could. Then I went along to Crime and Publishment, a weekend writing retreat in Gretna, run by Scottish authors Graham Smith and Michael J Malone. It was then that I really began to think I could finish the book I’d started; the inspiration, the enthusiasm and support gave me the kick I needed! So I went home and I wrote and I wrote and I wrote until I reached “The End”. Then it went out to a group of readers trusted to give me honest, constructive feedback; using this feedback I edited again. I then had my book professionally edited by Emma Mitchell of Creating Perfection, to get it to a standard fit for submission. I got some lovely rejections, some radio silence – and then an offer of publication. At the same time I’d also been invited to go down to Liverpool to pitch to agents from DHH Literary Agency – in the end they didn’t want my book, but the advice they gave me was fantastic and so I declined the offer of publication and decided to rewrite my book. Four months later the updated version of my book was complete and I approached the publisher who had offered me a deal and ask if they would still consider me. Thankfully they were delighted to and so my journey with Red Dog Press began! And why crime fiction? There are other books out there? Haha! Crime fiction is my passion, it could never have been anything but that genre.

Q2 What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given? And the worst?
The best advice was to listen to all the advice and use what works for you; the worst would be to edit your own work to the nth degree – that’s so wrong; there comes a point that you can’t see the wood for the trees and you need to bring others into your journey to help make your book shine.

Q3 What’s your favourite part about being a writer?
Writing “the end”! But seriously, I think I enjoy most of it, but I really do enjoy the editing process; it is so satisfying to see the improvements being made.

Q4 You’ve been a fan of book festivals and Bloody Scotland in particular for many years now – tell us a little about what BS means to you, and how it feels to be going this year as an author, instead of a blogger.
Bloody Scotland is in my heart. It was the first crime writing festival I’d ever attended and I used to slip in and out of events without speaking to anyone; I was too nervous even to wait to get a book signed. I’d watch the panels and dream of being up there one day, laughing at myself for impossible dreams! I then began to volunteer at the festival and got to know the organisers, volunteers and the writing community which coincided with starting my book blog. I remember almost fainting on the spot when Lin Anderson said hello to me the first time! What does it mean to me to appear as an author this year? Honestly, I’m not lying when I say it means the absolute world. I’m welling up typing this as I still can’t quite believe that impossible dream has come true. Beware this weekend, I may be in floods of tears!

Q5 What’s next for you, in terms of writing?
You Need Me, my second book, comes out on 12 October, published by Red Dog Press. Again it is a dark tale with many toxic characters and relationships, and asks the question: how far would you go to create the perfect family. I’m working on the first draft of book three, as yet unnamed, but the last few months have been so busy in my day job and as we come out of the pandemic it has been difficult to work on it. I’m hoping Bloody Scotland fires up those creative juices again as I catch up with my book tribe!

Now for the quick-fire round…

Q1 Who are your favourite characters in crime fiction?
Oh, there are so many to mention! However, I am going to say every character that Liz Nugent and SE Lynes create have a special place in my heart.

Q2 What book have you reread the most?
I don’t really re-read books, there are so many new ones to read – however, I have read Val McDermid’s A Place of Execution a few times; my all-time favourite of her novels.

Q3 What’s your favourite method of killing off characters?
Slowly – and sometimes not killing them can be even more fun, I love to leave them to stew in their own toxicity!

Q4 What is your most over-used phrase, in life or in writing?
I had no idea how many times I used the word “just” when writing. And in real life, “bloody hell!”, I feel like one of those caricature middle-aged mums when I say that (Oh God, wait – I am a middle-aged mum, haha!)

Q5 Do you use a bookmark or do you fold down the page corner?
Oh, you know how dark and twisted I am – I turn down the corners and I break the spines every single time (unless it isn’t my book, see I do have a nicer side!)

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Thanks so much, Sharon – I look forward to seeing you at Bloody Scotland very soon and again at many book events in the future! I second your love of A Place Of Execution, it’s fantastic, but you’re treatment of books is <OMG!> 😀 If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers, I recommend you get acquainted with Sharon’s work, she has a real talent for combining empathy and awful deeds in page-turning novels.

Sharon’s upcoming novel is You Need Me: “Your secret didn’t die with me.” The mysterious note tucked inside the pages of a recently returned book leaves librarian Morag McLaughlin chilled to the bone. She knows it was meant for her. Someone out there knows her darkest secrets and they could destroy everything. Torn apart from her own family, she will stop at nothing to create a perfect new one. Why are they all so ungrateful? She’s only looking after them… Isn’t she?

Sins Of The Father is available now from all the usual outlets, and direct from the publisher, Red Dog Press, too (buying direct is a great way to support an indie publisher! Pop over now: www.reddogpress.co.uk). You Need Me is released on 12 October, and you can pre-order it in ebook, paperback and limited edition hardback now – watch out for the blog tour celebrating the launch of the novel, too.
Sharon is appearing at Bloody Scotland on Friday 17 September as part of a panel entitled Crimes Of Many Colours (chaired by me, but don’t let that put you off!). You can still buy tickets to attend either in person or watch online, as the festival is taking a hybrid approach this year. For more details and to book, head to: bloodyscotland.com

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