In conversation with... Holly Seddon (#2)

Hi Holly! I have just finished reading your second novel, Don’t Close Your Eyes, which was first published in the UK in July 2017. I came late to the party but I’m glad not to have missed it because I loved it! Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: Don’t Close Your Eyes follows the story of Robin and Sarah, non-identical twins split apart in childhood through their parents’ actions, and now living fractured and frightening lives away from each other. Robin is housebound, terrified as someone tries desperately to get inside, while Sarah is reeling from unbearable loss. After years of separation, the sisters are each other’s only hope.

I’m so glad you liked it! 

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing or did it take an unexpected turn as the characters suddenly did something that you were not expecting?

A: I had a two page outline but it changed a lot, especially as I fell in love with one particular character – Callum – and he took me in some different directions. I also initially set everything in the present day with the twins looking back and reflecting on their pasts, but I then started all over again and gave them their own past and present timelines, which I think worked better. 

The book is narrated from the separate points of view of twin sisters Robin and Sarah. While Sarah’s chapters adopt first person narrative, Robin’s chapters use third person narrative until the very last chapter, where we finally get to hear her voice. What was behind these choices?

A: It was very deliberate. For Robin, her life has shrunk down to a very limited existence. She doesn’t leave her house and uses a range of rituals to manage her day and her challenges. If her point of view was first person, readers would only see what she sees and her viewpoint would be severely limited. In short, I think it would be frustrating! 

With Sarah, it’s very important that we understand her view of the world and her life from her point of view… and I can’t say any more than that! 

In the novel, Sarah is unable to think about something happening to a child without picturing Violet in their place. As a mother, how do you manage to write about children in potential danger or in distress without getting too involved?

A: I struggle with this a lot. I struggle as a reader too and there are some topics that, no matter how well written the book, I cannot read about. I handle this in a number of ways:

I won’t ever write about children who are the same age as mine. I can’t do it, I can’t risk even for a second that my brain will show me that scene but with my own children. I am not strong enough. When I started writing Try Not to Breathe (which features something happening to a 15-year-old) my eldest was nine. When it was published, she was a teenager. I struggled to reread any of it! 

I also won’t ever write about things happening to children just for shock value, or as a twist, or to move the story along. I also won’t write gore or kind of feast on the scene, a light touch is what I aim for! And I still find it hard. 

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about a scene in the book that you love or that was particularly difficult to write?

A: I really enjoyed writing about Callum and Robin as young teenagers, working out who they are and what they want their lives to be like. There are some friendships at that age that are so formative and cannot be replicated as adults. I found it very moving and also nostalgic.  

Is there anything that didn’t make it into the final version of the book?

A: Too much to list! I rewrote it all several times! 

If this novel could be turned into a film, who would you cast in the roles of Sarah and Robin?

A: That’s a tricky one! In my head, Robin looks a lot like Stockard Channing when she played Rizzo in Grease but as much as I love Stockard Channing, she’s in her seventies now and I think that would be a stretch. 

I think Daisy Ridley would make a good Robin… a far cry from Star Wars, I know. And Annabelle Wallis who played Grace Shelby in Peaky Blinders would be a great Sarah. 

Last time we had a chat, book four was in its very early stages. Is your new protagonist, Marianne, still showing you the way or have plans changed in the meantime?

A: Marianne is still going strong! I’m currently working on the second (lol, more like fourth) draft but I’m enjoying it and her and hopefully, eventually, you will too! 

Thank you for your time!

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