Today is the first official day of MYSTERY THRILLER WEEK and I’m pleased to welcome thriller author Sarah Key to my blog. I’m sure you’ll find Sarah’s unique background as fascinating and impressive as I do. Please read more about her and books…
Sarah Key’s working life has followed many paths; English teacher, Adult Educator, HIV and AIDS activist, mentor to apprentice jockeys and writer. She holds a Masters Degree in Adult Education and her research report focused on perspective transformation for tolerance education.
Sarah is passionate about the rich cultural diversity of her country and has gathered many powerful narratives from a range of personalities including Apartheid resistors, Holocaust survivors, initiates from a rural circumcision school and survivors of sexual abuse.
Her novels are gritty, grisly psychological thrillers set in Southern Africa with its blends of old and new, mystical and modern, city and country. Aside from being entertaining and exploring deviance in its many guises, they attempt to challenge notions and shatter taboos surrounding sensitive cultural issues.
In 2011 Sarah began her journey writing fiction and is published by Rebele Publishers (Detroit). She is currently completing the final book in The Sisters of Light trilogy. Sarah is married and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, with her husband and two daughters. Connect with Sarah on FACEBOOK and GOODREADS.
Back Cover Blurb: When lives collide, and time runs out, will there be a final chance for redemption?
Aden Cassalotti, damaged by childhood trauma, tragedies and disappointments, is financially and emotionally insolvent and seeks solace in a crack pipe.
Volatile Noel Schuurman, Aden’s lifelong friend and business partner, feels neglected living out of town running their marijuana and magic mushroom operation. The brooding recluse has killed before and, with escalating pressures, not even his mother and sister are safe on their isolated plot.
Aden takes a job with a ruthless criminal enterprise in an urban slum where dope and flesh are pedaled. He encounters Mandipa Ndlovu, who is being held with other sex slaves waiting to be sent to work.
Kgotso Shelile and his cousin, Senatla, search for Mandipa, Kgotso’s abducted girlfriend. In the underbelly of Johannesburg, they encounter Aden. Having grown up together, the men share an immediate bond and, when fate throws the three together in a Hillbrow strip club, the potential for peril is fraught with danger.
Key’s debut psychological thriller, Tangled Weeds, is sure to get your pulse racing.
When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?
I was about 11 and walking in the bushveld with my father. We came across an abandoned tumbled-downed house. My imagination took flight and I told him that I wanted to write a book filled with villains, robbers and smugglers. That realisation has never left me.
If you could spend the day with any character from your novel, who would it be? Why?
My antagonists are downright twisted and malevolent so if I had to spend a day with a character it would be one of the Sisters of Light and probably Joanie Parks, a young artist whose background story is fully explored in The Butterfly Wind. Joanie is complex, confrontational and feisty and harbors a shameful secret. She’s also fiercely loyal and grapples with her own insecurities and need to be loved. Joanie is fun and fearless. I would have to be twenty five years younger, though, to keep up with her antics!
If your book was made into a movie, who do you envision playing the leading roles?
I feel that my debut novel, Tangled Weeds would translate well into a mini-series. It is a graphic thriller set between Zimbabwe, the fertile farmlands of the then Northern Province of South Africa known for its cultivation of mangoes and litchis, and Hillbrow, an urban slum.
Aden Cassalotti is a complex character who becomes addicted to crack cocaine. To support his drug dependency he takes a job with a deadly sex trafficking ring and gets much more than he bargained for…
I’m not very up to date on movies and movies stars, preferring to read books. The South African accent is one that presents actors with a huge challenge. In Invictus, a 2009 sports drama about Nelson Mandela and events surrounding the 1995 rugby world cup, Matt Damon did a fair job. With his blond good looks and ability to portray emotion he could give Aden a bash!
What attracts you to writing in the mystery/thriller genre?
We didn’t have television until I was 12 so I grew up listening to dramas on the radio. My father studied psychology when I was a pre-teen and I was fascinated by his textbooks and poured over pictures of people with anorexia, catatonia and other disorders. I have always been fascinated by the aberrant human mind and have an overactive imagination.
Thrillers are supposed to do just that – thrill. I do not enjoy reading or writing books that are uber violent or horrific having learned that the power of suggestion can just as successfully heighten tension.
With the help of my editor, I have worked hard to incorporate techniques that ensure my readers are gripped and find the experience electrifying. A fast pace and using varied perspectives that allow events to be understood from disparate characters’ points of view (particularly perverse antagonists) keep the pages turning. Enjoyed from the safety of one’s armchair, exploring the dark hearts of humans gone bad can be an exhilarating ride that is far removed from the mundanity of regular life.
What are your hobbies outside of writing?
I enjoy cooking and socialising greatly and keep fit attending a woman’s outdoor bootcamp programme most weekday mornings. I derive great pleasure from my two cross-breed dogs and am kept busy with family responsibilities. I read widely and enjoy travelling particularly locally – South Africa is an amazing, diverse country.
How do you deal with rejections and/or negative reviews?
I haven’t focused much on marketing my books until recently. For the past years I have concentrated on raising our two daughters and getting the stories that are inside me down. I received two or three rejections from local publishers for my first novel, Tangled Weeds. Reading rejection letters is not pleasant – it’s like someone telling you that you have an ugly child!
Writing is a high point in my life’s journey and I had blind faith that my books would be published. Fortunately, I was accepted in 2011 by Rebele Publishers and have never looked back. I have three books published by them and am close to finishing the final book in my trilogy.
My books are enjoying a positive response. Reading is highly subjective so it is unrealistic to expect everyone to like your work and constructive criticism is necessary for improvement. Being a writer, like most jobs in this day and age, requires resilience, determination and a personal passion that drives you to continue.
What time of day do you prefer to write?
In a block in the morning from about 10.00am – 13h00 and then for an hour in the early evening around five or six.
What are you working on now?
I am completing the final book in my Sisters of Light trilogy. It is called The Starlight Tide and follows The Dandelion Clock and The Butterfly Wind.
Which well-known authors have inspired your writing?
I studied English at university and, for a short while, I was an English teacher so I have read many books that have had a bearing on my writing. For a while I read a glut of Scandinavian crime; Jussi Adler-Olson, Camilla Lackberg, Lars Kepler. I found them atmospheric and try to effectively create mood in my books. Stieg Larsson’s incredible trilogy inspired me to write one.
What subjects do you enjoy writing about most? Why?
The essential themes I explore in my writing are the conflicts between good and evil. I believe that all people have the choice to take certain life paths. Circumstances and pre-dispositions will, of course, influence their decisions. If a character decides to try drugs, commit a murder or indulge in dark crafts and fantasies, there will be consequences to. Morality, or lack thereof, is a personal decision.
Living in a multicultural society in South Africa – which has an extraordinary history – I use my novels as a lens to explore diversity and different cultural belief systems. I believe that by presenting readers with different perspectives and practices, wrapped in the guise of fiction, a greater level of understanding and tolerance can be achieved.
Thanks for reading! Leave your comments and questions for Sarah here, and stay tuned for my next MTW Author Spotlight with Linda Kane!