Saturday 4 April 2020

Cut you Dead: Behind the Scenes Interview

Here's a recent Interview I did for a local book group about Cut you Dead [don’t worry, no spoilers!]:


Can you tell us, in just one sentence, what Cut you Dead is about? 

It’s a psychological thriller about a serial killer who snips off pieces of women’s hair, then kills them seven days later. Woah – sounds creepy! Tell us about your Lead Character: Samantha Willerby is a feisty, jump-in-at-the-deep-end psychologist, who doesn’t always play by the rules. Readers have said that having a psychologist as the ‘amateur sleuth’ puts a refreshing new slant on police procedurals, where the lead character is often a detective. Sam looks at cases from a different perspective, focusing on ‘why’ and not ‘how’ a serious crime is committed, and putting together pieces of a puzzle that others don’t see.

Sam joins the police in a different way this time, is that right? 

In her last adventure, Perfect Bones, Sam helped the Met catch a killer in a grisly murder case. For Cut you Dead, an author friend of mine suggested I investigate cold cases. I loved this idea! I knew Sam would jump at the chance to try her hand at police profiling. So, in Cut you Dead, the Met bring Sam in to examine a batch of closed murder files to see what she can pick up that everyone else has missed. Using every avenue she can think of, and disobeying direct orders on the way, she starts to uncover a trail of clues that lead her right into the path of the killer.

What sparked the original idea for Cut you Dead? 

While I was mulling over ideas for the book, I came across a BBC podcast about delusional behaviour. As a former psychotherapist, I was fascinated by the case histories described in the programme. One of the oldest involved King Charles VI of France, who believed he was made of glass and who used to dress in reinforced clothing to protect himself. There were recent cases, too, such as the woman who felt she was being pursued by the producer of a reality TV show. It got my brain ticking over and I decided I’d like to write about a serial killer who suffered from some form of grandiose delusion – but not quite in the way you’d expect.

What kind of cold cases does Cut you Dead explore? 

From the list of police cold cases, Sam picks out a couple of murders that show similarities with a recent death police think is accidental. The victims all had pieces of their hair hacked off several days before they were killed. The ‘hair-cutting’ idea arose when I was researching something else on the Internet (browsing the Net is a necessary indulgence for any writer!). I accidentally came across an intriguing court case involving a magistrate’s ruling on a man who cut off a girl's ponytail. The man (an ex-boyfriend) was acquitted at first, as the court came to the conclusion that the hair growing out of a person's head was by its nature dead and therefore couldn’t be harmed. I thought this was outrageous! Anyone who feels their hair is their crowning glory would be devastated to find a chunk of it missing. Thankfully, the High Court overturned the decision on grounds of the emotional damage caused.

What’s new and different about this book? 

Many readers will have come across thrillers where the victim’s hair is cropped off, but in Cut you Dead there’s something different. The hair is not a trophy at the crime scene. To find out exactly what the killer does, you’ll have to read the book! Is it true that there’s a romantic element in the book? I don’t want to give too much away, but a lot of readers told me they wanted Sam to finally meet someone – I shall just leave you with that!

Where is the book set and why? 

Cut you Dead is set in the heart of London just after Christmas, when there’s snow and ice on the ground. Sam wants to get into shape, so she takes to the city streets to jog after dark. I love writing about London, it gives me an excuse to revisit it, in all its technicolour pizazz, in my mind! It was also the perfect setting for Cut you Dead; that fabulous combination of crowded places, where a silent perpetrator can slip into the shadows and secluded side streets, and danger can strike out of sight. There’s also the River Thames; majestic and brooding, especially at night-time – and treacherously fast. Sam is probably up against her most devious adversary yet, in this thriller. I found it very gripping to write and I hope you love reading it as much as I loved getting Sam’s story down onto the page!