I’m delighted to welcome author Samantha Hayes here today. I read and loved her first book Until You’re Mine last year and I just finished her new book Before You Die this weekend. Both are riveting page-turners and I can highly recommend them to all who like psychological thrillers. Keep your eyes peeled next week for my review of Before You Die.Before You Die by Samantha Hayes
Published by Cornerstone Digital on 22 Apr 2014
Genres: Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Family, Mystery & Detective, Suspense, Thriller
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Oh God, please don't let me die.
It has taken nearly two years for the Warwickshire village of Radcote to put a spate of teenage suicides behind it.
Then a young man is killed in a freak motorbike accident, and a suicide note is found among his belongings. A second homeless boy takes his own life, this time on the railway tracks.
Is history about to repeat itself?
DI Lorraine Fisher has just arrived for a relaxing summer break with her sister. Soon she finds herself caught up in the resulting police enquiry. And when her nephew disappears she knows she must act quickly.
Are the recent deaths suicide - or murder?
And is the nightmare beginning again?
Over to Samantha :
Thanks so much to Trish for having me on her wonderful blog as part of my week-long blog tour! This Thursday 24th April sees the publication of the second novel in my Fisher and Scott series of novels – Before You Die.
I’m delighted to have the opportunity to tell you a little about the book and how I came to write it. As I said, it’s part of a series in which we follow the cases of Detective Inspectors Lorraine Fisher and Adam Scott. They are married and live in Birmingham with their two teenage daughters. As you can imagine, this scenario throws up all kinds of issues for me to write about in their home life as well as at work. Until You’re Mine was the first novel in the series.
In Before You Die, Lorraine leaves the pressures of city life and heads to the countryside to stay with her sister, Jo, for a much-needed break. The beautiful (and fictional) village of Radcote in south Warwickshire is the setting for my story. With Adam working back home, and Grace, Lorraine’s older daughter away on a sports camp, Lorraine is looking forward to spending time with her youngest daughter, Stella.
When Lorraine arrives in Radcote, she is greeted by the sight of wilted flowers tied to a tree just outside the village. She learns that a young man was recently killed in a freak motorbike accident. A suicide note was later found in his belongings, stating he intended to kill himself. However, someone else claims to have witnessed a passenger on the bike, making suicide unlikely. Lorraine is also greeted by the news that Jo has split from her long-term partner without telling anyone. Is this the real reason Jo’s teenage son, Freddie, is so distraught?
The villagers of Radcote are still suffering the shockwaves of a spate of suicides a year and a half ago. It’s not something a tight-knit community recovers from easily. So when another young lad takes his own life, this time on the nearby railway tracks, people are convinced the nightmare is beginning again.
Lorraine soon finds herself caught up in the ongoing investigation, meeting her nemesis from a few years ago, convinced the detective has once again botched a case. And when Freddie mysteriously disappears one night, Lorraine knows that to save him she must act quickly, discovering if the recent deaths were really suicide… or murder.
Firstly, setting is really important to me. Having written Until You’re Mine entirely located in Birmingham, I decided I’d like to take Lorraine out into the country. Even though my fictional village is only an hour or so from Lorraine’s city home, she rarely sees her sister. Radcote is loosely based on a particular village (I won’t name it!) in south Warwickshire although mostly I made it up. I love the mellow stone of this Cotswold-influenced area, right in the heart of Shakespeare country, and the surrounding geography worked perfectly for my story—right down to the straight stretch of road I called ‘Devil’s Mile’. And Lorraine badly needed a holiday. So I gave her one. Then I turned it into a nightmare for her.
As a mother of three (I’ve done the whole teenage thing!) one of the scariest questions you can ask yourself is: do we really know our children? It seems obvious, but our kids have grown up with technology that can take them ‘virtually’ across the world to meet strangers in a second, yet we didn’t grow up like this. As parents, we are faced with taking some kind of control of our kids’ online habits, just as we do if they go out (Where are you going? Be back by nine etc). It’s a daunting task because online they have access to the whole world and pretty much everyone in it.
With stories in the news of teenage suicides resulting from online bullying, I decided to research some of these sad cases. I found some shocking statistics. Over 50% of teenagers have been bullied online. Only 1 in 10 victims confides in a parent. Fewer than 1 in 5 incidents are reported to the police, and 90% of teens who have witnessed online cruelty have ignored it.
As any mother would, I couldn’t help applying the statistics to my own three kids. The chance that one of them was, or had been, a victim was high and terrifying. And even as I was researching, a young girl local to me took her own life because she’d been hounded and belittled online. Comments on a huge website popular with teenagers all over the world had driven her to this tragic act.
But I also realised that internet horror can happen closer to home through people you know, crossing over into ‘real life’ bullying too. Think you can hide in your bedroom to escape the bullies at school? Wrong. They’re waiting for you on social media, on your phone, in your emails. So my character Freddie, a once-vibrant and happy-go-lucky lad, wilts into a shadow of his former self, managing to conceal his angst from his mum, ashamed because he’s become a victim. Eventually, driven to extremes, he disappears.
As a mum who writes thrillers centred on family and relationships, I fully believe I write my own worst nightmares. I know I’m not the only mum who worries about her kids. The ‘What if…’ question is always at the heart of my plot ideas, followed by the seeds of my characters. I knew I wanted to write a book highlighting one of the many dangers our teenagers face, but I also decided to focus on how secrets can stay buried within families—another subject that fascinates me, mainly because they usually have a way of resurfacing. If you think about it, it’s also another form of bullying: Don’t ever tell… The threat is implicit.
Nine times out of ten, I’ll begin with my plot, creating the story around a single idea. In this case, it was a tragic suicide. But what if someone else knew differently, claiming it wasn’t suicide? And what if that ‘someone else’ was deemed unreliable? What if that person became a suspect and was an easy scapegoat for everything else bad that had happened in the area? A pack mentality is insidious, snaring people unaware, and is in fact another form of bullying.
Occasionally a character will strike me first – as in Gil, an autistic man in my story. I knew I wanted to write about Gil before the plot was fully formed, and indeed he helped me shape the narrative. He has his own point of view, seeing the world slightly differently to the rest of us. It was incredibly refreshing writing through his eyes, although I was careful not to stereotype him. Gil is just Gil, an autistic man doing his best to get by in surroundings that may not always make sense to him. The thing is, he witnesses something important, but no one is inclined to take him seriously. Through his incredible drawings, Gil is able to get his story across. But then his art lands him in hot water and we learn that Gil is harbouring a terrible secret.
I do hope you enjoy reading my novel, and exploring all its twists and turns. Lorraine certainly has her work cut out! I strived to highlight areas in our society where people are misunderstood and victimised—from teens, to adults, to the homeless, to those with developmental disabilities, and those who aren’t even here anymore to speak up for themselves. It’s a book filled with very varied characters, capturing a couple of weeks one hot summer where secrets from the past collide with the present, how prejudices and bigotry can laid bare if we only take the time to change our thoughts.