We recently caught up with New York Times bestselling author Sophie Hannah. Check out her latest release Keep Her Safe, available wherever books are sold!
What inspired you to write Keep Her Safe?
There were a few inspirations – one was very literal. A few years ago, I went to a hotel in Manchester, England, and arrived very late, when everyone was tired. The receptionist wasn’t feeling very alert, and sent me to the wrong room - one that was already occupied! I let myself in and was greeted by a naked shaven-headed man! Luckily, I survived the experience. In my novel, a similar thing happens but in a more glamorous location.
Another inspiration was a true crime case: the trial of Casey Anthony, which was all over the media in the States at the time, but nobody in Britain had heard of it. As a Brit, I was astonished at the way TV commentators were saying, ‘That mother’s definitely guilty!’ and so on – everything is much more restrained in Britain and that was something I wanted to write about.
And I set the whole thing in a five-star spa because I love spas! I also think, if you look at it a certain way, there could be something sinister about a very quiet place where people walk around in white robes to the sound of tinkling music.
What causes Cara Burrows to leave behind her home and family in Britain for some alone time at a five-star resort in Arizona?
Cara has reached breaking point. She’s had a very emotional confrontation with her family and can’t get the head space to think it through, so she’s acted on impulse – grabbed the cheapest flight to the nicest resort she can find in America. When she gets off the plane she gives her phone to a rental-car guy, and immediately regrets it.
Cara is like me, in that if I need to escape I will try to find a nice spa. I find the slow and scented surroundings, the contained experience of the spa, uniquely relaxing. It can solve nearly anything, in the moment at least. The Swallowtail Resort in Keep Her Safe is an amalgamation of all my favorite spas. I had to visit them all – in the name of research, of course!
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How does Cara react when she spots the most famous murder victim in America?
This is absolutely not what she wanted! The last thing Cara needed when she ran away from home was to get involved in an old murder case. But at first, she doesn’t realize that’s what’s happened, because she has never heard of Melody Chapa (the famous little girl, supposedly murdered by her parents, in Keep Her Safe). Slowly, listening to gossip around the resort, she pieces the story together and becomes convinced that she has seen Melody.
How does Cara’s desire to learn the truth affect her stay in America?
Once Cara knows that something’s going on, she sets out to get to the bottom of it. After all, if Melody is alive then there has been a miscarriage of justice, because her parents are in jail, and who knows if Melody is safe…? The problem is that the police don’t listen to her. So, she teams up with a new American friend called Tarin Fry, who has a no-nonsense worldview and sharp tongue, and was great fun to write.
Looking for the truth, Cara gets into quite a lot of danger, but in the process she comes to terms with her own struggles. She emerges from the novel as a stronger person who is ready to face the challenges of family life. It wasn’t quite the break she wanted but it’s done the trick!
Are you currently at work on your next novel? If so, what can you share with us?
I am currently working on two novels. One is the next Hercule Poirot mystery, which will be my third, and it’s shrouded in secrecy so I can’t tell you anything! But I’m also working on a new standalone thriller, provisionally titled Haven’t They Grown. And I’ve just written a story featuring my series detectives, Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer, called Bully the Bear. I’m very keen on it, and it’s going to be an Audible exclusive audiobook this Fall.
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