To celebrate International Women's Day we are sharing our interview with Author, Sarah Pearse where we discuss her debut novel The Sanatorium. Receiving rave reviews worldwide, The Sanatorium, an instant New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller was selected as Reese Witherspoon's Book Club Pick last month.
'An eerie, atmospheric novel that had me completely on the edge of my seat.' Reese Witherspoon
How, after working in branding, did you change direction and write a book?
I studied English Lit and Creative Writing at Warwick University and have always wanted to write a novel, but it was only when I was on maternity leave from my job in PR that I started to take my writing seriously. It sounds strange (with a crying baby next to me!) but while on leave, I finally managed to have some downtime and found motherhood itself very inspirational. I was also motivated to carve out some ‘me time’ and headspace from looking after my daughter and writing became that - somewhere I was ‘me’ again. I started writing short stories and had some published and placed in competitions and then decided to try my hand at writing a novel.
They say everyone has a book in them - any writing tips for those who want to take the plunge but don’t know where to start?
There are several tips I would give aspiring authors - the first is to write about something you are passionate about and find a story that excites you. I think if you are really engaged with the story and are enjoying writing it, then that comes across to the reader and makes them keep turning the pages. The second tip is to persevere. Writing anything is very much a process of trial and error and there are always so many obstacles in your way - home and family life, the day job, but it’s important to simply keep going. Once you have the first draft you have hit a big milestone (many people don’t get that far!) and you can then edit and improve from there.
Which women most inspire you?
My mother and my late grandmother. Both kind, funny humans (and big readers!) with inquiring minds and a doggedly positive approach to life and forever boosting others!
What was your favourite childhood book?
Dogger by Shirley Hughes where Dave loses his favourite soft toy, Dogger. I too had a favourite soft toy that I couldn’t bear to be parted from so I very clearly remember the idea of losing Dogger as pretty traumatic!
Where did the idea for The Santorium come from? Do you think you will stick to the psychological thriller genre?
Two things: living in Switzerland in my twenties and reading an article in a local Swiss magazine about the history of sanatoria in the town of Crans Montana where my book is set. As soon as I finished the article, I explored the town and found a clinic that had once been a sanatorium and then went online to read more. I unearthed so much fascinating information and within just a few hours I knew I’d found the seed of the idea that would become The Sanatorium. In terms of sticking to the genre, I very much plan to continue writing thrillers. I love everything about writing them and also enjoy reading them!
How on earth did the pick come in from Reese’s Book club? How did it feel? It must have been a pinch me moment.
Amazing – a dream come true! I heard about it through my lovely editor in America. We’d just finished having dinner as a family and I got an email from her asking if I could hop on a call together with my agent because she had some news…and that’s when she told me! Cue lots of screams and excitement! The news was huge for me - an absolute dream but something I’d never even contemplated happening. It is an absolute privilege being part of this amazing community of authors and readers who have welcomed me with open arms. Reese is hugely inspirational to me and what she is doing with Reese’s Book Club is very special - championing a diverse range of women’s voices and their stories and changing the narrative for women everywhere - a trailblazer in every sense of the word. I couldn’t be prouder that my book is part of this wonderful community.
Sarah Pearse