Sewing the Shadows Together – Interview with Alison Taylor Baillie

cover STSTAlison Taylor-Baillie

Today I am VERY pleased to welcome Alison to the blog tellling us a little bit about her novel Sewing the Shadows Together.

Tell us a little about what inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always loved writing. At primary school my teacher restricted me to three pages because I couldn’t stop writing and my stories were always too long. I also used to write at home and make my stories into little booklets and magazines, a couple of which have survived the years.

I then studied English at university and became an English teacher, somehow thinking that this would lead to more writing – but, in fact, working and being a single parent of two boys filled up all my time. Although I used to write a column for a teachers’ journal, I only really started writing fiction when I stopped working full-time.

Was there a particular inspiration behind “Sewing The Shadows Together” ?

Yes, the story’s been in my mind for a long time – over thirty years! My first teaching job was at Portobello High School, in the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, a place which features strongly in my novel. At that time there were several serial killers in Scotland, the full extent of whose activity has only come to light in the last few years. I began to think about the effect of a murder on adolescent siblings and friends and so the seeds of my story were sown. Over the years the story was obviously developing deep in my subconscious, because when I came to write it I found that places I’d visited and things I’d experienced had become part of it, almost without my being aware of it.

Did you have a favourite character within the story? One that came easy?

Ah, that’s two questions! My favourites would have to be the two main characters, Tom and Sarah, because they totally absorbed me and I shared their pain and joy. However, they were probably the most difficult to write, because they were so emotionally-scarred it was hard to stop them coming across as too passive.

Of the other characters, the one that was easiest to write was Flora, Sarah’s mother. She had such a strong and distinctive voice she literally seemed to write herself. I have to admit that I also have a soft spot for Archie, the journalist. Unlike some of the other characters, he doesn’t really share any characteristics with anyone I know – but I’d like to meet him for a drink in the Café Royal in Edinburgh one day.

When reading, what type of book do you tend to go for?

I’ve always loved crime stories, especially Scottish and Scandinavian Noir, occasionally venturing down as far as the North of England. I’ve discovered so many fantastic new writers in these areas since I started reading blogs and going to crime writing festivals that I have enough to keep me going for a while yet!

If you were stuck on a desert island, what 3 things would you choose to have?

I’ve been racking my brain to think up witty, original answers – but I’ve totally failed. So I’ll just say my Kindle, a fishing rod and a nice squidgy pillow.

Finally, can you tell us a little about what is next for you in the writing stakes?

I’ve started writing another novel, but I’m finding it slow going compared to Sewing the Shadows Together, probably because it’s only been in my mind for about two years! It’s another standalone, but it shares some themes with my first novel, as it’s about ordinary people having to face up to extraordinary situations, displacement (part of it is set in Switzerland where I’m living at the moment) and, of course, Scotland!

Thank you! Thank you, Liz

About the book:

cover STST

Can you ever get over the death of your sister? Or of your best friend?

More than 30 years after 13-year-old Shona McIver was raped and murdered in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, the crime still casts a shadow over the lives of her brother Tom and her best friend Sarah.

When modern DNA evidence shows that the wrong man was convicted of the crime, the case is reopened. So who did kill Shona? Sarah and Tom are caught up in the search for Shona’s murderer, and suspicions fall on family and friends. The foundations of Sarah’s perfect family life begin to crumble as she realises that nothing is as it appears.

Sewing the Shadows Together was a great read – often tense and  atmospheric with a great sense of place, it is a mystery wrapped up in a family drama and as such worked really well.

It was a clever novel in its construction as the author shows us both the impact of sudden violent death on those closest to the victim and the echoing effects of that as they continue in their lives – plus the added hit of discovering that the closure they had received was no kind of closure at all. As Sarah and Tom begin to unravel the truth, they almost unravel themselves and it is very addictive and often surprising.

There is a strong sense of character running through the narrative – I was especially fascinated by the different ways that Sarah and Tom had gone about their lives – and Tom especially resonated, the intricacies of the relationships in the story are well drawn and engaging.

The mystery element is almost secondary to the rest, but drives our main protagonists towards the ultimate resolution in a highly readable fashion – you will get caught up in the drama and be with them all the way.

Overall really excellent. Definitely worth a try if you like the past/present dynamic and a psychological thriller with an intriguing plot and characters to match.

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Happy Reading Folks!


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