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My First Time...with Sarah J. Harris

Sarah J Harris, The Riff Raff

(Photo: Philippa Gedge)

Sarah J. Harris is an author and freelance education journalist who regularly writes for national newspapers. She became fascinated by synaesthesia and face blindness during her work as a journalist.

Sarah previously wrote YA under the pseudonym, Sarah Sky. The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder is Sarah’s debut adult novel, which was this month awarded the Books Are My Bag Breakthrough Author award. Sarah lives in London with her husband and two children.

She will be joining us to read from her novel at The Riff Raff on December 13th, and we can't wait to have her.

Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book?

I’ve been fascinated by synaesthesia for quite a long time after coming across the condition during my work as a freelance education journalist. I was also interested in face blindness and thought it would be a good premise for a book.

I started doing research into both conditions and they were playing on my mind. I eventually had a dream about a young boy running across a suburban street at night, terror etched on his face.

When I woke up, I wondered what had terrified him so much inside the house across the street. What if he had face blindness and identified people by the colour of their voices? What if the voice colour of someone he knew had changed as they screamed? What if he had seen the colour of murder? The book grew from that single image in my head.

What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write it?

Not sure. Ignorance is bliss!

What did you enjoy most about writing it?

I loved doing all the research into synaesthesia and face blindness. I found it fascinating. I also really enjoyed working out the puzzle and dropping in clues and red herrings. It felt like I was doing a gigantic jigsaw puzzle. And the worst part?

I can’t think of one to be honest. I enjoyed the whole process. But it’s like child birth – I’ve probably blocked out the worst moments and would do it all over again (write a book, not have more children!)

What’s your go-to procrastination method?

Going on Twitter or making a cup of tea.

The Colour of Bee Larkham's Murder, The Riff Raff

Go-to writing snacks?

I don’t really snack but I do drink copious amounts of tea and coffee.

The book that changed you?

It’s probably a book I wrote when I was seven years old. It was called The Moondrop Family and I illustrated it myself. I sent it to a publisher and had a very nice rejection letter telling me never to give up. I didn’t! From that book onwards, I knew I wanted to be a writer.

Your pump up song?

I don’t listen to music when I write. I can only work when it’s quiet.

If you could share a bottle of wine with one writer, who would it be?

It’s hard to narrow it down to just one as I’m friends with lots of writers. YA author Lindsay Galvin is a good mate and we always have a laugh whenever we meet up.

She also has a brilliant eye for edits. She read an early draft of The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder and I found her critique really helpful. I read early drafts of her work too. Lindsay’s the only author I share drafts with. I also enjoy meeting up for a curry and a bottle of wine with YA authors Faye Bird and Sarah Govett.

One piece of advice you’d give first time writers hoping to get published?

Don’t give up – for most authors, publishing is a bumpy ride and you’re likely to suffer disappointments and rejections along the way. It isn’t easy.

But if you’re serious about writing you have to be utterly determined and don’t let setbacks deter you. A thick skin is also really useful.

Why do you write?

Because I’d be miserable if I didn’t write. I can’t imagine my life without writing.

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