Sarah Flint talks about serial killers, world records and her latest thriller The Trophy Taker.
1. Can you tell us more about your latest novel, The Trophy Taker?
It is a combination of police officer meets author; imagination meets real life!
I met my publisher for the first time in May last year, after a long, unsuccessful period in my writing. I came away extremely motivated and inspired to write a new story. By the evening, the plot line for The Trophy Taker was starting to take shape in my mind. I, like many, find the whole idea of serial killers both morbid and fascinating. Put it together with the day-to-day story of a violent, racist thug called Cornell Miller and I had what I felt to be an interesting combination which I could merge together in a dynamic finale.
Serial killers are thankfully rare, racist thugs less so, victims plentiful; The Trophy Taker has all of these, and the chance for Charlie, Hunter and the others to show their true credentials, working together as a cohesive and supportive team.
2. Where did you get the inspiration for the character of DC Charlie Stafford?
Charlie, as a character is a younger, braver and more reckless mixture of me and several other female colleagues. I wanted her to be a real police officer,
who lives, eats and sleeps the job and who is enthusiastic and wants to make a real difference. She has a family and personal issues like the rest of us. So many times I see police officers in books and on screen portrayed as damaged, bad-tempered, tortured souls which I know makes for good viewing but I wanted Charlie to be ‘normal’. She, Hunter and the others are people I have worked with, an eclectic mix of cultures, ages and sexes; an unlikely team but one that is able to laugh, cry and be shocked like us all.
3. Did you do any specific research for the book?
Not too much – I’m quite lucky in that I write about characters and locations based on my experience but I do have to check facts, places and law updates to make sure they are correct. Google is a good friend of mine these days. I also like to visit the locations I write about, in order to really visualise them – I am thinking my next book will have to be set in the Maldives
4. How did you come up with the plotline for the book? Is it in any way based on your own experiences?
I have to say I have never dealt with a serial killer, or any murderers of that ilk so that part of the plot comes from a furtile and, rather questionable imagination. The attack on Moses Sinkler and the characters of Cornell Miller and many of his associates are the sort of characters I have dealt with on many occasions.
5. Was there a particular part of the novel that was really difficult to write for you?
Anything to do with sexual violence or violence, of any description towards children is the hardest to write; but it happens and so I don’t want to ignore it. To do that would be to deny the reason why criminals sometimes become killers, and why victims can succumb, or overcome. I do, however, acknowledge that by including it in a work of fiction, it could potentially be seen as glorifying the act. I hope that readers understand my revulsion, in the context of how my characters act, and react to these most horrific crimes.
6. Do you listen to music when writing? And if so, what kind of music inspires you?
I get too easily distracted with music or TV so I like to write the majority of my work in silence. However I am inspired when I walk and will usually have a set of headphones stuck into my ears, set on to ‘shuffle’. I listen to anything and everything. To me, music is also inextricably linked to memories; sad times and happy times are brought straight to the fore within the first beats of the intro of particular songs.
7. Who are some of your favourite authors at the moment?
Aargh. I’m useless at finding time to read and I actively avoid reading similar police/crime fiction to what I write. I don’t ever want to get an idea from another author, or for people to think I have. I did love Appletree Yard by Louise Doughty recently though – and some of my fellow Aria authors, Faith Hogan and Jennifer Wells, write beautifully in different genres.
8. What is one thing about you your readers would be surprised to know?
I held a Guinness World Record, with seven of my brothers and sisters, for the greatest number of siblings to run the London Marathon – for the whole of half an hour! Unfortunately the record was taken off us by a family of 12 who walked it. Not that I’m bitter!
9. When did you decide to write and what prompted you to start?
My eldest sister wrote a beautiful historical family saga which was published round 2007. I didn’t even realise she wrote as a hobby. I was so inspired that I sat down and penned a novel myself. It wasn’t a conscious decision – just a spontaneous reaction. That book has never been published and remains on the shelf but it was the start of a passion.
10. What’s next for you?
To continue my passion. Oh.. and to climb Kilimanjaro next year!
He’s watching, waiting… and counting. The next gripping serial killer read in the DC ‘Charlie’ Stafford series, from the bestselling author of Mummy’s Favourite.
He keeps each one floating in formaldehyde to stop them from rotting. Each finger denotes a victim, tortured and butchered, their heart ripped out and discarded, replaced instead by symbols of their treachery. He sits alone admiring his trophies weekly; each and everyone of them guilty in his eyes. And now more must pay. But who or what links the victims?
DC ‘Charlie’ Stafford is already investigating a series of escalating racist attacks and it now seems she has a vicious serial killer on her patch. With no leads and time running out, the team at Lambeth are at near breaking point. Something has to give… and all the while he’s watching, waiting… and counting.
With a Metropolitan Police career spanning 35 years Sarah has spent her adulthood surrounded by victims, criminals and police officers. She continues to work and lives in London with her partner and has three older daughters.