Mari Hannah: The Making of The Silent Room

Mari Hannah: The Making of The Silent Room

During her career Mo has investigated everything from theft to murder, working on some high profile cases, like the ripper enquiry when it switched to the north during the ‘I’m Jack’ letters. As an ex-probation officer myself, I have a wealth of experience of my own to draw from. We have a lot of fun researching locations. Instinctively, Mo has a feeling for the darker side of life, sniffing out good crime scenes that I can use to dramatic effect, creating suspense and drama.

Other writers, my agent and publisher, have encouraged us to make more of our unique relationship. Fellow author, Ann Cleeves, has gone further, putting us forward for events that exploit our unique relationship. Thanks Ann! Mo and I have appeared together several times since and found, to our great surprise, that readers are fascinated by the process of combining fact with fiction. With this in mind, we have agreed to a double hander at Bouchercon next year in Toronto.

In the course of writing seven books, Mo’s role has grown. Nowadays, our collaboration begins early at the ideas stage. During normal conversation she’s probably thrown me a gem that I’ve been considering quietly, mulling over the possibilities without telling her. My series character, Kate Daniels, doesn’t hold the copyright on secrets.

All ex-coppers like to talk about the Job. It’s in their DNA. Often, ideas spring from something that happened during Mo’s career. Most times she has no inkling that she’s said anything of interest – and yet it has sparked my imagination to the point where I’m reaching for my phone to make a note, or scurrying off to write it down in case I forget.

It was such a scenario that spawned the idea for my first standalone thriller. I didn’t plan it. In fact I was mid-book when the idea arrived following a throwaway remark from Mo over a coffee. When I returned to my desk it refused to go away. I knew instantly that it wouldn’t work as a Kate Daniels novel and took the unprecedented step of stopping what I was doing and writing the opening scene. It was important to get it down. As soon as I pressed ‘Send’ on my work in progress, I began to write The Silent Room.

So when it’s time to plan out a new book, we light the fire and get comfy to brainstorm. If I don’t already have an idea to start with, Mo launches forth with one she thinks might work – always before me, annoyingly. I shake my head and usually say something negative. My ego is crushed at this point. I’m the writer in the family, not her, but I say nothing. She’s still talking and I wish she’d stop, allowing my slow writer brain to kick in and catch up. I give her the eyes and she pauses while I contemplate my navel for however long it takes.

She’s off again, as enthused as I am with thoughts of a new title. I ask if she wants to write the book. We laugh. She can detect but can’t spell and I know it. I’m not saying she’s unconcerned with the art of writing. It’s the story that grabs her, not the poetry of the words, whereas I’m constantly striving to get better, trying to form seamless passages of prose I can be proud of. Like most writers, I relying heavily on editors to make me look good.

The Silent Room was well received in the UK in November 2015, a proud moment for both Mo and I. I do the writing, but she’s my first reader, the only one I trust with my work before it goes to my agent. We did the hard yards together. She deserves the praise as much as me. The paperback publication is on 6th October 2016 in the UK and in the US early next year.

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