Sarah J Harris’ first adult book,The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder, is published today. It has been billed as the new A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which featured ADHD as a central theme. This book features synaesthesia, the condition where someone experiences things not through the usual senses. The book also falls neatly into the psychological thriller genre, which is enjoying such a peak in popularity at the moment. The book was snatched up by the agents of A Girl on the Train so it begs the question, when and how will it be made into a movie? We asked Sarah about her work and what she loves about London:
Tell us a bit about synaesthesia and face blindness and why you used this in your book?
Jasper has prosopagnosia or face blindness, which means that he has difficulty distinguishing between different people’s faces, and synaesthesia, whereby two of the five senses that are normally experienced separately are involuntarily joined together. Some people can ‘taste’ words, but in Jasper’s case he sees the colour of all sounds. The central idea for the novel actually came to me in a dream: a young boy running across a suburban street at night, terrified by something he’d witnessed. When I woke up, I wondered if the colour of a sound could have traumatised him – the colour of murder.
Psychological thrillers like The Girl on the Train and Woman at the Window are still riding high in popularity. Who is the writer you most have affinity with?
I love both those books – I can’t resist an unreliable narrator and lots of twists and turns. I’m a huge fan of author Emma Healey. Elizabeth Is Missing is a terrific book and Healey’s created a truly unforgettable character in Maud.
Who will you get to read your Audible book?
I’m very lucky to have actor Huw Parmenter (Count Roland of Paris in The Vikings and artistic director of the Chaskis Theatre) who has a wonderfully rich voice. He’s done a fantastic job, bringing my characters to life. Huw perfectly captures Jasper’s vulnerabilities and growing confusion.
If your book were made into a film, who would play the lead characters?
I actually think Huw would be great for Jasper’s dad, Ed Wishart. This character is ex-military, very attractive and menacing as he becomes a potential murder suspect. I also think Tom Hardy, Tom Hiddleston or Rafe Spall would be brilliant. For Bee Larkham, I really like Anya Taylor-Joy. I watched her in The Miniaturist at Christmas and think she’s incredibly talented. She lights up the screen. Casting the part of a 13-year-old boy is tricky – I’ll leave that to the casting director!
Do you have any tips for an aspiring writer?
Don’t give up. I’ve had lots of knockbacks over the years but I just kept trying. I was utterly determined to become a published author – however long it took.
What’s the best thing about your neigbourhood?
I live in West London West London. I love that our house is close to the buzz of the centre – great restaurants, theatres and museums. But there are also lots of parks and open space nearby, and of course the parakeets, which feature in my book.
What is your favourite thing about London?
It’s multi-cultural and we welcome people from all over the world. I also love visiting exhibitions, such as Fashioned from Nature, which is currently running at the Victoria & Albert museum – it’s fascinating. I particularly love the quiet corners where I get to write and people watch.
What is its best-kept secret?
Fantastic charity shops. I enjoy visiting charity shops across the capital – I’ve bought beautiful clothes, shoes and jewellery. There are amazing finds out there – and you’re helping charities along the way.
What is your ideal London family weekend?
It would start with our usual family session of Karate – I’m a black belt and my sons are purple and brown belts. We’d visit Kew Gardens for a picnic, enjoy wandering around the beautiful grounds and watch the parakeets. After that, we’d head to Richmond for a walk along the river and ice creams for my sons. (I might sneak off at some point to look around the charity shops). We’d have family dinner together in the evening and watch a movie with popcorn. On Sundays, we have a lie-in. I make pancakes, we read the papers, my sons play on the trampoline in the back garden and we all relax.
What is your favourite date night?
My husband and I love going to the cinema or theatre, heading for a Thai curry or our favourite curry house, Rara on Sandycombe Road, Kew. To celebrate the publication of my novel, my husband and I are going to Pied-a-Terre, 34 Charlotte Street, which we love for special occasions. The waiter once gave me a free second helping of mini doughnuts with my coffee after I’d praised them. The restaurant gained a special place in my heart after that.
What is your go-to app?
Usually Google maps because I have a truly horrendous sense of direction. I get lost a lot – but I do get to see more of London that way. I also love Twitter and Instagram – I’ve met lots of writers through social media and made good friends.
How do you get around London?
By tube or walking.
Best advice in life?
Always be kind to people. Try to make a difference, in whatever way you can.
Sarah J. Harris, The Colour of Bee Markham’s Murder £12.99, amazon.co.uk