Remember My Name started life when someone called me and didn’t hang up properly – it’s happened to us all, both making and receiving calls, and it started me thinking about what might be overheard in those crucial few seconds…
For Cressida Howard’s husband, Laurence, it’s a conversation with a woman that he really didn’t want his wife to listen in to, and it starts of chain of events that end in murder.
Book ideas always start for me at two or three separate points, ‘light bulb’ moments that converge to form a story. They don’t always all arrive at the same time, some come years apart (like the ideas for my debut Little Bones), and they tend to swim around my head, swirling like moving images on a white board, before they begin to connect and form a story. The ideas can be anything – photographs, something I’ve read in the paper, a painting or a character who is demanding to be heard. It’s always a bit unnerving at the start of a book when the ideas are still only images and I can’t see how they connect at all – often there’s another piece needed to bring them together, and I’ve learned to trust the process and wait for that bit to arrive. Which sounds very practical until you factor in a deadline!
I’ve learned over the years to let the story percolate before I start making notes or researching characters. That story development time is just as important as the writing time, it’s where the connections are made and where unexpected things happen. It’s scary when you can’t see the story, but exhilarating when it starts to come togther.
After a chance conversation with my agent Simon Trewin about how much some major retailers know about our shopping habits, and what our online purchases could reveal about us to the wrong people, I began to wonder who could get hold of that information and how they might use it. And that started me thinking about blackmail, and cyber crime and what someone might have to gain from that sort of data. And that brought be back to the overheard conversation and a story began to form.
I love writing interesting female characters and with each new book I’m discovering strong new women’s voices, three-dimensional characters with lives and loves, hopes and fears who are as important as a twisty plot. I love writing women who know their own minds and go after what they want. Things aren’t always easy – without conflict there would be no story, but finding ways for them to overcome their problems is my plot.
One day I was on the Tube in London, sitting near a girl with amazing neon pink hair – shaved up both sides in a double undercut, and I literally had a lightbulb moment. She became the inspiration for a character called Brioni O’Brien, the tech expert who, in Remember My Name, Cressida calls to help her find out what’s going on in her husband’s life. But what Brioni and Cressida discover is far more complicated and dangerous than him ‘just’ having an affair, because Laurence has got into bed with some very dangerous people. And Laurence’s biggest mistake is underestimating the women in his life.
Remember My Name is a standalone psychological thriller, like Keep Your Eyes on Me, The Dark Room, and digital exclusive High Pressure, and like those books, its part of the Sam Blake world, so regular readers will recognise details like hotels, brands, and minor characters – I hope reinforcing the sense that they are stepping inside the ‘real’ world of the story. Brioni also features in High Pressure, although the stories are completely separate.
I love building in detail of the world I write in, in the same way I find significant details about each character to help make them disctinctive on the page. Tiny details can tell us SO much about an individual, and I have a lot of fun finding out what they are. I want the character to form clearly in your mind without a long description – in the same way that you form an impression of someone you meet at a party within about thirty seconds. Those impressions are important to get right so you carry them with you through the book.
In Remember My Name, Brioni O’Brien is a tech expert, she’s young and very, very bright. She spent a year travelling and has an unalome tattoo on her wrist – a Buddhist symbol representing harmony coming out of chaos. Many things about Brioni’s life were chaotic, not least her getting mugged on during her year abroad and coming home to discover her sister was missing. But when we meet her in Remember My Name, she’s studying for her Masters and working for a major company in Dublin’s tech quarter. She’s got that bright pink hair and a double undercut (shaved up both sides) and a diamond nose stud from iconic jeweller No 42 (featured in Keep Your Eyes on Me), that her sister bought her for her 18th birthday. These three details – tattoo, hair, and nose stud, I hope give you a clear picture. But as Simon Scarrow said in one of the Winning the Writing Game Facebook interviews I did with Simon Trewin during lockdown – it’s important to leave room for your reader.
I also love using location detail to build a picture of my characters, so their houses are as important as their clothes – Emily Jane, Cressida’s daughter has a frilly pink bedroom with fairy lights and state of the art technology. She seems immature but as the story develops we learn that she’s a lot sharper than she appears. Brioni’s family home is beside the sea in Wexford, overlooking a storm-tossed beach, isolated on the edge of fields. It’s a contrast to her modern Dublin apartment and these two places represent the two sides of her character.
My seventh book, I wrote Remember My Name in the depths of 2020’s lockdown, and it took me, in my imagination at least, out of our 5km limit, to the stunning village of Dalkey in County Dublin, to Grand Canal Dock in Dublin city and down to the beach in Wexford. It has a very twisty plot that I hope will surprise you – I wasn’t expecting everything that happened, but boy, is Laurence Howard in over his head…
(c) Sam Blake
About Remember My Name:
If she’d turned off her phone, instead of listening in, perhaps no one would have died…
When Cressida Howard catches her entrepreneur husband playing away from home, she hires security expert Brioni O’Brien to get the evidence she needs for a speedy and financially rewarding divorce.
But what Brioni uncovers goes beyond simple infidelity. Because Laurence Howard is also in bed with some very dangerous people. Bribery and blackmail are the least of his worries as someone comes after the women in his life – someone who is out to destroy Laurence and his empire, whatever the cost.
And Cressida and her teenage daughter could soon be collateral damage, if she and Brioni don’t act fast.
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