In my final year at university, when the terrible prospect of having to get a job and earn a living began to loom, I dutifully went along to the ‘Milk Round’ events organised by the college careers team. This was an opportunity for undergraduates to chat to members of various commercial organisations, sign up to register their interest and collect mountains of flyers and pamphlets. I had very little idea of what I wanted to do and found myself wandering among the booths of various advertising companies. One of them had the account for a premium dog food brand. My prospects of getting a formal interview were dashed when the executive I was chatting to asked if I would be willing to ‘sample the product’. Bursting out laughing and saying ‘You must be joking’ wasn’t exactly the response they were looking for and the conversation came to an abrupt end.
Despite this shaky start in the world of advertising another company did offer me a job as a trainee and since my initial accounts were for soap and electrical goods I was more than happy to sample the products. The executive I worked for instilled in me the idea that advertising is primarily about understanding audiences and telling them stories in a way that made them want to listen. This advice held true when I left advertising and joined the BBC as a trainee, where I spent twenty years as a documentary maker making films on subjects as diverse as the Chouf war in Lebanon and the lives of the Bronte sisters. Although I was dealing with facts the structuring of a documentary is about crafting a compelling narrative by choosing the most interesting characters to tell the story and giving that story a beginning, a middle and an end. So, although I came to fiction writing quite late in life, I had already spent my career shaping stories.
I think that my experience of researching reality is why so many of my novels are based on stories either ‘ripped from the headlines’ or inspired by real events. I began by writing for middle grade children and wrote two books about three children from different corners of the world who are brought together by the mysterious power of ley lines. Many of the events and characters in the books were based on lectures I had attended and people I had met when researching a documentary about the unknown. I then published two thrillers for Young Adults, one loosely based on the mysterious disappearance of Lord Lucan, and the other, which had a young Afghan refugee as its heroine, was inspired by the plight of the Afghan army interpreters who were being preyed on by the Taliban when the allied forces began to pull out of the region. As a children’s author I did hundreds of school visits. The children loved hearing about the true stories that had inspired my novels and I ran a number of creative writing sessions in which they shaped their own stories out of real world events.
My first thriller for adults, Her Perfect Life explores the human dramas behind advances in IVF; my second, Gone Before, looks at the way the news covers the abduction of a child and how innocent parents are often vilified by the press. The idea for my latest thriller, A Good Mother, came about when my husband was posted to Kenya for a couple of years and I split my time between writing and volunteering for a charity which rescues, houses and educates street children. I was deeply impressed by the lengths this financially strapped organisation went to to offer continued support for the young people leaving their care and it brought home to me how vulnerable young adults continue to be, particularly those who have no families to fall back on. On my return to the UK I was shocked to find out how many care leavers in this country are left to fend for themselves and how easy it is for them to fall prey to exploiters who take advantage of their naivety and isolation. This is exactly what happens to my protagonist Nicci, whose tragic experiences as a teenage care leaver return to threaten her marriage, her child and the new life she has made as an adult
(c) Sam Hepburn
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About A Good Mother:
I see my son’s scooter lying in the undergrowth. Time stands still. Where is he? Deafened by my own heartbeat, I keep looking but I can’t see him. This is all my fault. My punishment for the things I did, and the things I should have done.
All I ever wanted was to keep my son safe. I married the perfect husband, built the perfect home. I’ve tried to give Finn the life I never had.
Everything was going so well. Until now.
It’s just small things at first – a punctured tyre, an open gate that I’m sure I locked. But then I see the photograph of two young girls, and a night I’ve tried to forget.
I know I have to stop pretending that nothing is happening. I can’t escape the truth.
Someone knows my secret. But what do they want from me?
A gripping and suspenseful thriller with a jaw-dropping twist, fans of Friend Request, The Wife Between Us and The Girl on the Train won’t be able to put this down.
Order your copy online here.