Emma Haughton is the author of Cruel Heart Broken, Better Left Buried and Now You See Me. Her latest novel, The Dark, was published by Hodder & Stoughton on 19 August 2021.
Emma kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about The Dark.
The Dark follows the story of Kate North, who accepts the job as emergency replacement for the station doctor on a remote research base in Antarctica – one of the most hostile environments on earth, completely inaccessible in the depths of winter. Kate, who has suffered a personal tragedy, arrives thinking it’ll be a good way to escape her demons, but of course they follow her there. And then she discovers nothing on the ice station is quite what it seems, and her colleagues have plenty of demons and secrets of their own.
2. What inspired the book?
I was having a night in on my own, when I stumbled across a Horizon documentary about the new Halley ice station, owned by the British Antarctic Survey. The programme explained how the skeleton crew that keeps the base ticking over during the long Antarctic winter has to endure months of 24-hour darkness in impossibly cold temperatures, with no chance of rescue if anything goes wrong. My writer brain immediately when into overdrive, and I started imagining all the things that could go wrong. I quickly realised it would make the ideal location for a locked room thriller.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I started out just writing and hoping for the best, but quickly realised it made life impossibly difficult if you’re going to write thrillers with lots of twists and complications. I worried planning it out beforehand would kill off any creativity, but soon understood that planning the book is in itself a creative process. Now I can’t write a scene or chapter unless I have at least some idea where it’s going. My brain works best if it isn’t given too much to do at once, so thinking about what’s happening as well as how to describe it and so on, tends to make it stall. If I feel stuck, it’s always because I don’t know enough about the plot or characters.
4. Is there anything about the process of publishing a book that still surprises you?
How much it’s truly a joint effort. The author’s name might be the one on the cover, but it takes a dedicated team of editors, designers, marketers and other publishing peeps to get that book on the shelf and persuade people to buy it.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I’m really into knitting and crochet. I have a small business selling kits and patterns, and I usually knit and crochet every day. It’s my form of meditation – the rhythm of working with my hands and the tactile sensation of the yarn really helps calm me down. Studies have shown that both are really good for your mental health, if not for your budget (I do buy lots of yarn!).
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Tough question! Probably The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. I studied Russian at university for a while, and adore Russian authors.
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
Hmmmm… how about, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your writing career? And my answer would be that there are no rules. I put off writing fiction for years because I believed lots of silly myths like real authors write every day, or would rather be writing than doing anything else, or always begin writing early in childhood. None of these applied to me. You can write a novel whenever you feel like it – one day a month, whenever works for you (at least before you’re working on a deadline). You can still write a novel even if you don’t particularly enjoy doing it. You can write a novel even if you never wrote a single word of fiction when you were young. People are not born as writers, they become one through determination and sheer hard graft, and being willing to learn as much as they can about their craft.
About the Book
In the most inhospitable environment – cut off from the rest of the world – there’s a killer on the loose.
A&E doctor Kate North has been knocked out of her orbit by a personal tragedy. So when she’s offered the opportunity to be an emergency replacement at the UN research station in Antarctica, she jumps at the chance. The previous doctor, Jean-Luc, died in a tragic accident while out on the ice.
The move seems an ideal solution for Kate: no one knows about her past; no one is checking up on her. But as total darkness descends for the winter, she begins to suspect that Jean-Luc’s death wasn’t accidental at all.
And the more questions she asks, the more dangerous it becomes . . .