I am privileged to work with some well-established authors, but one of the most exciting parts of being an editor is working with debut authors with debut authors on their first novels, helping them to launching their writing careers. There is nothing that beats the excitement around a debut, especially when they are as gifted a storyteller as Laura J Sillett.
It was a privilege to work on Laura’s debut, LET ME SLEEP, a psychological dystopian thriller that is laden with pace and twist at every turn.
I was delighted to get the chance to ask Laura some questions ahead of publication day – today – discussing what inspired her to write crime and thriller, and why the Victorians knew how to do crime right!
Scroll down to read an exclusive interview with the author!
Let Me Sleep by Laura J Sillett
23rd September 2021
He would do anything to remember. And even more to forget.
Tormented by nightmares of a screaming woman, Nico Jakes opens his eyes to an unfamiliar world.
Forced into hiding by war, a society has made its home underground. Suffering from psychological trauma, Nico learns that his lost memories hold the key to the survival of the entire community. Frustrated, confused, and under the watchful eye of his protective brother, Nico submits to an unconventional drug treatment to unearth a crucial secret, before an escaped traitor can exploit it.
But the descent into his mind also opens the flood gates to Nico’s past, bringing back forgotten lovers, enemies, and tragedy. With dreams warped by drugs and memories tainted by lies, Nico soon realises that he cannot trust anything, not even himself.
Let Me Sleep is out today – grab your copy here.
Read on for an exclusive interview with the author, Laura J Sillett.
Laura, welcome! LET ME SLEEP is your debut novel. Tell us a little more about it.
Hi Rebecca – thanks for having me! I wrote Let Me Sleep about ten years ago and have been tinkering with it ever since… The book is set in an underground civilisation in the near future, where a global war has eradicated most of the human population. It follows the story of two brothers, one of whom has forgotten his past, and examines the bonds of family and friendship in the pressures of a confined environment through memories, dreams, and present-day life.
The book is very much focused on setting, a dystopic world where the human race has essentially turned on each other. Is there a reasoning behind why you chose to base your novel around this concept?
As the story is based quite heavily around memory and the unconscious, using an underground cave setting as a hideout seemed the perfect metaphor to me. I’m also fascinated by movies that focus on apocalyptic situations and how the race for survival often seems to bring out the worst in humans – eliciting behaviour they would never have believed themselves capable of. I think the scariest thing is that this type of scenario is entirely plausible in the future.
Who inspired you to start writing? Have your influences changed since then?
My teacher suggested I pursue writing later in life, but my first attempt at age ten was a blatant rip-off of the book I was currently reading but with the names changed! While studying English at university, I was particularly taken with a module on Victorian detective fiction and wondered if I could plot something so intricate and brilliant. That module finally inspired me to pick up the pen.
This is your first novel, so why did you choose to write thriller/crime?
I love to solve things – books, films, I LOVE escape rooms. If ever given a choice for the evening’s film, I am inevitably drawn to the mystery of thrillers and horrors (much to my partner’s frustration). But I always guess the endings to things, so wanted to write something that bucked the traditional norms.
What is the biggest challenge you faced when writing Let Me Sleep? How did you overcome it?
Without a doubt, the timeline (which I’m sure Rebecca can attest to!). The plot involves memories and dreams, and the timeline is therefore not linear. Trying to piece everything together and maintain continuity was a nightmare. In terms of overcoming it, there was much plotting, tonnes of notes, several diagrams, and a map. I have a timeline diagram in one of my notebooks and it’s absolutely a thing to behold.
Do you like to plan the action of your novels or do you just let them write themselves ?
I don’t think I have it in me to be a pantser! I construct a plot and the characters fit around that how I need them to. I have a dedicated notebook for each book and plot each one chapter by chapter. I have to know what I’m doing and what’s happening next. Control freak, moi?
As this is a dystopic thriller, you’ve got lots of remit for imagination. However, did you have to do a lot of research for the novel? If so, how?
I’m a member of a writers’ group, and one of our earliest conversation pieces was, ‘Who has the dodgiest Google search this week?’ I still did a lot of research, despite having the freedom to make a lot of stuff up. I like my character names to have meanings, there was a fair bit of drug research, and other random things. Like I had no idea that lighting fires in caves could cause a rockfall. I had to get creative about how people would keep warm!
Writing a novel is both an exhausting and inspiring experience. Do you have any plans to put pen to paper again soon?
I went through a phase where I genuinely felt I couldn’t write another, but I took a year out, gave myself a break, and eventually rediscovered the love. I’ve wanted to write the sequel to Let Me Sleep for years, but I needed a break from it, so have decided to write something else first. The idea came again from a dream and is in the plotting stages — it’s about a group of friends whose last night of freedom before university goes horribly wrong. Ten years later and someone wants them to remember (and pay for) what happened. Think, I Know What you Did Last Summer, but with fewer fish hooks.
What is your desert-island read?
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. The plots of serialised detective novels of the 1800s are just incredible.
Do you have any writing tips to share?
Stop, if you need to. It’s hard to create, especially when you have other responsibilities, and it can be easy to lose your va-va-voom. If you love writing, then the passion will return in time. So be kind to yourself.
What is your writing process like? Do you have a routine? A favourite place to write?
I write whenever I can, job and family permitting. But it has to be in a comfortable place, so sofa or bed with pyjamas, blankets, cushions, and some music on. Radiohead, usually.
Also most important question. Favourite writing snack!
Ooooh, tough. Probably a selection of savoury bits and bobs – cured meat, cheeses, crackers, raw mushrooms (although apparently that’s weird).
Let Me Sleep is published today! And I’m delighted to share an exclusive extract with you below.
‘Oh God, Nico, please forgive me.’
I couldn’t see her behind me. I could see nothing but my own reflection in the mirror, dark and distorted by a huge, jagged crack down the centre.
‘Nico, say something, please.’
She was begging. I didn’t care. I didn’t want to speak to her.
Her scream rang out. High-pitched, pained, spine-chillingly frightened. It froze the blood in my veins as I turned to see her.
My eyes opened to greet the dark rock of the ceiling. With a jaded sigh, I rubbed my hands over my sweaty face.
Again. That was four times in the last two days.
My feelings towards the faceless woman were confusing. My pity for her, the need to stop her pain, was being eaten away by the most irrational surges of anger.
But then again, irrational anger seemed to be a speciality of mine. Hanna had been my only visitor in the last two days, and only then it was to bring in food. The others were avoiding me, probably afraid that anything they said would either send me crazy or make me faint. I couldn’t say I blamed them.
I instinctively felt, rather than saw, the movement in the shadows over by the door. Hanna was standing there, staring.
‘Oh!’ She gasped as our eyes locked, before dropping her gaze and muttering her remaining words at the floor. ‘You were talking.’
A smile tugged at the corners of my mouth. ‘Bad dream,’ I said, running a hand through my unruly hair and sitting up. The damp snap in the air of the wintry caves bit at my bare chest. ‘What time is it?’
‘Six thirty. What were you dreaming?’
‘Nothing worth telling.’
She struck a match to light more candles on the dresser. Alternating orange flickers and black shadows found her biting her lower lip, and there was a moment of hesitation before she joined me on the edge of the bed. Hands fidgeted in her lap. ‘Try me.’
I glanced sideways in surprise. I knew nothing about her, but this forwardness seemed out of character.
She was a pretty thing, not striking, but maybe that’d come with age. A mass of red corkscrew curls almost hid her freckled face, which shone with teenage innocence. Warm hazel eyes fluttered bashfully up to watch me as my gaze took in her appearance, a blush touching her cheeks under the scrutiny.
I sighed. ‘A woman, begging, screaming… I can’t ever see her though.’
Concern filled her eyes as they darted across my face. ‘It scares you?’
I shook my head. ‘She doesn’t scare me, she hurts me.’
Already hooked? Of course, grab your copy of Let Me Sleep here.
About the Author
Residing in Cheshire with her partner, twin boys (now twin men), and four cats, Laura J Sillett is a medical editor by trade, as well as a trained dancer, musician, and sometime artist.
Laura graduated from Keele University in 2012 with a somewhat strange dual honours degree combination of English and human biology. An avid and occasionally lucid dreamer, Laura is fascinated by the power of the unconscious mind and Freudian interpretation of dreams.
Many years ago, Laura had a dream, which prompted a thought, which led to an idea, which slowly formed into a plot over a summer of relabelling books in a library. And so, she became a writer, sixteen years after her teacher suggested it.