Follow by Email

Monday, 25 January 2016

Author Q & A with Holly Seddon - Try Not To Breathe

You won't be able to put it down.
Just remember to breathe.

Alex is sinking. Slowly but surely, she's cut herself off from everything but her one true love - drink. Until she's forced to write a piece about a coma ward, where she meets Amy.

Amy is lost. When she was fifteen, she was attacked and left for dead in a park. Her attacker was never found. Since then, she has drifted in a lonely, timeless place. She's as good as dead, but not even her doctors are sure how much she understands.

Alex and Amy grew up in the same suburbs, played the same music, flirted with the same boys. And as Alex begins to investigate the attack, she opens the door to the same danger that has left Amy in a coma...

Title:               Try Not to Breathe
Author:           Holly Seddon
Published By: Corvus
Date:               7th Jan 2016
Link:               UK: Amazon US: Amazon

Author Q & A

We are delighted to welcome Holly to our blog today to talk about her writing.
What was the inspiration behind this novel? 
I was listening to a radio programme about persistent vegetative states. The idea of people’s loved ones moving on around them, while they’re in suspended animation, was heartbreaking. I imagined a teenage girl on the cusp of adulthood, suddenly being stopped, frozen in time. From there, the story came quite quickly!

Did you always want to be a writer? 
Yes. I was always convinced I was a writer, from a very early age. It was like eating or drinking to me, it was only in my mid to late twenties that I started to accept that while I was a writer by trade (a journalist, which I enjoyed), I wasn’t a writer in the way that I had always hoped to be. I almost accepted that. And then when I was 30 I started writing Try Not to Breathe. I was kidding myself to think I’d ever stop trying.

What other jobs have you had? 
I was always a grafter! From 12 onwards I’ve almost always had a job: I worked at a dog kennel, waitressed, babysat, did telesales flogging these mad vacuum cleaners that also had extensions for dog grooming and painting a fence, worked in a call centre taking calls from drunk people buying things they’d seen on late night shopping channels, worked in events, worked in marketing, started my own music website, finally cracked my way into journalism, worked for online newspapers and magazines, worked in online communities and social media and went freelance doing a bit of everything.

How did it feel when your first novel was published? 
Too big to process. Overwhelming. Numbing. There are lots of milestones along the way, all of which I celebrated and felt completely giddy about (getting an agent, getting a publishing deal, seeing the cover, holding the proof, seeing the finished book) but the actual publication was too big. I felt numb for part of the day. When I saw it actually in the shops the next day, I welled up. And then when I did a little speech at my launch party, it fully hit me. My knees shook and I very nearly cried my eyes out in front of everyone!

Have you ever had writer's block? If so how did you overcome it? 
Not really… yet. I did pause writing Try Not to Breathe for quite a long time while there were some other big things happening but that was a decision rather than a block. But I partly try to pre-empt it by having daily and weekly word count targets and then the old grafter spirit kicks in. 

What motivates you to keep writing? 
Honestly, the fear that all this could be taken away. I write as much as I can while I can! 

Can you give us a glimpse into your writing day? 
I have some childcare twice a week, so those days are jam-packed with writing. The rest of the time I write at night, when the kids are in bed. I sleep quite badly, so if I’m awake in the night or early in the morning, I’ll often get some writing done.

Do you have a favourite place you like to write? 
The sofa. Bad for my back, but even when I have a desk it just gets covered in junk and I still lie on the sofa with my laptop. I do like the romance of writing in cafes too but the reality is often too noisy.

Do your characters moods ever affect your mood and vice versa? 
Yes, though I try not to let that happen. There is a married couple in Try Not to Breathe who bicker and snipe: Jacob and Fiona. There was one time when I’d been editing scenes with them, they were still whizzing around my head and my husband said: “you seem to be really irritable and I don’t know why” and I thought, oh crap, I am! It was residual tension from the characters and I tried to make sure that never happened again.

What three pieces of advice would you give to an aspiring writer? 
1. Just do it. Don’t overthink it. Write, plan a little, write some more.
2. Don’t make excuses. If you can find time to watch TV, you have time to write.
3. Don’t think about who you aren’t as a writer, focus on your own style and voice. Comparing yourself to others can only ever drag you down.

Which authors inspire you? 
Any and all. Even if I don’t enjoy a book, it’ll be useful or inspiring in some small way. I find it hard to read contemporary novels in similar genres while I’m writing, it messes with my head. So I’ve been going back in time and reading Agatha Christie and old mysteries by writers like C. H. B. Kitchin. 

What are you reading at the moment? 
Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith.

If your book was made into a film what song would you choose for the opening credits? 
Well, I guess ‘Try Not to Breathe’ by REM would be the obvious choice! I’d prefer something by Pulp though. Maybe ‘Do You Remember The First Time?’

Who would you choose to play your favourite character in the film of your book? 
Oh life, that’s a tough one because I don’t know who my favourite character is! I’m obviously extremely fond of Amy and Alex both, but also Jacob. Okay, I think that my favourite character of all is actually Bob and I think Ray Winstone would be awesome as Bob. Imagine!

What is your next book about? 
Childhood decisions coming to roost.

And now think about the books you've read and just give the first one that comes into your head for our quickfire 'Which book round.'

Which book has made you:

Laugh out loud?
Bossypants by Tina Fey

Cry your heart out?
Gypsy Boy by Mikey Walsh

Want to read it again?
Illywhacker by Peter Carey

Think more?
Being deadly serious, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger. It honestly inspired me immensely.

Wish it would be made into a film?
Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurov would make an amazing animated film.

Any Other Mouth by Anneliese Mackintosh. An incredible book, I was shocked (in a good way) by the bravery and punch of the writing.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Schriver. The way the suspense builds, the control she wields over the story, it’s just painfully chilling.  

Thank you do much for talking to us Holly, wishing you lots of luck with your books.
Please see below for our review.

My Review

Wow, wow, wow! This book is amazing, I read the whole thing in one day simply because I couldn't put it down.

The story starts with Alex, a freelance journalist who is writing a story about a hospital ward with patients in comas. Whilst there she realises that one of the patients is a girl called Amy who had been abducted, beaten and left for dead fifteen years ago. Alex realised that she was the same age as Amy and remembered the story when it happened. She becomes intrigued with the unsolved case and is determined to find out what really happened.

There are many elements to the story but one of the most compelling is how much Amy actually brings to Alex's life, as she has had no sense of purpose for a few years since losing her baby and husband due to her excessive use of alcohol. She is troubled and lonely but Amy's story gives her a sense of purpose and gradually the strength to prove she is good at what she does and she can finish what she started. Alex's story was in some ways as sad as Amy's and that is probably what draws her to Amy.

It was interesting to read about how Amy's situation had affected those around her, especially her boyfriend at the time, Jake, who almost loses his current relationship because of divided loyalties.

The saddest part was being able to read about Amy's thoughts and the fact that she could still hear people talking to her but was quite confused about the whole situation, I was so pleased that Alex had found her and I was very moved at the end with just one simple act from Alex which would have made such a difference to Amy.

Holly Seddon is a natural storyteller, I could almost hear her voice reading this out to me around the campfire with every word  keeping me enthralled. Her descriptive prose set up each scene clearly in my mind and her characters were strong despite their flaws. She is an amazing writer and is brilliant at building suspense, my stomach was tensed the whole way through with this gripping story.

Although it is about a traumatising event with a devastating outcome for Amy there is an uplifting light that shines through from the eventual friendship between Amy and Alex.

Simply brilliant, an outstanding cleverly written masterpiece from an awe inspiring writer. This book will stay with me for a long time.

Thanks to Corvus books for the review copy.

Book Angel x

About the Author

Holly Seddon
Holly Seddon was born and raised in the sleepy south-west of England and now lives slap bang in the centre of Amsterdam with her husband and four children. Throughout her 15-year career, Holly has been privileged to work in some of the UK's most exciting newsrooms.

TRY NOT TO BREATHE is her first novel, published in the UK (Corvus/Atlantic) in January 2016. Soon after, it will be available in the US (Ballantine/Penguin Random House), Germany (Heyne), Russia (Sindbad), Swiat Ksiazk (Poland), Crown (Taiwan) and Netherlands (Ambo Anthos).

Holly is currently writing her second book.


  1. Wow. Absolutely LOVED this interview and the book sounds fantastic, too. I've seen tons of people talking about this one on Twitter so I'm definitely adding it to the to-read pile!

    B xox

    1. Hi Rebecca
      Thanks for stopping by, glad you liked the interview. The book was amazing, you will love it x x x mwah