When I was maybe ten or eleven years old, I found a big box of books in my mum’s bedroom. It was mostly full of James Herberts and Shaun Hutsons, and some of the covers were downright terrifying. Some kids might’ve run screaming from the room, but not me.
I started to read them.
Fast forward a few years, and it was Stephen King who held my attention, before I made a sideways move into crime and thrillers… Jonathan Kellerman, Bret Easton Ellis, Thomas Harris… the list goes on. You get the picture.
After school, I went to university to study microbiology. I kept reading… more than ever. I got a job as a statistician in the pharmaceutical industry and it was all going well. But there was an itch. I knew I wanted to write – I just didn’t know how or when I was going to manage it.
In July 2005, there were terrorist attacks in London. My sisters were on a train down from Edinburgh to meet me, and they got turned away on the fringes of the city. I was stunned. Scared. Realised that life was too short. So I decided to take a break from work to travel the world. I spent the rest of the year planning it, and then off I went (with my fiancé in tow).
In 2006, I found myself on the Trans-Siberian Railway, travelling between Beijing and Moscow. I’d picked up Stephen King’s On Writing somewhere along the way. I had a notebook and a pen. I started to write.
So it began.
Between then and now, I’ve written hundreds of flash fictions and short stories, mostly in crime and horror. In 2013, after lots of false starts, I finally managed to finish my first novel. I met my agent at a writing festival, and some time later, he signed me up based on 10,000 words. I couldn’t believe it. Still can’t.
Black Wood was released on 19th March. I had launches in big name bookstores in London and Edinburgh, where I was interviewed by two bestselling authors – Martyn Waites and Craig Robertson.
People are contacting me, saying how much they loved my book. They want me to write another one… I’m doing it. I’m doing it as fast as I can. Yet still, it doesn’t feel real. I’m a published author now. I have to keep pinching myself. Some day, I hope a kid will find some of my books in a box in their mum’s bedroom. I hope I can inspire – because if I can do this, while juggling a tough job and everything else that life can throw, then so can anyone.
Here’s my advice to anyone who wants to write. If you want to write, just write. Read a lot, write a lot. Network on social media; go to events. Tell yourself that you’re an author. Because one day, it might just come true.
SJI Holliday grew up in East Lothian, Scotland. She works as a Pharmaceutical Statistician, and as a life-long bookworm has always dreamt of becoming a novelist. She has several crime and horror short stories published in anthologies and was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham Prize. After travelling the world, she has now settled in London with her husband. Her debut novel, Black Wood, was inspired by a disturbing incident from her childhood. You can find out more at www.sjiholliday.com or follow Susi on Twitter @SJIHolliday.
Something happened to Claire and Jo in Black Wood: something that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars. But with Claire suffering memory loss and no evidence to be found, nobody believes Jo's story. Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for vengeance. And at the same time, Sergeant Davie Gray is investigating a balaclava-clad man who is attacking women on a disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun. But what is the connection between Jo's visitor and the masked man? To catch the assailant, and to give Jo her long-awaited justice, Gray must unravel a tangled web of past secrets, broken friendship and tainted love. But can he crack the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands?