I’ll be honest – even though I’ve read two of her books, I had no idea that Sarah Naughton was a local until her Mum emailed me and told me so (*waves to Sarah’s Mum*). Thank goodness she did, because not only was Sarah brave enough to be the first subject of The Random 20, but it also gave me the excuse to buy her latest book The Festival…
Sarah Naughton’s first book was shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Award. She also writes bestselling psychological thrillers for adults and is published in eleven territories. Married with two teenage sons, Sarah divides her time between London and Dorset. She has yet to win a Nobel Prize, but did get a Highly Commended for her herb display in the Whitchurch Canonicorum produce show.
The Random 20
1. What’s your relationship with the Blackmore Vale (the area, not us!)?
I grew up in a tiny village on the Somerset/Dorset border, with a school, a post office and, latterly and excitingly, a video shop. Our house used to back onto fields and a pig farm. The whole estate smelled of it. My mum would get me up at night to see the badgers and hedgehogs who had wandered into our garden. There was only one other single parent family in the village so we would hang out a lot. The other mum had an open fire and we used to wheel a shopping trolley to the local wood at night to pilfer firewood.
Cut Mill was my favourite place in the world and even now, after it sadly burnt down, it’s my sons’ favourite too. They’re as afraid as I was of the legendary pike that lurks in the mill pond, who must be drawing his pension by now. As a non-sporty teenager there wasn’t much to do, so I would go on endless tramps around the lanes, dreaming of what my life would be like when I moved to the big city, which I did aged seventeen.
I scoffed at people who said I would miss the countryside. And then of course I did. A few years ago we bought a place an hour from my parents and I’ve missed it so much during lockdown.
2. What was the last song you sang out loud in your car?
The car playlist is strictly controlled by my teenage sons, so I tend only to sing in the kitchen when I’ve had a few ciders. The last one was I Need A Hero by Bonnie Tyler.
3. Last movie you watched? Would you recommend it?
It’s very hard for us all to agree on films. My eldest likes gross-out comedies, me and my youngest like supernatural horror, and my husband likes classic gangster movies. The compromise is never successful but I’m not going to slag the most recent one off as I admire all these indie filmmakers who are getting such a great platform on Amazon and Netflix.
4. It’s Friday night – you have the house to yourself. What will you do?
That doesn’t fill me with any excitement. Writing is a solitary occupation and I get more than enough time on my own.
Last time I had an evening to myself I sugar-soaped the kitchen.
5. If you were sent to an island for a year and could only bring three things, what would you bring (the island is already equipped with a magical power source, a phone and a laptop)?
A massive inflatable in the shape of a flamingo, a bottle of rum to go with the abundant supply of pineapples and coconuts, and Maggie O’Farrell’s entire back catalogue, as I realised, when I heard her on Desert Island Discs the other day, that I’ve never read anything by her.
6. What would you like to tell 15yr old you?
Everything will be alright.
7. Most embarrassing moment of your teen years?
Uh uh. No way. I’ve spent years trying to forget that stuff and reinvent myself as Successful Writer. You’ll have to ask the people I went to school with.
8. Who’s your celebrity crush?
It gets harder as you age, not to feel ashamed of yourself for fancying the same type you fancied as a teenager, ie men in their twenties, so I’ll just pretend to like Daniel Craig, like every other forty-something woman (actually it’s Iwan Rheon).
9. What book did you read last year that stayed with you?
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. It uses the experiences of three different women to explore female desire and sexuality: which sounds really worthy, but isn’t. I recommend it for women of any age – I guarantee you will relate to it – and to men who want to understand women better.
10. What was the last gift you gave someone?
As a Father’s Day present for my dad I’ve just bought a framed woodcut of a Dore etching from The Ancient Mariner. It is loaded with meaning that he and I will get. Hopefully he’ll laugh.
11. What shop can you not pass without going in?
Peter Jones in Sloane Square. I’m with John Betjemen: nothing unpleasant could possibly happen there. I’ve written all my books in the café on the 6th floor. In fact I went into labour there too, which I think should entitle my son to free scones for life.
12. Favourite quote? Movie, book or inspirational – we won’t judge.
I had a boyfriend who used to say this to me if I was sad:
‘All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.’
It’s by the English mystic, Julian of Norwich, and I used to think it was a bit earnest, but it has stayed with me over the years.
I also like ‘Suck my fat one’ from Stand By Me.
13. Write the review for your latest book that you wish someone would leave on Amazon for you.
“Sarah Naughton’s recent Nobel Prize for literature was highly deserved, as was the seven figure advance this book received. Five stars ★★★★★”
14. What was the last gift you received?
A friend with her own teenage boys, predicting my Mothers Day might not be as replete with thoughtful gifts and pampering as everyone else’s on social media (#blessed), sent me a bottle of gin. Best Mothers Day ever.
15. A penguin just walked in the door wearing a panama hat. Why is he here?
To give me my Nobel prize and my million pound cheque.
16. Your top three most-visited favourite websites (excluding social media!)?
Like most writers my internet history is both random and sinister.
The last thing I Googled was How to Destroy Bones and the one before that was about autoerotic asphyxiation.
The only website I visit with any regularity is BBC Sounds, as sometimes it’s the only thing that will quieten my racing thoughts enough to sleep. My favourite section is Horror and Supernatural, but I do love a good In Our Time, especially about science. That sends me off in a nanosecond.
17. What in life is frankly a mystery to you?
How people feel very strongly about trivial things (eg. Megan and Harry) and ignore huge issues like political corruption and cronyism. We laugh along when they joke about it on Have I Got News for You and then promptly forget about it, so those in power get away scot free. You don’t beat the system by laughing at it, you just make life easier for the political elite. They’d rather be chuckled at than made accountable.
18. Chip Shop Chips or Homebaked Cake?
It would be sadistic to make me choose.
19. Favourite crisp flavour?
My relationship with crisps has been a troubled one. I used to love Smoky Bacon flavour, but after I got chicken pox they never tasted the same again. After that it was Wotsits, but I had to eat forty packets of them to save up for a Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles watch. I can’t even look at someone eating them now.
20. The best biscuit?
Biscuits are a scandalous waste of calories that you could spend on cake.
Sarah’s latest book The Festival is out TODAY – stocked in all good bookshops (and heinous internet giants too, obviously), you can support your local bookseller by ordering it from Winstones of Sherborne here.
Read our review of Sarah J. Naughton’s The Festival here.