Q&A with Sophie Hannah

The Carrier by Sophie Hannah is an intense psychological thriller. It can be considered a love story and a gripping mystery, a “who done it” of sorts. Released earlier this month in the US, it has already won the 2013 Crime Thriller of the Year at the UK National Book Awards.

Elise Cooper: Other than Gaby, and possibly Lauren, the other characters are not very likeable. Did you do that intentionally?

Sophie Hannah: Yes. I wanted Gaby’s character to stand out. My intention was for Gaby to be the heroine and the one who the readers will identify with. She finds herself in a situation where almost everybody she comes into contact with is abusive, unsatisfactory, or not very supportive. While Gaby is tough and must look after herself, all the others let her down. I will have a future cameo role for her in another book. Regarding the other characters, I did not intentionally write them as despicable. They were pushed around with forces beyond their control. Although Lauren can be infuriating she does have redeeming features.

EC: How would you describe Tim?

SH: In the book I wrote a section about his childhood. He was brought up in a cold and uncaring environment. Feeling that he did not matter and only his parents were important he married someone who treated him accordingly. His manipulative side comes from his weakness. Being too scared to voice his feelings he becomes manipulative to get what he wants out of life.

EC: How could Gaby be attracted to someone like Tim?

SH: To Gaby, Tim is like a performance that seems to impress her. What makes her attracted to him is his attitude. Opposites attract. She is intelligent, a high achiever who has her act together in every way but her romantic feelings. Gaby is a sucker for Tim’s awful, manipulative, and useless ways. She should have walked away from him since he caused her a load of misery.

EC: Can you explain Tim’s relationship to his wife Francine?

SH: Before she had the stroke, he was always afraid of her, walking on pins and needles. Yet, after the stroke he was still scared of her. I thought what would happen if there was a relationship where the spouse could not speak or move anymore. Would they still be scared knowing the invalid could still think? He wrote her those letters and read them to her as a desensitized means to become less fearful.

EC: What would you say are the themes to this book?

SH: There are multiple themes: Can someone do something morally bad and still be a good person such as the emotional torture of Francine when she was completely helpless, and Gaby having an affair with a married man. Is it OK for a good person to do evil things to bad people? Is mercy killing murder or is assisted suicide murder? I hope people understood the differences since assisted suicide is helping someone commit suicide when they cannot do it on their own while mercy killing is done to spare someone from suffering.

EC: What do you want the readers to get out of the book?

SH: I am a mystery addict, which is why I try to put as many mysteries into the book as possible. Hopefully, the reader thinks about the dangers and threats in the plot. I also hope they realize that the odd numbered chapters are in the first person, from the heroine’s perspective, while the even numbered chapters are from the police’s point of view, narrated deep in the third person.

EC: Can you give a heads up about your next book?

SH: It will come out in the summer and is titled Woman With A Secret. It is about a respectable housewife and mother, Nicki, who is leading a dangerous secret double life. It will be a Zailer and Waterhouse mystery. Nicki is a person of interest in a murder investigation since she cannot explain to the police why she is behaving suspiciously. The victim is a controversial newspaper journalist, a shock jock columnist who seems to offend every element of a population. I became fascinated by the columnists willing to speak their mind on any issue even though it means causing great offense.