Simon Toyne is the bestselling author of the Sanctus trilogy: Sanctus, The Key, and The Tower. He wrote Sanctus after quitting his job as a TV executive to focus on writing. It was the biggest-selling debut thriller of 2011 in the UK and an international bestseller. His books have been translated into 27 languages and published in over 50 countries. Simon lives with his family in Brighton and the South of France. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
In this post, Simon discusses the real-life glass mansion that inspired his new crime novel, Dark Objects, the importance of loving what you’re writing from the beginning, and more!
Name: Simon Toyne
Literary agent: Alice Saunders @ Soho Agency
Book title: Dark Objects
Publisher: William Morrow
Release date: July 12, 2022
Previous titles: The Sanctus Trilogy, The Searcher, The Boy Who Saw, Broken Promise
Elevator pitch for the book: A woman is found brutally murdered in her multi-million-pound mansion surrounded by strange objects that don’t belong in the house. One is a book on forensics written by a reclusive academic who never works live cases but decides to make an exception in this case. Only the more she begins to figure things out, the more she realizes the killer is talking directly to her through these dark objects.
What prompted you to write this book?
Firstly, the area of North London where the murder takes place is somewhere I used to live, and the glass mansion overlooking Highgate Cemetery exists. I used to walk past it while pushing my baby daughter in her stroller 18 years ago. I always wondered what the story of that house was and what went on inside it.
Secondly, I made a TV show a couple of years back where I reinvestigated the true crimes that had inspired the work of various bestselling authors such as Tess Gerritsen and Karin Slaughter. One of these stories involved a double murder in Glasgow where the killer had emptied the victims’ handbags and laid the contents out in a neat line next to the bodies. That image, of strange objects next to a body left by the killer stuck with me and planted the seed that ultimately grew into the story of Dark Objects.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?
From idea to finished book took about two years but it will be three years by the time it is published, largely due to COVID closing all the bookstores and stalling publishing schedules in the same way movies were shelved until the theatres opened again.
The central idea of the mystery didn’t change at all from initial idea to finished book, I tend to find if I like an idea enough to spend a year writing it, it’s usually robust from the outset. In fact, that’s a pretty good tip I’d hand on, make sure you really love and are intrigued by an idea at the outset, because you will surely fall out of love with it somewhere along the line.
I find, with me, the things that change in the writing process are the characters because they begin to take on a life of their own and start going their own way and doing unexpected things. That’s the fun bit though. Sometimes scary, but always fun. It’s what you hope will happen, your fictional figments start feeling real.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
There are always surprises with every new book. The biggest surprise with this one was how much I missed meeting readers. During COVID I got lots of messages from new readers but obviously couldn’t meet any of them in real life. With Dark Objects, I’ve been able to go to crime festivals and signings again, and boy have I ever missed just the simple act of talking to fellow travelers who adore books and stories as much as I do.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
The big surprise writing Dark Objects was all the things I got wrong about police procedure. I have an old school friend who is a (now retired) police officer and I got him to read the first draft to tell me what I’d got wrong in the investigation. The notes I got back were almost as long as the book!
Hopefully it’s now pretty solid, but if it’s not, that’s entirely my fault, not his. As with all fiction you need to get the stuff right that you can as it helps to sell the beautiful lie at the heart of it all.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
I just hope they really enjoy and are entertained by the story. There are so many things that bring people down on a daily basis—reading is like an act of defiance, and a book like an oasis of escape. With this in mind I hope readers give the book a chance, read page one and want to read page two, reach the end of one chapter and want to read one more, and finally close the book at three in the morning cursing my name for how tired they’ll be the next day (whilst hopefully also ordering my previous books).
If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?
Write! It may sound obvious, but writers need to write. If you can’t write a novel, write a novella, if you can’t write a novella, write a short story, or a paragraph, or a sentence. Just do it every day and get into the habit of it and your writing will get better. It’s a craft as much as it as an art form. So, practice your craft. Write!