Ellie Marney is an Australian-based crime writer who is the author of many acclaimed crime novels including The Killing Code. Her latest novel Some Shall Break is the highly anticipated sequel to her New York Times bestselling YA thriller None Shall Sleep which first introduced readers to junior FBI consultants Travis Bell and Emma Lewis. Good Reading for Young Adults caught up with the author to discuss her new book.
ABOUT THE BOOK
From the author of The Killing Code comes the electrifying sequel to New York Times bestselling YA thriller None Shall Sleep. Junior FBI consultants Travis Bell and Emma Lewis are swept into a compelling and dangerous new case that may unravel everything they’ve been working for.
September, 1982: Three months after the showdown with Simon Gutmunsson in St Elizabeths Hospital for the Criminally Insane, Emma Lewis has retreated to college life in Ohio, and the support of her family and her therapist. But Emma has a unique gift for hunting killers, and the FBI wants her back…
Travis Bell is on track to make a career in law enforcement. But the FBI unit’s latest case is testing all his skills, and in Emma’s absence, Travis has accepted help from Kristin Gutmunsson, Simon’s eccentric twin sister, to track a dangerous new target.
When evidence points to the traumatic Daniel Huxton case from Emma’s past, the FBI decides to put her into protective custody. Compelled to prevent more tragedy, Emma reaches out once more to Simon Gutmunsson to save the copycat’s next victims – but as always, Simon knows more than he’s telling…
Can Emma and Travis conquer a killer in the most horrifying situation they’ve ever faced?
MEET ELLIE MARNEY
As this is a direct sequel to None Shall Sleep, can you give us a quick spoiler-free rundown of the first book?
My first book Non Shall Sleep is about two teenagers – Emma Lewis, a real-life ‘final girl’ who survived abduction by a serial killer, and Travis Bell, a US Marshal candidate whose father was murdered by a serial killer – who are recruited by the innovative FBI Behavioural Science Unit in 1982 to interview juvenile serial offenders. During the course of the interviews, they meet a very intelligent and manipulative teenage sociopath, Simon Gutmunsson, who offers them information about a current case that the FBI is working to solve. Emma and Travis become a conduit between Simon and the FBI, and are drawn into the hunt for a new serial murderer who is killing teenagers…
Some Shall Break follows on three months after the events of None Shall Sleep, with a new case involving a killer in Pittsburgh who has been copycatting the murders of the man who abducted Emma Lewis. And of course, Simon Gutmunsson can’t help but involve himself and cause mayhem…
The whole story has been described as ‘one long heart attack’, which I think is pretty apt!
Some Shall Break is structured around two characters in the American FBI, so what can you tell us about your research process?
I can tell you that it was very long and involved! I had to do a lot of reading about the history of the FBI and the Behavioural Science unit (now called Behavioural Analysis), as well as extensive reading about early 1980s America. Food, cars, music, jails; you name it, I did research on it.
I also got in touch with the FBI, who have a public relations unit that helps to coordinate things of this nature. Unfortunately, they weren’t very forthcoming, so a lot of my research involved hunting down blogs and online posts by people who’d trained at the FBI Academy at Quantico, to get a sense of what that was like. But the FBI do produce a huge amount of procedural and analytical information about serial offenders, which is all mostly public access and very useful.
I also had an American friend who helped me quite a lot with details about cities and roads – so many roads! Now I feel like I know as much about 1982 Pittsburgh as someone who’s lived there!
This is a story about serial killers, so how did you approach writing about such an intense subject matter? Do you have any coping mechanisms that help distance you from the horror on the page?
For reasons that are only probably known to people who enjoy crime fiction, I don’t find the idea of fictional murderers disturbing (or maybe I’m just weird!). But real-life cases are quite disturbing, and some of the research I needed to do for Some Shall Break – particularly around topics like juvenile serial killers – was quite creepy. When I need a break from that, my family was a great distraction, and also it was good to spend time in the garden or on my kayak (I love to kayak on the lake in the warmer months).
Is your fiction inspired by any real-life crimes or events?
Sometimes I dig into real-life crime cases for details that might be useful to the story, if I find something that has a resemblance – it’s really handy to see how law enforcement handled procedure, for instance, or to find out the stories of survivors from their own perspective. But (maybe luckily?) none of my stories are based on fact.
PTSD is a central part of Some Shall Break, especially for the main character Emma Lewis. What was your strategy for writing realistic physical and mental trauma?
It was really important to me to make sure that Emma’s trauma in Some Shall Break was portrayed sensitively on the page, and that the reader could follow the progress of her journey towards recovery with her therapist – too often, I think, we see characters in crime fiction suffer traumatic experiences, and they just miraculously continue on as normal, when most of us would be screaming with PTSD. I wanted to portray PTSD realistically, and to show that therapy and other strategies are an essential part of recovery.
I was lucky enough to be given the contact of a specialist trauma therapist in the UK, who kindly agreed to read the sections of the manuscript that featured Emma and her therapist. She gave me excellent feedback about those scenes, which was fantastic – now readers can see what a healthy therapeutic relationship is about. I like to hope that someone will read those scenes and be reassured, and perhaps find the help they need.
You’ve established yourself as a spokesperson for Young Adult fiction, especially with your campaign #LoveOZYA. What makes this genre so unique in your eyes?
I think Young Adult fiction is such a vibrant area to write in – as a writer, it’s a huge amount of fun. The plots rollick along, and the writing has a real emotional connection and urgency that I frequently don’t see as much in adult literature. Plus, you really have to be on your toes writing YA – teenagers are very quick to spot inauthentic characters, or unrealistic plot holes. They’re an incredibly challenging audience, and you absolutely cannot write down to them.
People often ask me, ‘When are you going to write a real book?’, implying that writing for teenagers is somehow lesser, which I always think is hilarious! Teenage readers are much more judge-y than adults. And I also think it’s really important that teenagers have literature of their own – that they can see themselves on the page, taking charge, having agency, going through adversity and emerging stronger.
Even though this sequel is set in the US, are there any distinctly Australian elements in your writing?
I mean, I always think of myself as a very Australian writer! I also think, because of how multicultural Australian society is, that it’s hard to pin down what exactly makes an ‘Australian’ voice. But there’s a certain no-bullcrap attitude that I think Australians have, which I think bleeds through onto the page.
Why do you think crime (and especially true crime) appeals to young people so much?
That’s easy to answer: because crime is a morality play at heart. It’s about showing what happens when people arrive at a crossroads and make critical choices, both good and bad. Teenagers come to crime fiction at a time in their lives when they’re on the precipice of adulthood; they’re about to make choices that will affect the course of their adult lives. And they like to see how those good and bad choices play out on the page.
Also, of course, a lot of crime fiction is very tense and exciting – and who doesn’t love that?
Do you have any plans to make this series into a trilogy?
I do, actually! I’ve already started work on the third book, after Some Shall Break, and I’d love to see it through. I guess it depends on my publisher to some extent, but even if the third book in the None Shall Sleep Sequence isn’t picked up by my publisher, I’ll find a way to get it out into the world somehow.
Explore more from Ellie Marney HERE.