Magpie is Out Now!


It feels quite surreal to now have two books out there in the big wide world.

I am delighted that Magpie, like Cuckoo, has been selected as a Fern Britton Pick (on sale in Tesco). It also features as a Karin Slaughter Killer Read (in Asda) and on the chart shelves of Sainsburys. As well as being on sale in all the usual bookshops and online. (See here at Waterstones or on Amazon.)

Not only that, but after only its first full week out, I have just heard that Magpie has gone straight to the No 1 spot in the Bookseller's Heatseekers Fiction chart, and No 10 in the Bookseller's Mass Market Fiction chart. And No 11 in the Sunday Times Paperback Fiction chart. A massive thanks goes to the team at Avon Books UK for their unerring talent and hard work, as well as their enthusiasm and belief in the book.

The title for Magpie came from my brilliant editor. We were searching about for something short and pithy but meaningful. I said: I'd love to have another bird or an animal for a title - but couldn't think of one that worked. I'd loved the double meaning in Cuckoo. Then she came up with Magpie - an ambivalent figure of folklore and myth and a collector of valuable things. I knew straightaway she'd hit the nail on the head.

With this book I really wanted to do something different. There are so many brilliant psychological thrillers out there, that trying to compete with them and find a new way into a familiar genre was the challenge.

Setting has always been important to me. I wanted to stay in Derbyshire for my next book, with its spooky and unsettling landscape, and it had to have the potential for emotional intensity, claustrophobia even, with those markers of the gothic that had also infused Cuckoo. It turned out that my answer was right outside my back door. 

Not far from our house was a half-abandoned village, rich with Georgian charm and decaying elegance. It broke my heart that the buildings were apparently neglected and unloved. Then there was this story I'd been told, about how the valley overlooked by our house had once been earmarked for a reservoir. In the end the authorities decided it was too small, and the reservoir was created a few miles away. But it led me to another story, about a village, drowned to make way for a reservoir. There are plenty of tales about church bells tolling underwater or revealed in a drought, but this one tells of the church when it was thriving, and its newly appointed vicar - how he is persuaded to preach the so-called "Sermon to the Dead". 

One thing led to another and now I had this picture in my head of a woman living by the water, whose life is falling apart. Old decisions and their consequences are pushing her over the edge. 

As I researched more folklore and images, I also came across the strangest of coins - the so-called Puppetrider. It has a figurehead on one side with an arrow poking from its eye socket. On the other side is a skeletal rider. No one, it seems, knows who the rider is meant to be. I read of nighthawkers and ferrymen, myths of the troubled journeys of those haunted by guilt.

Slowly the idea of Claire began to develop. Now she had an obsessive metal-detecting missing son. And lived in a beautiful house that's not a home. And the whole story is set beside a reservoir, with its concrete dam, trapped in a place that can't hold back the secrets that haunt her.

In Magpie, I hope I have given the reader something different. A layered story and one perhaps where you get to the end and reassess all that has gone before.

Wishing you all my very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year!

Sophie x

You can read more about Magpie here.

Photos: The Puppetrider coin; being introduced by fellow Derbyshire author, Roz Watkins (on the left) at the book launch party at Waterstones Derby; the Frida Kahlo painting of "The Wounded Deer" that helped inspire Magpie; and the cover for the book in the US/Canada where it will be published as The House of Secrets.