Hannah interviews: Ian W Sainsbury

24th April 2023
Hannah interviews: Ian W Sainsbury

Library Assistant Hannah is passionate about books and reading. In the fourth of our blog series, Hannah chats to writer Ian W Sainsbury. Sainsbury is a musician, composer, writer, comedian and puppet wrangler, and here he chats to Hannah about why the circus rumour isn't strictly true, and how it's impossible to choose an all-time favourite book. 

The Picture on the Fridge is psychological thriller. Mags Barkworth still suffers the effects of a life-changing tragedy over a decade ago. She knows her husband loves her. She knows he would never do anything to hurt her, or their daughter. But what if the voice in her head, is telling the truth? What if it’s all a lie?

When Tam, their daughter, draws an uncannily detailed picture of a place she’s never been, Mags’ life starts to unravel. But even in her most paranoid moment, Mags could never have guessed the secret she is destined to uncover.

Hannah: I finished The Picture on the Fridge last night, I couldn’t put it down, it was so compelling. I read the Author’s Note at the end, and you said how the idea wouldn’t leave you alone, where did the idea for the plot come from?

Ian: I’m glad you enjoyed it! A Channel 4 documentary called Three Identical Strangers set me off on the idea that led to The Picture On The Fridge. But folks should read the book first, because the documentary contains spoilers…


Do you plan your books from start to finish, or see where the characters take you?

It depends on the book, but I’m mostly a discovery writer. I’ll drop the characters into a situation, and have an idea for the ending, but everything changes as the first draft progresses.


I know your usual genre is science fiction, with the brilliant Halfhero and World Walker series under your belt and now you've branched out into the thriller genre. Which genre would you say is more challenging to write?

As a writer, they are equally challenging, equally frustrating, equally fun. I’ve had family members tell me they’ve started reading my stuff now that I’m writing about 'real' people, not aliens. What’s the difference? They are all characters I made up.



Is there a lot of research involved in your writing?

I usually have between a hundred and two hundred browser tabs open by the time I’m done. If I can visit a setting in person, I will. 


Do you feel attached to your characters?

Yes. That’s the part of writing that makes authors sound eccentric, but my characters are real to me.


I read you were in the circus. How old were you when you joined?

Well, the quote about me running away to join the circus was—and this shouldn’t surprise you from a writer of fiction—an exaggeration. In 1988, I played in the band at Blackpool Tower Circus for the summer season.


Do you have a library card?

Of course! I’ve been a library user since the age of three or four. I can still remember the thrill of visiting the mobile library when I was tiny. I LOVE libraries.


Do you have an all-time favourite book?

Anyone who’s ever heard Desert Island Discs asks themselves this question. My answer would change regularly. If you forced me to choose one book right now, I’d probably go for A Wizard Of Earthsea by Ursula K LeGuin. But tomorrow I might say The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse, or Use of Weapons by Iain M Banks, or The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene, and so on…

Stephen King’s author notes really spoke to me in my teens. I remember thinking I’d like to write one day.


Do you have a favourite book of your own?

You can't pick your favourite child. (Actually, I have a soft spot for my only foray into fantasy—The Blurred Lands—but don’t tell anyone.)


Read the other blogs in this series, including interviews with Camilla Bruce, CJ Skuse and Mark Edwards