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Plotting Murder: Read a Q&A with Into the Night author Sarah Bailey

June 7, 2018

Sarah Bailey is a Melbourne based writer with a background in advertising and communications. She has two young children and currently works as a director of creative projects company Mr Smith. Over the past five years she has written a number of short stories and opinion pieces. Into the Night is her second novel.

Read our review here // Purchase Into the Night here

What is Into The Night About?

Into The Night is another crime thriller featuring Detective Woodstock. I think similarly to The Dark Lake it’s a mix of police procedural and character story. So, there’s a crime to be solved – a murder; two, actually! Gemma is put on two cases in this book, but at the same time that she is working through that professional challenge and grappling with the case, she is also dealing with quite a few personal story arcs.

What was the seed of the idea for Into The Night?

I don’t know where ideas come from – I think about it a lot. They tend to just come to me when I’m doing things like walking or driving – but I do remember reading an article about a film set incident, and how the witness accounts were different. So everyone was there at this accident that had happened on a film set, but everyone seemed to have a different version of the actual event, and I thought that would be a really interesting premise for a crime. So, in the story, a murder takes place on a film set, and I think the seed of that confusion and intrigue of having a really public crime actually filmed and caught on camera would be an interesting police challenge. So that’s where the idea was born from originally.

How has the character of Gemma Woodstock evolved?

Gemma continues to be a complicated character, and I think it’s fair to say that a lot has changed for her in the second book. Into The Night is set about two and a half years later following The Dark Lake. She has moved from her hometown in Smithson and is living in Melbourne, which is a huge change for her. She has left her son with her ex, which is another big life change, and she has met a whole new cast of people in her workplace, and is dealing with the teenage years that she never really had, but in her early thirties. She is definitely still lost and conflicted, but I think she is on a path towards more stability.

We find Gemma in a bustling city. Was there a reason for this move?

I moved the setting of the book this time because I wanted Gemma to be in a place was really unfamiliar to her. I felt like the oppressiveness of the small town had gotten to her so much in the first book that it was realistic that she would leave. Obviously having a child made that really difficult, but I liked that layer to her character, too. I know there’s a lot of discussion in society about women leaving their children and it is always frowned upon – and I have no doubt it will be in this instance as well – but I think it is something that is realistic to her character. And it doesn’t, in my view, make her a bad mother, it just makes her a human that’s challenged by lots of things.

But the setting of Melbourne in contrast to Smithson – I loved writing that. I thought the grittiness and the darkness added an extra layer of intrigue, and matched where she was emotionally. She does have a visit home in the book, which I think is another way to show her new world versus her old world, and how she grapples with that.

Into The Night is the follow-up to your bestselling crime thriller The Dark Lake. Did you have a sequel in mind when writing The Dark Lake?

I actually didn’t, at all! I saw it as a completely finished story – but the second the draft was done, I actually had little thoughts around what might happen next that were really bugging me, and I just had the most fortunate situation when Allen & Unwin said, ‘Do you want to write a sequel?’ So I had started to plan what might happen in a second book, but when I was actually writing it, I did see it as a complete story.

Did you know who the murderer was from the outset?

Yes. With The Dark Lake I had the idea and character of Gemma really clear in my mind – the premise, the death, the murder – but I actually had a lightning bolt moment about a month into writing it when I figured it all out. I can actually remember what I was doing and where I was, and thinking – ‘that’s it, that’s how it all resolves’. I don’t always plan out the way the books are going to end. That one was very much a step-by-step process. With Into The Night, I definitely planned out the whole thing – I knew who the suspects were and who I felt like the most viable criminal was. But things change as you go along, and the motivations are quite nuanced, and evolve as the characters do.

Is there more to Gemma’s story?

I definitely think Gemma’s story will continue, and I have a rough idea of what will happen with her and her world next. Whether or not she stays in Melbourne, we will have to wait and see. But I think she’s an interesting character and she’s on a journey, and I would really like to keep seeing where that goes.


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