The inspiration for The String Diaries, published by Headline on 4th July, arrived as a single image: a young woman driving through the night to an abandoned mountainside farmhouse. Her husband is bleeding to death beside her. Their nine-year-old daughter is asleep on the back seat. Something terrible is following them: something that has hunted the last five generations of their family.
While I was developing the plot, it struck me that any family running from such a threat would surely keep a record of what was happening to them. And that’s how the diaries came into existence. They’re a history, yes. But they’re also a survival guide. They give Hannah Wilde, the book’s main protagonist, a few crucial clues she can use to protect herself and her loved ones against the predator they must face.
Any novel featuring a killer whose crimes span two centuries clearly has a supernatural element to it. But my aim, when I set out, was to write something that would appeal to straight thriller readers just as much as those who prefer their fiction to blur the line between the empirical world and that which we can’t explain. As a teenager, I gorged myself on the work of Dean Koontz, Stephen King and James Herbert. But I also read anything by crime writers such as Thomas Harris, Dick Francis, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Perhaps that’s why many of the reviewers who have read the book so far have found it a challenging one to classify. I’ve seen it labelled as a thriller, a supernatural thriller, a historical thriller, a horror, even an urban fantasy. Some simply call it crossover fiction.
The String Diaries is a novel told across three time periods. The majority is set in the present day, its opening sequence in the mountains of Snowdonia. The other key periods and locales are Balliol College, Oxford, during the 1970s, and nineteenth century Hungary.
Although they demanded a significant amount of research, the historical sections were great fun to write. I’m lucky that most members of my family have spent their lives in academia, so I had a ready source of knowledge available when writing the Oxford-based parts of the tale. To write the Hungarian sections, I took research trips to Budapest and also employed the services of a Hungarian language specialist from the University of Westminster.
However it ends up being classified, I hope that those who chose to discover The String Diaries for themselves will find a fast-paced tale, packed with twists, shocks and memorable characters.
The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones is published by Headline on 4th July in hardback priced £14.99 and is his debut novel. Follow him on Twitter @sljonesauthor