Talking Thrillers with Author Sara Foster: The Hush

Sara Foster was born and raised in England and moved to Australia in 2004. 

She has published six other novels: Come Back to MeBeneath the ShadowsShallow BreathAll That Is Lost between UsYou Don’t Know Me, The Hidden Hours, and her latest release out now The Hush.

She lives near Perth, Western Australia, with her husband and two young daughters, and is a doctoral candidate with Curtin University.

TFx: Where did you come up with the idea for this book, and what can you tell us about the plot?

Foster: The concept for The Hush began when I started to notice that in much of the prevalent dystopian fiction of the last twenty years, the mothers were often absent: either dead, kidnapped, ill, mentally unstable, or indifferent to their daughters. While playing with the idea of reintroducing the different female generations into a near-future dystopian-style thriller, I began to build the heavily surveilled and controlled world that you will find in The Hush. It's set a few years into the future in the UK, at a time when wearing a watch has become compulsory, and the government will track your heartbeat, temperature and location, and listen to your conversations. On top of this, there have been an increasing number of stillbirths occurring across the country, and pregnant teenage girls are going missing.

Doing their best in this uncertain world are my mother-daughter duo of Emma and Lainey. Emma is a midwife at the local hospital and she is determined to help the women who desperately need her care, while Lainey is a student at the local high school, and her close friend Ellis is among the missing. As events progress, both women come under increasing pressure from the threatening events all around them, until they realise their lives might be in danger. They must turn to the women closest to them for support, but thankfully they are a formidable group, determined to help one another to safety and uncover the truths of both the stillbirths and the missing girls.

TFx: How did you choose the setting(s)?

Foster: The landscape of the UK, with its areas of dense population and easy routes between different places seemed to lend itself to this claustrophobic novel, so I went back to my roots, as I was born in the UK but I now live in Australia. The town of Whitehaven is based loosely on the location and layout of Maldon in Essex.

TFx: What are you reading now, and what good books have you read lately?

Foster: I'm currently reading and enjoying Girl One. I've read some fantastic fiction this year, and I've recently enjoyed Taylor Jenkins-Reid's Malibu Rising as well as Anna Downes's The Shadow House.

TFx: What’s next for you?

Foster: I'm not sure as yet whether The Hush will have a sequel. It's slightly open-ended so I may return to it, and some of the characters are still talking to me, but I'd love to write another standalone psychological suspense too so we'll have to see which characters shout the loudest! I also have to finish the theory of my PhD - I'm writing it about the hidden effects of the absent mother in YA dystopian fiction with young female heroines. I'll definitely be writing more about strong female characters, because I've learned so much in my research that I haven't yet used!

TFx: What is the significance of the title?

Foster: The Hush wasn't the original title of the book. I'd called it The Doll Babies, but then decided I wanted something that would speak more to the general themes of the book, and I worked with my publisher until we came up with this.

The Hush is perfect because it suggests the silencing of the population, in particular the women and those who are looking to uncover the truth, as well as those who are withholding it. It also speaks to the silence of the babies born apparently healthy but not breathing. And it denotes the careful, quiet yet assertive way the women begin to fight back.

TFx: Do you believe you should never judge a book by it's cover?

Foster: In some cases yes, but I would love you to judge my book by its cover as I think it's fantastic! The pink matryoshka dolls perfectly represent the different generations of women in the story, and it has other allusions as well that have made some people blush, but in a female-centred novel that focuses on a midwife I think that it's very appropriate, and I love that it's so loud and proud!

TFx: What was the last book you read that had a plot twist you totally didn't see coming?

Foster: Christian White's The Wife and The Widow has a very, very clever twist.

TFx: What was the hardest scene to write in this book?

Foster: I struggled with a few of the hospital scenes, but I was also very careful as to how I wrote about the stillbirths, so there's nothing gratuitous in there. However, it was still very hard to write about the level of distress that some of the women were enduring.

TFx: Had you always wanted to be a writer?

Foster: Yes, in fact in one of my old school books I've written about wanting to be an author back when I was only 7 years old. I have always worked around books, I can't imagine a job that doesn't involve creating stories or helping others with their work.

TFx: How important is research when it comes to your writing?

Foster: I absolutely love the research process and I'm always keen to explore the depths of whatever I'm writing about. However, there is a point where the research can become procrastination, and then it begins to hold back the story. Usually, I start to recognise that when I'm not really finding much that's new or inspiring.

TFx: Tell us something fun about you that readers might be surprised to know?

Foster: My family has eight pets: two fish, two guinea pigs, three cats and a bearded dragon!

Get Sara's latest release, The Hush, out now on Amazon.

Everything can change in a heartbeat …

The pulse-pounding new thriller from the bestselling author of You Don’t Know Me.

Lainey’s friend Ellis is missing. And she’s not the only one.

In the six months since the first case of a terrifying new epidemic—when a healthy baby wouldn’t take a breath at birth—the country has been thrown into turmoil. The government has passed sweeping new laws to monitor all citizens. And several young pregnant women have vanished without trace.

As a midwife, Lainey’s mum, Emma, is determined to be there for those who need her. But when seventeen-year-old Lainey finds herself in trouble, this dangerous new world becomes very real. The one person who might help is Emma’s estranged mother, but reaching out to her will put them all in jeopardy …

The Hush is a new breed of near-future thriller, an unflinching look at a society close to tipping point and a story for our times, highlighting the power of female friendship through a dynamic group of women determined to triumph against the odds.

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