Sanjida Kay is a writer and broadcaster. She lives in Bristol with her daughter and husband. Her first psychological thriller, Bone by Bone, was longlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, chosen as one of the best reads of the year by the Sunday Express, and a must-read by the Guardian. She’s been named an Amazon rising star.
The Stolen Child, her second thriller, was described by the Daily Mail as ‘gripping and totally unpredictable’; it’s been optioned for film rights by Keshet, the company that produced Homeland.
Her third psychological thriller, My Mother’s Secret, is out 3 May. Best-selling author, Sam Carrington says of Sanjida’s forthcoming novel, ‘A well written story that is so compelling you have no choice but to race through it to uncover the secrets. Twisty, tense and chilling until the very last page. Brilliant!’
Describe a typical day for you?
When I’m not doing book-related things like going to literary festivals, giving talks or meeting up with my publishers, I get up at 6 am and work out for an hour and a half. I stream Tracy Anderson classes; she was Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna’s personal trainer but now she’s every woman’s! I hustle my daughter into her school uniform, listen to her read and walk her to school. I go home or to a cafe and write until it’s time for the school run. I aim for 1,500 – 2,000 words between 10.30 am and 2.30 pm. When I’ve retrieved my daughter from school, we fill in our grateful diary together – her entries are hilarious (gratitude for her lion mask figures way more prominently than gratitude for her Mum). I cook and we eat together as a family. My husband puts our daughter to bed and I work some more, usually on admin and social media as by then my brain is too fried to write! I feel amazingly lucky to be able to spend time with my family and have my passion as a job.
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
Bringing up a child who is happy, balanced, confident and likes holding my hand in public (she’s still little so that could all change!). And being able to have a career as a writer.
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
I always have my iPhone with me as I use it to take photos, listen to audio books and podcasts, play music when I’m working out and make notes if I have any ideas. I also always carry Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm, Mac eyeliner and Body Shop hemp hand cream. The main character, Emma, in my latest novel, My Mother’s Secret, lists all the things she’d take with her if she had to leave everyone and everything she loves in her life (she includes two recipes!); but she says that if you can’t take your friends and family with you, ‘All of it, when it comes down to it, is dispensable. Almost everything is.’
What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?
All writing needs to be rewritten. I wish I’d know the importance of editing – and how to do it!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
I hope I will never stop writing and publishing my novels. I see myself as a work-in-progress and I hope I’ll continue to improve in my ability to tell a good tale.
What advice would you give a budding writer?
Make time to write. Schedule an appointment every day or every week that is your time to write. Get help – either by doing an MA at a university, or by taking a course or an online class, and join, or set up a writing group, if you’re the sort of person that works best spurred on by others.
What do you wish you’d known about motherhood before having kids?
The best book on parenting I’ve read is 21 Days to a Happier Family by Justin Coulson. It has great advice, but the key take home message for me is to have empathy for your child no matter what. If they’re acting up, the chances are they’re tired, hungry or feeling bad, either emotionally or physically.
Finally, happiness is…
A glass of chilled prosecco whilst watching a box set with my husband.