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Liz Nugent, author of Strange Sally Diamond

By Kobo • November 01, 2023Author Interviews

Liz Nugent has worked in Irish film, theater, and television for most of her adult life. She is an award-winning writer of radio and television drama and has written critically acclaimed short stories both for children and adults, as well as the bestselling novels Unraveling Oliver, Lying in Wait, andLittle Cruelties. She lives in Dublin and has won four Irish Book Awards, as well as the James Joyce Medal for Literature.

Kobo: Where did the idea for Strange Sally Diamond come from? 

Liz Nugent: There were many sources of inspiration, but the primary one was the character of Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee tells us little about him. We know he is a recluse who very rarely comes out of his house, but he is fond of Jem, Scout, and Dill, who dare each other to run up to his front door. At night, he leaves little gifts for them in the hollow of a tree. 

One of the theories for his seclusion is that he stabbed his father in the leg when he was a boy, and his father wouldn’t let him leave the house after that. This raised a couple of questions for me. Why would a child stab his father? And why would a father lock up his child for years? Boo also has a brother, Nathan, who grows up and comes and goes from the house unimpeded. After Daddy Radley dies, Boo (real name Arthur) still stays in the house. Why? Is it because he has become so socially deficient after decades of being locked up that he no longer knows how to relate to other people? 

I used all of these elements when I was writing Strange Sally Diamond.

Kobo: What three words would you use to describe Sally? 

LN: Honest, determined, antisocial.

Your books tend to feature dark and sinister aspects. How do you get yourself in the right headspace to write these types of books?

LN: I really don’t know. I guess I write the books I like to read. And I like reading about sinister characters—on TV too. Who wasn’t fascinated by Logan Roy or Walter White? It’s pretty liberating to let yourself get into the head of a sociopath and say the things one shouldn’t say and do the things one definitely shouldn’t do. In my own life, I am very happy-go-lucky, and I think readers are often surprised to find that I’m pretty lighthearted when I chat with them at festivals. Luckily, I haven’t come across too many characters like the ones I write about. Sally is a bit of a change from my usual characters, though. She is a thoroughly decent person with a truly horrific backstory that she doesn’t remember. I had to go to a dark place to find that backstory, but I would emerge as soon as I closed the laptop for the day.

Kobo: Who would you cast as Sally in an adaptation? 

LN: I can’t really answer that because I think I’m on the verge of closing a deal, and there is a certain actress involved. But if the whole deal falls apart and I were to name another actress, it would be very insulting, so I’m afraid my lips are sealed.

Kobo: What has been your favourite read of 2023?

LN: It’s really hard to pick just one, but Canadian writers have been at the top of their game! I absolutely loved Everyone Here Is Lying by Shari Lapena; I have just started The Whispers by Ashley Audrain, and I know I’m going to love it; and I got a sneak preview of Nita Prose’s The Mystery Guest a few months ago, featuring more from Molly the maid at the Regency Grand Hotel, and I loved it even more than The Maid.

Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent

The internationally bestselling author of the “dark, captivating psychological thriller” (People) Lying in Wait returns with a wickedly dark, twisted, and brilliantly observed new novel about an enigmatic woman confronting her unknown past.

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