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Quickfire author Q&A: Lesley Sanderson

Lesley Sanderson is a former school librarian who's been writing since she was at primary school.

She has published six psychological thrillers and is about to publish her seventh, but she only started writing novels seriously in 2012 after being commended in a writing competition.

She's been talking about the impact of Covid on her writing, daily word counts and brainstorming ideas with her nephew.

Where do you live?

I live in Kings Cross, London

How many books have you published?

Six – my seventh is out in February 2023.

How long have you been writing?

Since I was at primary when I wrote poems and plays!

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I always did but lacked confidence. It was only when I entered a Grazia First Chapter competition in 2012 and received the feedback ‘you certainly can write’ that I began to write novels. Thank you, Grazia!

Do you write full-time?

Yes, up until 2021 I was a school librarian - a fabulous job where I got to encourage young people to read. Working term time only enabled me use the school holidays to write. Writing full time is a privilege.

Who are your favourite authors?

Too many - Patricia Highsmith, Barbara Vine, Lisa Jewell, Ruth Ware.

What does your writing day look like?

I mostly write in the mornings, but if I’m writing a novel draft then I aim for 1-2,000 words a day, but I only set a word target when I’m working to a deadline.

Do you plan your books in advance or discover as you go along?

I used to discover as I went along but with my publisher they like to see a planned draft before I start.

Where do you write?

Pre-Covid I wrote in cafes (I’m a coffee addict) but since then I write at a desk in my living room.

Where do your ideas come from?

Snippets of news stories, conversations, brainstorming ideas with my nephew!

Which has been your most successful book to date?

My first, The Orchid Girls, and my most recent The Widow’s Husband did well on publication so I’m hoping that will become my best selling book.

If readers are new to your work – which book of yours do you recommend starting with?

I’d recommend The Widow’s Husband – and it’s on promotion in July!

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently awaiting edits for Book 7, and I’ve been plotting book 8.

Tell us about your latest release.

My latest release is the Widow’s Husband - here’s a snippet from the blurb.

The day her husband Tom disappeared, Rachel’s life fell apart. Tom was gone. Without a word, without a note, without a single sign of where he might be, leaving Rachel to survive alone. Until today, when – with just one month until Tom is to be declared legally dead – Rachel receives a note in handwriting she recognises with dread:

My darling, I’ve missed you so much. Give me a chance to explain. I’m coming home.

The husband she’d lost is alive.

And so are all his secrets…

Lesley Sanderson attended the Curtis Brown Creative six month novel writing course in 2015/6, and in 2017 The Orchid Girls (then On The Edge) was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish fiction prize. Lesley had a Saturday job in a public library, where she loved being surrounded by books. After leaving to do a French/Theatre studies degree, she returned to public libraries before moving to work as a school librarian, where she got to share her love of books with young people. Lesley spends her days writing in coffee shops in Kings Cross where she lives or in a corner of her living room. Lesley discovered Patricia Highsmith as a teenager and has been hooked on psychological thrillers ever since.

Find out more about Lesley Sanderson on her website,


Lesley Sanderson was talking to AJ Wills, the bestselling author of multiple psychological thrillers. He was a journalist for more than twenty years and has been writing full-time since March 2021. He's married to fellow thriller writer, AJ McDine.

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