Today I’m delighted to welcome author Kate Vane back to my blog. Kate has written a fab post all about how spending too much time on social media inspired her new novel, Still You Sleep!
A lot of us lament the time we spend on social media. It is habit forming and time can race by with nothing to show for it. Then there is all the anger. At times it can feel like an endless line of people queueing up to shout roughly the same thing in your face, one after another.
However, it wouldn’t have become a habit if we didn’t get something from it. I feel I’ve gained in many ways from social media – discovering books and authors I would never otherwise have heard of, connecting with likeminded readers from across the world. I’ve been amused and entertained, and have learnt from people who share their expertise in a pleasingly eclectic range of subjects – from medieval history to birdwatching. It has also inspired elements of my new novel, Still You Sleep.
In Still You Sleep the death of Vikki Smith, a young woman with a learning disability, becomes the subject of hateful social media messages. Like many people I’ve become increasingly dismayed by social media trolling and found it hard to ignore. I wanted to explore the different reasons why people do it, from resentment, to conviction, to just wanting to join in a pile-on.
One element of the plot involves tracking down the trolls and understanding their motives. This isn’t just about the instigators, I wondered what drives the people who join in someone else’s fight? And what about the people who argue against them, but in the process amplify their message? Is this naivety or are they promoting an agenda of their own?
It was also around this time I happened across stories of people buying and selling opioids on the dark web. I saw the footage of one particularly chilling police interview. The convicted man was polite and articulate, explaining how he ran his business – carefully weighing the drugs and sending them out by post and even issuing a ‘buyer beware’ message on his webpage. He was saving up to go to university. He might as well have been selling T-shirts.
This in turn sent me off to learn more about the dark web as I knew this was something I wanted to explore: people who don’t fit the popular stereotype of the drug dealer but whose actions can still have deadly consequences. What were the thought processes that made them think that was alright?
My protagonists are journalists. Tilda Green is an online activist-journalist at the start of her career, and Freddie Stone is a redundant crime reporter, struggling to come to terms with a fast-changing industry. They each bring different skills to investigating Vikki’s death and the people who appear to be exploiting it.
Journalists are, of course, among the biggest users of social media, Twitter in particular, so following them has been a great resource in terms of current issues, methods and insider gossip.
When I was growing up, I had no idea where ‘the news’ came from. It emerged from the box in the living room and was beyond question. I’m sure most adults probably thought the same thing. Unless you knew a journalist, or had been personally involved in a news story, you probably had very little idea about what they did.
Nowadays, journalists are much more transparent about their processes and sources than they used to be. They talk online about everything from technological change to a recent impassioned Twitter debate on whether a journalist still needs shorthand. I’ve worked in media teams and know a few journalists, but social media helps me keep up with current media culture and concerns.
I think social media is like any real-life public space. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s boring, occasionally, against your will, you’re forced into contact with people who are unpleasant or even dangerous. Unfortunately, it’s those people who often make the most noise and can be hard to avoid.
It’s not only a resource for research but a place where dramas play out. As such it makes sense to me to write about it in fiction.
About the Book
Why wasn’t she safe at home?
Vikki Smith was a young woman with a learning disability, living independently for the first time, when she died of a drug overdose.
The police think it could have been an accident, but messages on social media suggest someone was exploiting her death for their own ends – before it was even announced. Her mother is convinced it was murder.
Redundant crime reporter Freddie Stone is a family friend. He wants to help them – and his failing career – but he’s a people person. He asks online journalist Tilda Green to work with him.
Tilda is curious, passionate and runs her own campaigning news site. She’s open to everything except compromise. But she’s intrigued by what Freddie tells her and agrees to work with him – for now.
Tilda thinks the trolls are organised and have links to hate groups. A charismatic local politician is determined to take them on. Some question his motives but Tilda trusts him, maybe too much.
Freddie believes the answer to Vikki’s death lies on the estate where she lived, if he could only get someone to speak out. He wants to know who was bringing drugs into Vikki’s home. He chases old contacts while struggling with his new life.
Beyond the virtual hate and her neighbours’ silence, someone knows who killed Vikki. Tilda and Freddie are determined to find the truth and tell her story.
Still You Sleep is out now and available here!
About the Author
Kate Vane worked for a number of years as a probation officer. She started writing crime fiction because she thought made-up criminals would be easier to manage (she was wrong). Still You Sleep is her fifth novel.
She has always loved the sea, and now lives on the south Devon coast. If she’s not reading or writing, she’s probably in the garden.