Before I Go To Sleep is the cult, sleeper-hit book that’s seen every Hollywood A-lister vying to play the lead. Here author Steve Watson tells what it’s like to see his debut novel go stellar…
Kate Winslet is rumoured to be fighting for the lead role in Before I Go To Sleep
It’s rare to regret finishing a book; to recommend it to a friend and then feel envious as they tear through it themselves. But psychological thriller Before I Go To Sleep is just that kind of book. It tells the story of Christine, a 40-something amnesiac who wakes up every morning not knowing who she is or what happened to make her lose her memory. She looks in the mirror and sees an unfamiliar, middle-aged face. Wakes up next to a man who must explain he’s her husband, a marriage she can’t remember after a terrible accident decimated her memory. It’s both a total page turner and a thought-provoking look at what makes you, well, you.
The idea came to author SJ Watson almost fully-formed as he read the obituaries. ‘I came across one about Henry Malason, a man who’d died aged 82. He’d had epilepsy as a child and underwent experimental surgery they thought would cure him but which removed the part of the brain responsible for storing memories. So from 27 until his death he didn’t form any new memories. I thought about how he must have been a stranger to himself.’
The book is so powerful that Ridley Scott has already snapped up the film rights and everyone from Kate Winslet to Cate Blanchett are rumoured to be fighting for the lead role. ‘It’s surreal,’ says author Steve Watson. ‘At the time I was writing it part-time I’d joke in the pub that I could see Sigourney Weaver playing Christine but I never imagined I’d be asked that question for real.’
And Before I Go To Sleep’s success is even more phenomenal because it’s the author’s first published work. Though he’d always wanted to write a novel, Watson built his career working with deaf children for the NHS. ‘I was becoming more and more senior and finding less time to write, so I realized I’d have to make a change,’ he says of his decision to go part time and attend Faber’s writing academy. ‘It’s a cliché but I thought at the end of my life do I want to look back and say I had a go at writing and failed or I’d never really tried. I never considered I would succeed.’ A staggeringly quick 18 months later his book was finished – and a best-seller in 21 countries. So what advice does he have for aspiring writers? ‘It’s really hard work and there are no shortcuts. You have to just sit down, put the hours in and be prepared to make a mistake. Write every day even if it’s rubbish. Bad writing can be improved but a blank page will always be a blank page.’
MEET SJ WATSON – AND HEAR HIM TALK ABOUT HOW TO WRITE A BEST-SELLING NOVEL…
We’ll be chatting to SJ Watson about the amazing success of Before I Go To Sleep on Wednesday 16th November at 7pm in Waterstone's, 68-69 Hampstead High Street, London NW3 1QP. Tickets are just £3 available from the shop by calling 020 7794 1098 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. But places are limited so book now!