Author Interview – S.D. Mayes – “Letters to the Pianist” (Historical Thriller/Suspense)

Hey there everyone.

It’s Monday and I’m feeling fired up already, let’s make this week a good one! (And it if isn’t well then there is always alcohol, pizza and ice cream to take the edge off too thank goodness)

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Tonight, we spend some time with author S.D Mayes to find out more about her new historical suspense thriller novel, following the pursuit of power and a family with dark secrets.

Let’s get this show on the road and as always, happy reading friends 🙂


Hi there S.D, a real pleasure to have you here to chat about your latest book release “Letters to the Pianist”.

Who are the key players/lead protagonists and antagonists that pop up in your book?

The two main protagonists are the teenage, Ruth Goldberg, and her father Joe Goldberg. Joe becomes Edward Chopard after he loses his memory in the war and makes a new start with a new identity.

The antagonist is Lord Henry Douglas-Scott, who becomes Joe/Edward’s father-in-law.


What is the story about regarding the conflict that needs to be resolved by the characters and what are the stakes for them?

Letters to the Pianist is a parallel father and daughter story, about Ruth and her father Joe, a Jewish family whose house is bombed in the London blitz. Ruth and her two siblings, Gabi and Hannah, believe they are orphaned and are evacuated to stay with other family members. From Joe’s POV, he appears to have lost his wife and children, along with his memory. Having to start again, he ends up with a new identity and unknowingly marries into a family with dark secrets. When his long lost daughter tracks him down, and writes him a letter, fragments of his memory return, and he realises the dangerous trap he’s fallen into. The stakes are high because they are both fighting against the force of judgement and obsessive beliefs, and they both become completely entangled within this new family.

How did the idea for this tale take shape? What inspiration did you draw upon when you came up with the concept of the novel?

Well the story for Letters dropped into my consciousness about five years ago and I instantly thought, ‘Wow, I would like to read that book’. But I knew it would be a challenge because all the characters are flawed in some way, and there were a lot of twists and turns – so it took me a few years to get going with the first draft. It’s taken three years to write, adjusting the plot, tying up loose ends, along with around six beta readers and endless editing.

What sort of research did you do for this novel to help flesh it out further?

There was a huge amount of research. I read my mother Ruth’s diarised memoires and she gave an amazing account of life at that time, and therefore all the bomb scenes and the children being evacuated are based on real events. That really helped me get into the atmosphere of the blitz. I also bought a book called London at War, which gave a lot of info about food and money, and I contacted an in-house historian based at Fortnum and Mason who was invaluable. In the midst of all this, I watched lots of documentaries on Hitler as this novel has a connection with the Nazi’s and their supernatural beliefs. It was fascinating and I hope I’ve done it justice.

Regarding research for your books, is there anything that has surprised you or completely changed your world view after learning more about it?

Mainly the aspect of Hitler believing he was a spiritual man and that the Swastika was based on Sanskrit. He visualised, tapped into earth energies, hired psychics, and had an occult group to help him sway the minds of the masses. And he succeeded didn’t he, which is quite scary. I also found that I got very emotional writing the story about children being evacuated and being sent off on trains to strangers houses. It’s incredible that this was only sixty or so years ago!

What aspects of your characters in this book would you say that you relate to on a personal level?

I guess I relate to Ruth the most. The teenage protagonist. She is rebellious and has a complex relationship with her mother, but she fights for a better life, and becomes a strong woman in the process.

What were the hardest parts of this book to write? And what were the easiest?

The hardest part was the beginning of the story. I had written the entire novel and still didn’t know how to start it. It took a while. A lot of reflection and focus.


Were there any significant concepts that you had to edit out of this book that seemed like a good idea in the first draft but became too unwieldy as the story progressed?

Yes, initially some of the murders were a bit gory and I had to tame it down. Sometimes it’s scarier when things that are not so obvious, rather than out and out gore. I had to do a lot of weeding to clarify the plot.

Do you hide any secrets or Easter eggs in your books for dedicated readers to find?

Yes, but if I tell you they wouldn’t be secrets 🙂

What would you choose as your own personal mascot or spirit animal when it comes to you and your style of writing?

Can I have two, or is that greedy? A semi-wild panther than prowls around finding hidden information. But I’d also choose a cute squirrel that gathers info like food, until needed.

What do you think most characterizes or defines your writing? Do you have any writing quirks or themes that constantly crop up in your stories?

Hmm, not really. I feel I write differently for each story. This is very different from my YA book.

Finally, regarding your subsequent projects, are you working on anything specific or have plans in the pipeline?

I have a thriller called Black Candy that I started a while back that I will get on with when I have time to breathe.

And once again, that’s a wrap! We look forward to tucking into your new book and seeing where its thrills takes us 🙂



S.D. Mayes worked as a journalist for nearly twenty years before turning her hand to fiction. Inspired by the bizarre but factual events of Hitler’s pursuit of power, Letters to the Pianist is her first historical suspense novel. Originally from the West Country, she currently lives in Berkshire, United Kingdom.

You can connect with her via the following Social Media channels:-

Facebook:- Author S.D. Mayes (FB)
Goodreads:- S.D. Mayes (Goodreads Author)
Twitter:- @authormayes (Twitter)
Website:- The Website of Author S.D. Mayes

You can read the first two chapters from “Letters of a Pianist” for free here:-

First Two Chapters of “Letters to the Pianist” by S.D. Mayes

You can buy her books here:-

Buy S.D. Mayes books in the UK/Europe

Buy S.D. Mayes books in the US/Rest of the World

If you too would like to be interviewed on my blog at TooFullToWrite and you have a book or a series of books that you would like us to chat about then fill out the Contact Me form here with your details and we can arrange a future interview slot.

Still want more? Well, since S.D. Mayes’s book references a pianist and is all about building up suspense then the whole thing is headed to reach an inevitably exciting ‘Crescendo’. For more articles on this theme then check out the links below:-

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8 thoughts on “Author Interview – S.D. Mayes – “Letters to the Pianist” (Historical Thriller/Suspense)

  1. Pingback: New interview with David Ellis – Welcome to S.D. Mayes author page

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