Meet Nell Pattison Author Of The Silent Suspect

"Fiction has the ability to encourage empathy for and understanding of people who are different from ourselves" says Nell Pattison and we are delighted to welcome her as this week's Thriller Women interviewee. She tells us about why she writes about the deaf community, the benefits and drawbacks of writing a series and her favourite night out. 

Download the ebook of The Silent Suspect from Amazon or buy the paperback from Thriller Women's list at NB: if you buy books through this link we may earn a commission from, whose fees support independent bookshops.

Book cover of The Silent Suspect by Nell Pattison

TW: Congratulations on the publication of your book. The Silent Suspect is your third novel featuring Paige. What inspired her character in the first place? 

NP: When I was planning the first novel in the series, The Silent House, I knew the story would centre around a deaf family, but Paige herself took a while to form. At first, she was a deaf journalist investigating a cold case, then she became a hearing police officer from a deaf family. I wasn’t happy with either of these incarnations, and it was a 4am epiphany that made me realise a BSL interpreter was the perfect role for my main character – she’s close to the investigation without being an integral part of it.

TW: What are the benefits and drawbacks of writing a series? 

NP: Benefits definitely include already having the main characters in my mind, ready for me to put them into a difficult situation! I have also found a lot of readers enjoy series, and it’s great to hear people are looking forward to the next book, to see what happens to the characters next. There are drawbacks, however, because I sometimes worry that I’ve used up all of my best ideas in the first couple of books! I also have a terribly memory, so when writing The Silent Suspect I had to make sure I checked details that I’d mentioned in the previous two books. I might have to write myself a series bible, with names of minor characters, and details like when Paige’s birthday is.

TW: It's rare for commercial fiction to feature disabled characters. What do you think of this and any was it important for you to include d/Deaf characters? 

NP: I’m a teacher of the deaf and have been working with students who use BSL for nearly fifteen years, and I also started to lose my own hearing in my twenties. I always wanted this series to feature a Deaf community, with people from a wide range of backgrounds, rather than one isolated deaf character. My characters are normal people, who happen to be deaf, and I think it’s really important for fiction to include disabled characters in stories that are not centred around their disability. Fiction has the ability to encourage empathy for and understanding of people who are different from ourselves, so having that representation is important for disabled and able-bodied people alike, without portraying disabled people as figures of pity or inspiration.

TW: hat research did you do for the crime/policing aspects of the novel? 

NP: Ah, well, not much. I’ll be honest, I’m a bit lazy. I have a close friend who is a detective, so she gets all sorts of weird texts, but when something procedural doesn’t fit my narrative I do use artistic licence. I know some people will be annoyed at this, but it’s fiction, it’s all made up!

TW: How do you dream up new plots and twists? 

NP: Sometimes they are literally dreams! But usually when I’m thinking up a new novel, I start with a crime, then spend some time thinking about who did it and why. Once I have that in my head, I can start working in other characters who might have a motive, and try to weave the different ideas around each other. Some ideas don’t come until I’m part of the way through writing it, though, because I need to be able to feel the direction of the story before I can tell exactly where it’s going.

TW: Which other authors inspire you? 

NP: There are so many successful crime writers I love to read, and listen to at events. Val McDermid, Ann Cleeves, Mick Herron and Elly Griffiths are particular favourites. I attended Creative Thursday at the Theakstons Festival in Harrogate in 2016, and the workshop run by Alex Marwood and Sarah Hillary was excellent. I also really like the Australian crime author Emma Viskic, who has an excellent deaf main character called Caleb Zelic. I’m generally inspired by anyone who spends the time and effort writing a book, putting so much of themselves into a story, whether they’re a famous published author or someone just starting out.

TW: Tell us about the book you are currently working on now. 

NP: I’m currently writing a standalone psychological thriller called Hide, which will be released in December this year. It follows seven friends as they go on a hike through an isolated nature reserve on Boxing Day, and opens with a young woman called Emily, who is profoundly deaf, running for her life through the woods. This is a book I’ve been wanting to write for years, and I’m so excited that the team at Avon were really keen to publish it.

TW: What would you like to achieve in your career that you haven't yet? 

NP: That’s such a big question! I’m only just starting out on my writing career, and there are so many things I’d love to achieve, but many of them are outside my control. I want to have at least ten books published, certainly. I’d love to do regular events, once we’re able to again, because I love talking about writing and meeting readers in person. I still teach part-time, so I’d like to be able to focus solely on my writing career.

Quick fire questions:

TW: Plotter or pantser?

NP: Plotter, always

TW: Starter or pudding?

NP: Depends on my mood, but more often pudding.

TW: Hardback or paperback?

NP: Paperback.

TW: Out at a party or quiet night in with a book?

NP: At a small party, with a book!

Thanks Nell!

Image of Nell Pattison

More about The Silent Suspect

A fire. A murder. A silent suspect.

On a quiet street, one house is burning to the ground.

By the time sign language interpreter Paige Northwood arrives, flames have engulfed her client's home. Though Lukas is safe, his wife is still inside. But she was dead before the fire started...

Lukas signs to Paige that he knows who killed his wife. But then he goes silent - even when the police charge him with murder.

Is he guilty, or afraid? Only Paige can help him now.


We publish a new interview on the Thriller Women blog every week. Subscribe to receive a weekly update by clicking on the button at the top of the page and adding your email address.


Popular Posts