Meet Louise Mumford Author of Sleepless

Have you ever had trouble sleeping? Do you wish you could do something about it? Thea, the heroine in Sleepless wants to, but little does she know that the Sleep Centre doesn't just want to improve her sleep, it wants to control it ...

We're delighted to have author Louise Mumford as this week's TW guest to talk about her debut novel. First launched as an ebook in December 2020, Sleepless was subsequently published this month in paperback and is Asda's July Killer Read. She tells us the research she did for Sleepless, her road to publication and whether she's a wine or beer woman!

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

Front cover of Sleepless by Louise Mumford

TW: Writers looking to be published will be encouraged to hear that your manuscript was discovered in an agent's slush pile. Can you tell us about your road to publication, such as how many agents you applied to and how long it took before you got an agent?

LM: It was a LONG road to publication! I wrote Sleepless at the end of 2018 and signed a contract with my publisher at the beginning of 2020 and in-between there were many, many rejections. I don’t have the exact number, but at least fifteen… 

Looking back, I realise that I sent the manuscript out way too early – it needed more work doing on it and I hadn’t nailed the all-important beginning, so it was right to be rejected! However, I learnt from my mistakes: I honed the first three chapters and created the best pitch I could possibly manage.


TW: What happened next after you secured your agent?

LM: I actually did everything a bit topsy-turvy – I found my publisher first! In the summer of 2019 I went to the Primadonna literary festival in Suffolk, created by a group of influential women in the literary and media world. It was fantastic, such a great mix of interesting talks with a friendly, inclusive atmosphere. At an impromptu one-to-one I met my publisher and I had come prepared with my pitch and first three chapters, which she liked and then went on to read the whole thing – even giving me pointers on how to improve the manuscript. It was a bit of a dream really. Then I secured my agent because I think agents are really important, not only working out the contract stuff (which baffles me) but also because they are there for you throughout your whole career (hopefully!) And I was lucky enough to find a good’un.


TW: You're no stranger to sleeplessness yourself. How did insomnia give you the idea for the novel?

LM: As a child I did not see the point of sleep – why would you sleep when there were so many interesting things you could be doing instead? I think I trained myself out of it a little, which is fine when you are a child and can bounce around on three hours’ sleep but when you are an adult it starts to catch up with you. I’m trying to train myself back into it! 

So, if there was a piece of technology that guaranteed a good night’s sleep, most insomniacs would jump at the chance. I think a lot of people have struggled with sleep during the recent lockdowns so many people can sympathise with the grim feeling of exhaustion and understand why someone would want a quick fix.


TW: Sleepless was first published in ebook format and this month saw the paperback launch. What do you think the benefits are to such an approach?

LM: I think the lower price of the ebook allowed a lot of people to take a chance on Sleepless, which they might not have done with a more expensive paperback. There is a huge ebook audience and they read voraciously and, for a debut author with no established following, it allowed my book to reach more readers. I love reading on my kindle myself so I totally understand the benefits of it – it allows readers to be more experimental without having to worry about too much about price or where to put a physical copy of a book on already groaning bookshelves!


TW: The island featured in the novel has a great sense of Welsh location and place. How did you do your research for it?

LM: I visited Caldey Island, just off Tenby in Wales, in 2018 as I was about to begin writing Sleepless. It became the inspiration for the setting of the novel. In reality it is a lovely place, perfect for day-tripping featuring a working monastery with monks who make perfume and chocolate, a lighthouse and circular coastal walk. In my book, however, it is rather abandoned and decaying! If I hadn’t visited at that time, however, I think the setting of the novel would have been very different.


TW: Your characters, including our heroine Thea, her mum Vivian and her friends at the Sleep Centre are very well rounded. What are your tips for writing great characters, even if they only have a small role in the novel?

LM: Thank you! I know writers who make personal files on each of their main characters: their favourite foods and programmes, which political party they would support and their newspaper of choice. I don’t do that, though that would be a good way to start if someone was struggling to visualise their character. My characters seem to just pop into my head, nearly fully formed and natter away at me until I write them in!


TW: Sleepless is page-turning thriller with a spot of sci-fi thrown in. How did you go about imagining the goings on at the Sleep Centre and what helped you come up with the scientific ideas? I'll add you're an English and not a science teacher!


LM: I read a lot about sleep research and therapy and the latest results from sleep studies. We still don’t completely understand what goes on when we sleep, or what the brain is doing, and I found all of that research fascinating. However, when it came to the technology itself I kept it deliberately vague so I didn’t over-complicate matters, though it is all grounded in reality.


TW: Without giving the plot away there is enough wiggle room at the end of the novel for a sequel. Any plans and if not, what's your next book about?

LM: My next book is not a sequel. I started it in 2019 when I didn’t even know if Sleepless would be published so it is a new story and new characters who have decided to seclude themselves away from the world (a feeling I think we can all relate to after the craziness of these last few years!) I would never rule out a Sleepless sequel though because there is definite wiggle room for it. Lots of readers have said they want to know more about what happens to Vivian and Thea next.


TW: What's your writing routine?

LM: Oh, I wish I had a routine! I read about writers who get up and portion out their day in a calm, organised manner. I am not one of those writers. When I’m trying to get a first draft done, I aim for 1000 words a day for five days a week, but those words could be done at any time – between 10am and 3pm or at midnight! I have no set time.


TW: If you could have any other profession at all apart from a writer, what would it be?

LM: Well, I was an English teacher for fifteen years and loved my school and the children I taught so I would beg them to take me back! I loved the fun of being in a classroom and delivering a lesson, getting to talk about literature and writing on a daily basis.


Quick fire questions:

TW: Wine or beer?

LM: Wine.


TW: Netflix or Iplayer? 

LM: Netflix. 


TW: Facebook or Twitter?

LM: Twitter.


TW: Long lie in or run before breakfast?

LM: Long lie-in! (Run before breakfast? Are you mad?)


Thanks Louise!

Photo of Louise Mumford author of Sleepless

More about Sleepless

Don't close your eyes. Don't fall asleep. Don't let them in.

Thea is an insomniac; she hasn't slept more than three hours a night for years.

So when an ad for a sleep trial that promises to change her life pops up on her phone, Thea knows this is her last chance at finding any kind of normal life.

Soon Thea's sleeping for longer than she has in a decade, and awakes feeling transformed. So much so that at first she's willing to overlook the oddities of the trial - the lack of any phone signal; the way she can't leave her bedroom without permission; the fact that all her personal possessions are locked away, even her shoes.

But it soon becomes clear that the trial doesn't just want to help Thea sleep. It wants to control her sleep...


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