Meet SV Leonard Author of The Islanders

Are you one of the many addicted to Love Island on the TV at the moment? If so, imagine a literary cross between that and The Hunger Games and you've got a place that's not quite so idyllic after all ...

We're delighted that SV Leonard, author of The Islanders, took the time to tell us about the authors who have inspired her, her best birthday present ever and which TV reality show she'd prefer to appear on. 

Download the ebook of The Islanders from Amazon or buy the hardback 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.

Front cover of The Islanders novel by SV Leonard

TW: We loved The Islanders. How did the idea for the novel come to you?

SVL: The idea for The Islanders came to me when I was watching Love Island during the summer of 2019. I don't know what made me think it but I thought how interesting it would be if a killer used a reality television show for their crimes.

TW: There are also echoes of Agatha Christie in the novel what with the characters being trapped in one place not knowing which one of them is the killer. How has she and the golden age detectives inspired your work?

SVL: Agatha Christie was a huge inspiration for The Islanders and for my second novel, The Influencers, though much less so for my second. Christie is an inspiration for so many writers and it is obvious why, her plots are incredible. I'm a big fan of Sherlock Holmes as I read a number of the stories at school and love the television series, I'd love to be clever enough to write detective stories like Conan Doyle. Overall though, I'd say I'm more inspired by modern writers, John Marrs being a key example.

TW: What was your road to publication and do you still have a 'day' job?

SVL: My road to publication is quite funny because I did it the wrong way round (sort of!).  I should start by saying that I have always enjoyed writing but I only ever did it as assigned school projects. In 2016, I decided to start writing a story that I'd had in my head for a while and I launched straight into writing novels, which considering I had never really done any writing before or even seriously thought about being a writer seems a bit ridiculous.

I got to about 20,000 words and I remember my jaw hitting the floor when I pressed the word count button on my google docs, I had no idea how I got there apart from, simply, writing and not stopping. I thought to myself that now was probably a good time to learn more about writing. I stumbled across videos from a US-based author called Alexa Donne. Over the course of several months, I learnt more about story structure and character and when I made it to the end of my fantasy novel. Then I learnt about editing. I worked on my first novel for three years and it went through several rounds of revisions, I queried it but didn't have much luck. Letting it go was one of the best things I did because once I had accepted that I probably needed to write another book I felt quite free. I had another YA fantasy idea but I realised that fantasy wasn't the right genre for me, I didn't even really read in the genre apart from the breakouts like Hunger Games or Divergent.

Once I had the idea for The Islanders and started drafting it, I knew I was a crime writer, it felt much more comfortable for me to write than fantasy. I drafted it in about three months and edited it during Covid lockdown. Then, on my 30th birthday, I participated in a Twitter Pitch Competition called PitMad. I pitched The Islanders as a murder mystery set on a reality tv show, think Love Island meets Agatha Christie. That tweet (yes a tweet!) was liked by Sian Heap at Canelo who after reading the whole thing offered me a book deal. I then submitted it to Emily Glenister at DHH Literary knowing that I wanted an agent by my side for the process. It was the best birthday present anyone could ask for and no one will ever be able to top it, though I won't stop any of your readers if they would like to try.

I still work full time as a civil servant in a role I love as it covers Asia Pacific, a region I'm very passionate about. My weekends are writing-focused but I suspect it will get harder as we leave lockdown!

TW: The Islanders was published in March 2021. What was it like publishing during a pandemic?

SVL: As I don't have a comparison I have to say it was fabulous. I had the day off with my family and we went for a long walk and had a lovely dinner and I chatted to the UK Crime Fiction Book Club which was great fun. However, I'm very much looking forward to having a little party for my next one.

TW: Do you have any pet writing peeves such as cliches or stereotypes?

SVL: I'm quite a militant writer meaning I find it very hard to write scenes that don't move the plot along at pace. Lots of books that are considered pacy still allow room for some scene-setting and character development and I wish I was better at working those into my story. It is a pet peeve that I have to work hard to do it.

TW: Tell us about The Influencers!

SVL: My second book is about a woman called Maggie Shaw who wants to be a famous influencer via her true-crime channel but she doesn't have that many followers. However, when she gets invited to the Influencer of Year awards and the top prize winner and very famous Stella Knight goes missing she decides to find out what happened to Stella and documents her investigation to build up her platform as she goes. It gets her into a lot of trouble!

TW: You've achieved one ambition by becoming a published author. What other writing ambitions do you have?

SVL: Oh so many. I'd love to write a story that is adapted for television or film. I'd love to write a bestseller. I'd love to try writing full-time.

Quick fire questions:

TW: Dream job if you couldn't be a writer? 

SV:: Television presenter.

TW: Would you rather appear on Love Island, I'm a Celebrity or Big Brother

SVL: I'm a Celebrity.

TW: Favourite place to write?

SVL: At my desk in my flat.

TW: Book you're reading at the moment? 

SVL: I'm reading The Wild Girls by Phoebe Morgan and listening to A Smart Woman's Guide to Murder by Victoria Dowd.

Thanks SV! You may like to read our TW interview with Phoebe Morgan here

Photo of SV Leonard author of The Islanders

More about The Islanders:

Her dream escape is about to become a nightmare...

Kimberley King has spent the last five years trying to outrun the reason she left the police force. Her life is a mess and she's desperate for change. So when she is randomly selected for the new series of the hit show LoveWrecked, she can't pass up the chance to win the GBP100,000 prize. All Kimberley needs to do is couple up with one of her fellow contestants, win the infamous LoveWrecked challenges, and she will have enough cash for a fresh start.

But the island isn't the paradise she was promised and within hours, one of the contestants is dead. Then the announcement comes: one of the islanders is a murderer and Kimberley must find out who, live on television. For every hour it takes her, one more person will die.

The game is rigged, everyone is hiding secrets, and time is running out...


Come back next Wednesday for our interview with Louise Mumford, author of Sleepless


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