Meet Sam Holland Author Of The Echo Man

You might want to leave the bedside light on after you've read Sam Holland's debut thriller, The Echo Man

The race is on to catch a serial killer who is copying the world's most notorious murderers. In this exclusive interview, Sam tells us why the subject attracted her, the research she did and how she relaxes at the end of a full day of killing people on paper!

You can download the ebook of The Echo Man 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 Echo Man by Sam Holland. Image of a hangman.

TW: Sam, huge congratulations on the release of your debut novel The Echo Man. Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication?

SH: Thank you! I studied psychology at university, and started out with a ‘proper job’ in HR. I enjoyed it, but I always had stories in my head, snippets of bits and bobs that wouldn’t leave me alone. After a few abandoned efforts, I eventually managed to shape a novel, and this coincided with a time when I wasn’t enjoying my job. My son was about to start school and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try something new. So, I quit, submitted my novel to agents and – long story short, many rejections later – here I am!

TW: It is a very fast-paced novel and there is so much for a reader to involve themselves with. Why did you choose to write this story specifically? Why a serial killer novel?

SH: I was watching a lot of David Fincher (strange how you mention this below) – Se7en, Fight ClubMindhunter – and really liked the bleakness of it all. The scratchy nature of the filming, the unrelentless rain, the dark. I knew I wanted to write something where I didn’t hold back, in both the language and the content, and the thought occurred to me about serial killers. In this age, where culturally serial killers are frequently regarded as ‘celebrity’ I knew it would be too much for a sadistic killer to resist. And, with all that ego and narcissism, they would want to take it one step further. And The Echo Man was born!

TW: There is a lot of graphic detail in the novel, especially forensically. How much research went into the book?

SH: A huge amount. I read over two dozen serial killer biographies, and many more on the subject of profiling and the psychology of psychopaths. I have friends who help me with both the policing and the medical side of things, as well as textbooks on police procedure and anatomy. I have an old, battered copy of Simpson’s Forensic Medicine - invaluable for anything involving the forensic pathology of a dead body. (Of which there are many in the book...)

TW: The story often moves at breakneck pace! Is this something you were conscious of whilst writing it? Did you have to plot out absolutely everything in advance?

SH: My short attention span helps! I love reading and writing stories that move fast, so it comes naturally to have things go at quite a clip. I do plot, but only after a base draft is written. I’ll write that very quickly – often five to six thousand words a day – then once that’s done, go back with my whiteboard and index cards and post-it notes, and rigorously plot to make sure all the clues fit and the balance of characters is right.

TW: How long did it take you to write a first draft?

SH: I was writing it alongside some other work, and I also felt quite tentative at the beginning. I’d write a few thousand words, then send it to my agent for his views – and reassurance! Each time he’d tell me to carry on and offer suggestions for change. It took me four months to write a first draft, then a further five to get it into a decent shape.

TW: Elements of the book reminded us of a Thomas Harris novel, or even the David Fincher movie Se7en, in the sense that elements of the story were quite gruesome. What would be your response to readers who felt the book was too explicit, and that it takes the serial killer narrative too far?

SH: I accept The Echo Man isn’t for everyone. But serial killers are, by nature, very violent and nasty, so if you’re going to take the plunge and write about them, my feeling is it shouldn’t be sanitised or vanilla. I wanted to represent their crimes as the abhorrent acts they are. It’s not pleasant, and shouldn’t be shown as such.

TW: You dedicate the book to your agent Ed Wilson at Johnson & Alcock Literary Agency, who encouraged you ‘write darker’. How did this author/agent relationship come about?

SH: I knew nobody in publishing so applied through the slush pile submissions process. He liked my book, we met, got along, and the rest is history. I’m not sure what he’d say about me – probably that I’m ridiculously impatient – but he’s incredibly knowledgeable about the industry and is excellent company. He also delivers an epic motivational speech when needed.

TW: What are you working on next? Will we see Cara Elliott again?

SH: Yes! Well, kind of. Next up is The Twenty (disclaimer: title may change). It’s set in the same world as The Echo Man, but is a stand-alone with a completely new case and cast of characters. It’s about a serial killer counting down from twenty (with a trail of dead bodies, of course), but it’s much more than that. It’s about past trauma and hidden fears, lost love, and the duality of personality – for better or for worse. Like The Echo Man, it’s quite a ride! Cara makes a few cameos though, so you’ll get an update on what she’s been doing since.

TW: What is the best piece of advice on creative writing you’ve ever been given?

SH: To get words down. The old adage of ‘you can’t edit a blank page’ is so true – and the beauty of a book is often not clear until after the edit.

Quick fire questions:

TW: The last novel you read?

SH: I’m currently preparing to moderate a panel at CrimeFest, so have been reading all the books by those authors. It’s been a great way to discover new books – I read Cold Reckoning by Russ Thomas (out 12 th May), and loved DS Adam Tyler, so am now going back to read the whole series.

TW: Your favourite way to relax?

SH: Walking the dog, running, or just chilling out on the sofa. I love writing, so day to day life isn’t that stressful!

TW: Your favourite book of all time?

SH: The horror of having to choose! There are very few books I’ve read more than once – the exceptions to this being The Crow Road by Iain Banks, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, and Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding. A real range. The Crow Road gave me my first taste of crime writing – and I loved it.

TW: Your TV guilty pleasure?

SH: I adore all overly dramatic American medical dramas, so Grey’s Anatomy, New Amsterdam, Code Black – that sort of thing. I’ve only just discovered Chicago Med so am happily making my way through all seven series. Never feel guilty for it though 

TW: Your favourite tipple?

SH: I am the rarest of creatures – the writer who doesn’t doesn't drink. So I'd have to say tea. However, I am partial to the occasional glass of fizz.

Thanks Sam!

Photo of Sam Holland. White woman with brown hair.

More about The Echo Man:

The murders have begun...

Across England, a string of murders is taking place. Each different in method, but each horrifying and brutal.

But the killer is just getting started...

Jess Ambrose is plunged into the investigation when her house is set ablaze. With her husband dead and the police pointing at her, she runs. Her only hope is disgraced detective Nate Griffin, who is convinced Jess is innocent.

And he's going to shock the world...

Soon, Jess and Griffin discover the unthinkable; this murderer is copying the world's most notorious serial killers. And now, imitation isn't enough. The killer dubbed The Echo Man is ready to create his own masterpiece, and it will be more terrifying than anything that has come before...


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