“The global response to Anna O has been beyond anything I could have imagined”Matthew Blake
The average person spends 33 years of their life asleep. That fact has always fascinated me. Sleep is the one universal across all cultures, continents and communities. It is a second life, a shadow world. Anna O takes that universal experience as the starting point for a thriller and asks: what might you have done while you were asleep?
The book took four years to write from the first idea to the final manuscript. But my eureka moment was when I discovered two things: first, the real-life cases of people who commit crimes while sleepwalking; and, second, the mystery illness known as ‘resignation syndrome’ where patients fall into a deep sleep and never wake up.
The book involved extensive research into sleep crime and resignation syndrome. For sleepwalking, I became fascinated by people doing extraordinary things while their eyes are open but their brains are still technically asleep: taking long car journeys, acting out nightmares and, in some tragic cases, committing murder. But if you kill someone while sleepwalking, are you guilty or not guilty? The legal system still isn’t sure. Some people have walked out of the courtroom free while others face life in prison. I learned more about the legal context around sleep crime and automatism and in what circumstances you can be held responsible for a crime committed while you were asleep.
For resignation syndrome, I studied the extraordinary cases in Sweden of refugee children who have fallen asleep and never woken up, like real-life fairy tales or ancient myths come true. Can you imagine closing your eyes and waking up five years later?
I love all mysteries and thrillers. I am a lifelong Agatha Christie fan and was particularly inspired while writing Anna O by books like The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I also love books like Where the Crawdads Sing which take a murder mystery structure and break out beyond the genre to become major cultural events.
Since submission, the global response to Anna O has been beyond anything I could have imagined. I’m so excited to be working with such amazing publishing teams globally to bring Anna’s story to readers and introduce the mysterious world of sleep crime. Growing up reading iconic mystery thrillers like And Then There Were None and The Silence of the Lambs, I dreamed of writing a thriller that resonated with audiences across the world. I hope Anna’s story does just that!
Find out more about Anna O here:
ANNA O HASN’T OPENED HER EYES FOR FOUR YEARS
Not since the night she was found in a deep sleep by the bodies of her best friends, suspected of a chilling double murder.
For Doctor Benedict Prince, a forensic psychologist on London’s Harley Street, waking Anna O could be career-defining. As an expert in sleep, he knows all about the darkest chambers of the mind; the secrets that lie buried in the subconscious.
As he begins Anna O’s treatment – studying his patient’s dreams, combing her memories, visiting the site where the horrors played out – he pulls on the thread of a much deeper, darker mystery.
Awakening Anna O isn’t the end of the story, it’s just the beginning.