M.K. HILL on writing ONE BAD THING

Written by M K Hill


It’s hard being a celebrity these days. One moment, you’re top of the world – on the cover of magazines, and with plenty of TV work in the pipeline – and the next, you’re totally cancelled.

Maybe it was because of that unsavoury thing you did in the past; or the unpalatable opinions you shared on social media when you were too young to know better. Photos have emerged, or an old friend sold the story, or haters trawled your timeline for dirt. One moment, you’re riding a wave of good press and public adulation - and the next, your work diary is emptier than a cinema during Lockdown.

And it’s not just celebrities. These days, companies often go through a job candidate’s social media channels looking for previous bad behaviour … for those images where they’re posing with a traffic cone on their heads after a drunken night on the town, or for the sarcastic memes they posted, or that time they unwisely said something unkind. If the company finds stuff like that, it’s not unknown for the candidate to find the job offer withdrawn.

But maybe real life is just catching up with crime fiction, which has long been in the cancellation business. There have been a ton of books about dirty secrets which come back to bite the protagonist on the arse; and about bad behaviour for which the main character must atone – that that one bad thing they did, and which they’ve always wanted to brush under the carpet, and which comes back to haunt them. Sometimes, the punishment for terrible behaviour is fatal. One moment, they’re sipping champagne on the Orient Express, the next they’re a human pin cushion.

Regrets, we’ve all had a few, and I bet we’ve all done some things in our lives we’ve been ashamed of, and which still, all these years later, occasionally make us wince with embarrassment. But crime fiction is obsessed by past misdemeanours, from cold case procedurals to cuckoo-in-the-nest revenge tragedies, and it’s a narrative I’ve found myself returning to for two books in a row, because it’s such a delicious scenario.

In my last book The Woman In The Wood, likeable reality show star Abs finds himself cancelled when he’s implicated in the disappearance of a woman. Because, well - obvs.

But in my new psychological thriller One Bad Thing, I used my background as a radio producer as a starting point to imagine someone whose job it is to be kind and empathetic – and yet who has a doozy of a skeleton in her closet. It’s not what you think, nobody disappeared, or got killed, but the event from her university days was unedifying enough to turn agony aunt Hannah Godley’s life upside down if it ever comes to light. If the Press gets hold of it, Hannah’s media career is going to go into freefall just as it’s about to take off.

But what’s the thing that Hannah Godley did when she was younger, and how does it get her into such terrible trouble? Well, there’s only one way to find out, and that’s to buy and read my new crime novel One Bad Thing.

And when you do, maybe you’ll think about that previous bad behaviour of yours, and thought you got away with. Maybe you’ll wish you were a little bit kinder, or more empathetic, or that you hadn’t been so selfish. And maybe you’ll thank your lucky stars that you’re not a character in a crime novel, where sooner or later that behaviour will come back to haunt you.

Because remember the equation: Crime Novel + Dark Secret = Trouble.

One Bad Thing by MK Hill is published by Head of Zeus in hardback on 3rd February at £16.99


Mark Hill

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