Bestselling author Sophie Hannah has a fascination with the cyber world.
The award-winning psychological thriller writer and prize-winning poet confesses that she’s constantly on Twitter and Rightmove, but has also recently been trawling sites like OKCupid, Grindr and Craigslist – but not in search of a date.
The happily married mother-of-two was in fact researching her latest thriller, The Telling Error, which centres on the murder of a vitriolic newspaper columnist and subsequent questioning of a woman who has some dark secrets about her internet activity, most notably a cyber affair which threatens her marriage and freedom.
“I became quite fascinated by the question of whether cyber infidelity was the same as physical infidelity,” Hannah explains. “People are spending a lot more time online, so it seems to me that if you want to write about people’s relationships, you have to take into account the cyber world.
“I asked lots of my friends what they thought, whether a cyber relationship where people never met at all was a less serious form of infidelity. Some said it’s just as bad, other’s said they wouldn’t take it that seriously if their partner had never even met the person.
“I was fascinated by the idea that something that’s not actually happening physiIntyerviewcally and in your real life could nevertheless take over, so that your online life becomes more real than what’s actually going on around you.”
She found that most people who put personal ads online say exactly what they want and what they’re looking for, which doesn’t happen in the real world.
“In the real world, if you’re introduced to someone in a social situation, you would never in a million years turn round and say, ‘OK, what I’m looking for is...’. Online, people are direct.
“The weirdness of the things some people are looking for was a real eye-opener,” adds the Manchester-born author.
For all that, she says that if she were single and lonely, she wouldn’t hesitate to look for companionship on the internet.
“If I was looking for love, I’d have no qualms about doing online stuff. Apparently 60 per cent of relationships start online [now].”
The inspiration for her fictional victim, a controversial newspaper columnist, also came from the internet.
“I’m kind of addicted to Twitter and I often read articles that are tweeted by opinionated newspaper columnists.
The Telling Error by Sophie Hannah is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £12.99.