We caught up with Sarah Pearse- author of the addictive new thriller The Retreat to discuss the pressures of writing another book when your first is a global bestseller.

Sarah Pearse (Rosie Parsons), The Retreat

Sarah Pearse (Rosie Parsons), The Retreat

Please tell us about your new book The Retreat.

It’s another creepy Elin Warner thriller set on a luxe retreat on a remote island off the south coast of Devon. It can be read as a standalone or as part of the series. Elin is back at work after her career break and is just finding her feet when a body is found on the rocks beneath the yoga pavilion in what seems to be a fall…

Why do you think a wellness retreat is the perfect setting for a thriller novel?

I love writing about beautiful or luxurious places that can also have a dark side – I think that juxtaposition is hugely fun to explore both as author and reader.

Did you go to a wellness retreat as research for the book?

I didn’t due to the pandemic and the restrictions on travel, but as I live by the sea, I’ve experienced many of the activities on offer – and thankfully, it hasn’t put me off any of them!

The Sanatorium was such a huge success, so does that put pressure on you as a writer for the novel that follows?

I think writing your second book is a scary time regardless of the success of the first –with your first novel, you don’t have any pressures in terms of deadlines etc, which makes it an entirely different writing experience. In terms of pressure, I don’t really feel that as I love to write – aside from interacting with readers, it’s the part of the author journey that gives me the most joy. If the book goes on to be a success, that’s great, if not, I’ll enjoy writing the next, and the next…!

A storm is forecast in your book- do they make you uneasy or do you find them inspirational for your writing?

Both! I find any extreme of nature frightening but also beautiful. I love how a storm, or any extreme weather event can really add tension to your novel – both for the characters and for the readers.

How did it feel to be featured in Reese Witherspoon's book club?!

It was amazing – more than a dream come true! Being a Reese’s Book Club pick has been a wonderful experience in every way, allowing me to connect not only with other RBC alumni, but so many readers across the world. Becoming a pick, especially as a debut, gave my novel so much more exposure than it otherwise would have had – something I’ll always be grateful for!

How much has your study of creative writing and English helped you in your writing journey?

A huge amount – we were writing constantly (some of our writing exercises had to be completed within an hour, at our desks!), in all genres and to an audience which meant we quickly got over our fear of being judged. It also helped you develop a thick skin for reviews – when we listened to our peers’ feedback, you saw how subjective the reading experience can be. People could view the same piece of text very differently and so we quickly learnt not to take it personally. This has helped when it comes to writing a novel and being reviewed!

You worked in PR so at what point did you break away to become a full-time author and what tips do you have for others who want to do the same?

I would say perhaps to start in steps - I started writing short fiction whilst still working and had some success in publication, competitions etc, which was a great confidence boost in taking the plunge and committing to writing full-time.

You live in south Devon by the sea, so how much does this influence your creativity?

Hugely so – I was born and brought up here and I think being immersed in nature has really helped me with my writing and understanding what I like to write. All my books are rooted in nature to some degree, and I think this is because of where I live. I find writing about the sea itself immensely inspiring and even when not writing about the sea itself, just being beside it is so nurturing creatively.

What is next for you?

I’m writing a new Elin Warner thriller set a little further afield…Elin is away with her brother, Isaac, when an unexpected case rears its head…

About The Retreat 

Most are here to recharge and refresh. But someone's here for revenge…


A woman's body has been found at the bottom of the cliff beneath the yoga pavilion.

We believe her death was a tragic accident, though DS Elin Warner has arrived on the island to investigate.

A storm has been forecast, but do not panic. Stick together and please ignore any rumours you might have heard about the island and its history.

As soon as the weather clears, we will arrange boats to take you back to the mainland.

In the meantime, we hope you enjoy your stay.

About Sarah Pearse  

Sarah Pearse’s debut thriller, The Sanatorium, has been a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller in both hardback and paperback. It was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick and a Waterstones Thriller of the Month. The Sanatorium was the bestselling fiction hardback in 2021 in the UK.