The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die by the woman who wouldn’t give up! – Marnie Riches

In 1991, during my first year at university, I saw The Silence of the Lambs at the cinema. In love with Clarice, Hannibal and that murderous monster, Buffalo Bill, I went on to read the book by Thomas Harris on which the film had been based. Again and again and again. It was amazing. I vowed then, at the age of nineteen, that I would one day write a crime thriller, as close to the perfection of Harris’ novel as I could get it. Then, growing up happened, and I had to shelve my ambition for twenty long years... 

At the back end of the noughties, when I had been writing seriously for children for a couple of years, I had an interesting conversation with the source from which all YA flows, Melvin Burgess. We discussed a new age banding for fiction – New Adult. At the time, this was a reasonably fresh concept being chewed over by the industry. New Adult would encompass the years when one either begins tertiary education or ventures for the first time into the world of work. I realised then that one’s student years are indeed packed with adventure – mine certainly were. My story idea for The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die came quickly to mind. I had a decent writer’s skillset under my belt. I had a story. I was finally going to write my crime thriller. The decision to set it in an academic environment with a twenty-year-old heroine was an easy one to make. I had completed my first draft by 2011. 

The journey to publication was one fraught with flux, challenge and interruption. 

I changed agents twice, having worked on two middle grade novels: one of which never found a home with a publisher and the other of which remained unsubmitted. I also authored the first six books in HarperCollins’ Children’s Time-Hunters series as Chris Blake. Life gets in the way, right? 

My thriller underwent several rewrites over the course of two years because I wanted to get it absolutely spot on. It grew longer – 150,000 words, at one point. It grew darker. It grew infinitely more complex and adult. Just before signing with my current agent in 2013 (and no, I have no intention of ever changing agent again, in case you’re wondering. I’m not Henry VIII), with the benefit of having gained editing skills thanks to my Time-Hunters stint, the manuscript shrank back to a more wieldy 100,000 words and was sharp as a tack. By this time, however, only the US was publishing NA stories that went beyond romance. Luckily, my gripping, gritty story now stood up to scrutiny as adult fiction, and though my heroine, George McKenzie is only twenty in the first novel, she punches far above her weight emotionally, holding her own in a very adult world. 

So, you might ask what a reader of YA fiction would find to love in The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die? 

Well, principally, chunks of the novel depict the hard upbringing of a teenaged character called Ella, who lives on a tough estate in South East London. Ella gets up to all kinds of glorious teen mischief, and the choices she makes, the people she hangs out with, all have a direct bearing on the rest of the novel. George’s experience of university will resonate with many people – the student communities of Amsterdam, Heidelberg and Cambridge feature almost as heavily as Amsterdam’s red light district! Consequently, there is a coming-of-age quality to the story, which I hope YA fans will enjoy. Plus, naturally, I couldn’t help but write the novel using my minimum exposition – show but don’t tell – techniques! I’d like to think that children’s writers could show some adult writers a thing or two about craft and spinning a yarn that rips along without tedious, clumsy information dumps. 

The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die is the first instalment of a three book deal. 

Books 2 and 3 are standalone stories with the same principal characters: aspiring criminologist, George McKenzie and her partner in crime, the middle-aged, misanthropic Dutch Senior Inspector, Paul van den Bergen. Book 1 will be released on 2nd April 2015, with book 2 (yes, I’ve just about finished writing the first draft. My fingers are on fire.) appearing 6th August 2015 and book 3 being released at some point in mid-late November. 

My editor at HarperCollins’ digital imprint, Maze has kindly billed me as a “home-grown Stieg Larsson”, which is wonderful, because George McKenzie is my English, gobby, mixed-race, OCD, kickass answer to that other fabulous young heroine, Lisbeth Salander. I wonder how she’ll measure up. Why don’t you read The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die and let me know?

Picture by: Phil Tragen

Marnie Riches grew up on a rough estate in Manchester, aptly within sight of the dreaming spires of Strangeways prison. She swapped those for the spires of Cambridge University, gaining a Masters degree in Modern & Medieval Dutch and German. She has been a punk, a trainee rock star, a pretend artist, a property developer and professional fundraiser. In her spare time, she likes to run, renovate houses and paint. Oh, and drinking. She likes a drink. And eating. She likes that too. Especially in exotic destinations.


  1. Sounds great - any plans for a paperback?

    1. Hi Catriona. Only just seen this now. When the e-book has sold a certain number of copies, "The Girl Who Wouldn't Die" will indeed be traditionally published and widely available in bookshops and supermarkets. Until then, however, I'm afraid it's e-book only, although don't for get, you can download the Kindle app to any tablet or smartphone too!

  2. I will definitely be reading about Ella, now. Thanks Marnie!

    1. Thanks, Nancy. I hope you enjoy the book. (I'm the Horrormoanal Woman, by the way)
      Marnie :)


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