Good morning Thorne and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?
Well, I was born in Luton (which I use, loosely, as a setting for some of my books) and apart from a three year stint at university in Aberystwyth in the 70s, I lived there for half my life. For the other half, I’ve lived in Pembrokeshire which is, by coincidence, where my mother’s family originally came from. I’ve worked in various libraries, done some civil serving and for most of the eighties I ran a restaurant with my sister, but for many years I’ve been self-employed, making miniature furniture for collectors, which gives me the opportunity to organise my own timetable and find time to write. These days, the miniatures are very much on the back-burner.
When did you first decide you wanted to write and how did you begin that journey?
I can’t remember when I first decided to write, but it was early on. I did have conflicting ambitions, at the age of six, to be either a tightrope walker or a missionary, but since then I’ve been fairly single-minded. I ignored my headmaster’s advice to study law, because that would have meant having a legal career, and I only wanted to be a writer so what was the point? I stuck to my guns. I did scrape through a history degree, but I spent most of my time at college writing fantasy, which several publishers almost, but didn’t quite, accept. I kept trying. It just took a few decades more than I was expecting.
Who are your favourite authors and have any of them inspired your writing in any way?
Jane Austen – I admire her humour, precision and her uniqueness.
Ursula le Guin – the Earthsea books. I think I was very influenced as a teenager by her ability to immerse the reader so totally in atmosphere and location with stark economy.
John le Carré – for his psychological depth and darkness.
How much research goes into your books?
Some, of course, but I hope it doesn’t show. The danger, with research, is to get thoroughly absorbed in minutiae and be tempted to pass it all on. Mostly, I play safe and write about what I know. For my third book, The Unravelling, I did virtually no research at all, other than checking dates, because I was relying on my memories of my own childhood and the place where I grew up. And of course I rely on what I can imagine, since I’ve never actually experienced any murders, first or second hand. I try to do enough research to ensure that I don’t get things wrong, and mess up the realism of a story because of it, but I hope to leave the readers thinking about my characters and their motivation, rather than extracts from Wikipedia.
If you weren’t writing crime novels, is there any other genre which interests you?
Science Fiction. I like the idea of dropping people outside their comfort zone, so that they are forced to confront things they don’t want to confront, including themselves. Sci-Fi, like crime, is perfect for that. I do write it, but I don’t anticipate ever getting it published.
Are you able to tell us a little about what you are working on at the moment?
My next book is another psychological crime mystery, but with a slight (very slight) paranormal twist. It’s set in Pembrokeshire again, like my first book, A Time For Silence, but in a grandly dilapidated mansion, this time, rather than an abandoned cottage. I’m fascinated by the idea of the psychological problems someone would face if she genuinely believed she could sense the supernatural. I don’t think it would be something most people would take in their stride.
I’m hoping it will come out next year.
And lastly, if you could invite five celebrities to dinner, who would they be and why?
Celebrities! Do they have to be alive? I suppose so. Five corpses sitting around the table would be no fun at all. They wouldn’t even appreciate my cooking. Not sure I’d like to meet living celebrities though. Footballers and models and the like. Are there five really famous publishers? I could invite them to dinner, poison them and then offer them the antidote in return for a three-book deal and a seven figure advance. Otherwise, five comedians, perhaps. Then at least we could all have a good laugh.