Likes and Dislikes
The panel- Nicola Upson, B.A. Paris, Alison Bruce and Mick Finlay- went on to discuss their likes and dislikes about the writing process. The consensus seemed to be that writing crime is fun, as anything is possible and it deals with the basic themes of humanity: love, hate, greed and jealousy.
Alison Bruce said that it takes a long time to write 100,000 words and around 500 hours to write a first draft, which means, I suppose, that if you manage 1,000 words a day, it would take about 3 ½ months. She said that she really enjoys the editing process, once that first draft is done, but always gets flu at the end of a book and sleep goes out the window.
B.A. Paris said that finding a new idea is quite hard in a saturated market. Her editor rang her up about a case in Poland and she really liked the idea and thought up a really good twist r the end. Then she came back from holiday and saw that `The Cry’ was on TV, which was almost exactly her own idea.
For Nicola Upson one of the best parts of writing is the research and she says that she can get lost in it.
They all agreed that they had little say on the covers (would that I had a problem like that!). Mick Finlay said he cringed at the American cover of his book. B.A. Paris said no black please on her cover, so the cover was largely black on `Bring me Back’ and no orange writing and so the writing was orange! Alison Bruce said that one of her books showed a bridge on the cover that she didn’t recognise, as all her DC Goodhew books are set in Cambridge. She searched Google Images and finally tracked down the bridge to Cambridge, Massachusetts! The book also turned out to be her slowest selling book with that particular cover.
B.A. Paris felt that suspense comes naturally as she creates claustrophobic atmospheres, becoming the central character herself while she writes. The suspense arises directly from the situation.
Nicola Upson thinks about the reader a lot and said that she’s always writing on two levels: what you are revealing to the readers and what you know and how you’ll bring that out.
Alison Bruce adds a third level: what she wants the reader to think is happening.
Mike Finlay spoke about the importance of when to end a chapter, so the reader keeps going, eg his detective gets handed an envelope at the end of a chapter.
They all seem to write in very different ways: Alison Bruce thinks in a very cinematic way. She writes herself a load of questions and clues and most stay in.
Nicola Upson sets herself challenges and sometimes doesn’t know herself when she begins a book who has committed the crime. Often the victim is someone she likes.
B.A. Paris builds her story around something she’s heard. For her it’s all about solving puzzles.
What they did all agree on, however, is that characters have to `live’ before they die or the reader doesn’t care. Bad characters need to be complex, to have some good in them and strong feelings. The murder, if there is one, is the pivotal moment, which is why motive is crucial. After all, we are all capable of killing someone given the right motivation.
Readers will always love a good story, well told, with cliffhangers along the way. What they will never forgive is bland or badly drawn characters.
In conclusion literary and crime fiction are not mutually exclusive. Apparently John Banville, who also writes thrillers as Benjamin Black, caused quite a stir at one Harrogate Crime Festival, when he declared that when he writes as BB he writes 2000 words a day and when he writes as JB he writes 200! Perhaps he won’t be invited back in a hurry, I thought.