Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Roving Eye Interviews Jane Casey

Today's Roving Eye interview is with crime writer Jane Casey. Born and brought up in Dublin, Casey has been twice short-listed for the Irish Crime Novel of the Year Award. She is the author of The Missing and two previous Maeve Kerrigan novels The Burning and The Reckoning.You can follow Jane on on Twitter, here - @JaneCaseyAuthor

When did you first realise that you wanted to write for a living?

I decided I wanted to be a writer fairly early on, without having much of an idea of what I should write! I would love to say that I was the kind of child who was always writing, but actually I spent my childhood, teens and twenties reading everything and wishing I knew what I should write myself. It took me a long time to shake off the fear of letting other people read and judge my work. 

What made you chose crime fiction?

I tried and failed to interest myself in writing literary fiction. It took me a remarkably long time to realize you should always write for yourself. I had a very academic background. For some reason I thought people would expect me to write a Great Irish Novel. I just didn’t have it in me. What I loved, and love to this day, is the toe-curling thrill of good crime writing. I’ve never been snobby about it as a genre but I still never thought I could write a crime novel until I had the idea for my first, THE MISSING. I wrote that one in my head, before I finally admitted defeat, sat down and started typing it out.

What crime novel would you most like to have written?

I know this is a massive cliché for authors in their thirties but I was bowled over by THE SECRET HISTORY when I read it as a teen. I must have read it a hundred times. I’ve never attempted to recreate it but to me it’s the perfect blend of humour, poetic imagery, brilliant characterization and the purest tragedy. I love the inevitability of it, and the way the characters come to appreciate the horror of their actions. There are so many books out there that got tagged with ‘the new SECRET HISTORY’ and just weren’t that. I would be very wary of trying to do my own. But beautiful, wealthy, murderous college students was a great subject and Donna Tartt wrote the hell out it.

Who is your favourite author outside of crime fiction and why?

I don’t think I can get away with saying Graham Greene because the books I really enjoy are his crime novels . . . I love Maggie Stiefvater’s YA novels, which are miles ahead of the rest of the paranormal field. She has a beautiful narrative voice, a gift for understated romance that is wholly believable, and she is utterly fearless in her subject matter.

Who are you reading right now?

Sharon Bolton’s LIKE THIS FOR EVER. The things she does to her series characters . . . No one is safe! I’m reading it through my fingers, mainly.

If you weren’t a writer, what else could you see yourself doing?

I used to be a children’s books editor and I would go back tomorrow if I wasn’t writing anymore. I loved it. I concentrated on the older end – twelve-year-olds and upwards. There is a wealth of fantastic writing for that age-range, and very inventive it is too. It’s an exciting area of publishing, and a growing one. This year I sneaked back into that part of the world by writing my own YA novel, HOW TO FALL, the first in a new series featuring a nosy teenager named Jess Tennant. The subject matter isn’t all that different from my novels for grown-ups – murder, suicide, that sort of thing – but the books are much less swear-y and a lot of fun.

What was the last great book that you read?

I just read Belinda Bauer’s RUBBERNECKER and Erin Kelly’s THE BURNING AIR and I completely adored them both in very different ways. Belinda’s book is razor-sharp and darkly hilarious – a real departure in the crime genre too. I’ve told everyone I know to buy THE BURNING AIR for their holidays. The twists are so much better than the ones in GONE GIRL, and it is the definition of page-turning. Lovely writing too.

How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

I stick to print – when I read, I like the full tactile experience of sitting down with a book. I spend enough time staring at screens and pressing buttons. Reading print is relaxing; ebooks remind me of work. Having said that, I do love the way you can buy an author’s book instantly and start reading it as soon as you’ve read a review or a recommendation, rather than standing in a bookshop months later, scanning the shelves for a name to jog your memory. As an author, I feel ebooks can only be good for backlist sales. As a reader, I would be saddened beyond words if my nearest bookshops closed. Browsing is a joy. The internet is not the same.

I am a big fan of alternative publishing, but I do think most people underestimate the work put in by publishing houses. They more than earn their share of the cover price of a book. I would probably never have the energy or organizational skill to publish anything myself, and those who make a success of self-publishing have to work very hard indeed.

There is an issue of quality with self-publishing, and I don’t mean this to sound snobby at all, but the reality is that writing is hard. Most people don’t do it very well, and the kicker is that they don’t know they don’t write well – you can’t judge your own writing any more than you can be objective about your own children. Being rejected makes you try harder and write better. That’s not to say that there aren’t very talented writers out there who deserve a break. In ten years of reading unsolicited, unagented manuscripts, I bought and published one – but it went on to win awards. If you can find a readership, though, and keep them coming back for more, however you do it, more power to you.

What five words best describe your average day?

Minding children while imagining murders. (You may decide whether the two things are related.)

Sum up your latest novel in less than 20 words.

When a serial killer’s crimes echo a twenty-year-old murder, police have one suspect: Maeve Kerrigan’s irascible inspector Josh Derwent.

And, lastly, just for fun..

Have you read or would you ever consider reading 50 Shades of Grey?

I am so glad 50 Shades of Grey exists, because I have wept with laughter when reading outraged critiques of it on various blogs. I haven’t read the book itself but I’ve read enough extracts from it to know it’s not for me. I do think it has tremendous innocence, in an S&M-themed way, and I can’t bring myself to feel anything but admiration for E. L. James – and maybe a bit of sympathy too. It can’t be easy being the porn J. K. Rowling. Anyway, as a Random House author I’m aware she’s bankrolling us all . . . 

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