I am delighted this week to introduce Claire Mc Gowan, debut Irish crime writer and director of the Crime Writers Association, to talk about her writing journey, the creation of her wonderful debut novel The Fall, and how publication success is seldom a straight line – sometimes, you have to take a chance…
Although I’m Irish born and bred (from Newry, a town that looks both ways across the border), my first book, The Fall, is set entirely in London with no Irish influence at all. Strange because almost everything else I write ends up filled with Irish characters, no matter where it’s set – random aunts, chatty women at the bus stop, people walking in asking where the tea is and so on. The Fall is the story of what happens after a murder in a Camden nightclub, following the accused killer and their family, the family of the victim, the policeman charged with investigating the crime, and key witnesses from that night who may or may not be telling everything they know. It covers the investigation and trial, with twists and turns on the way as the truth is revealed.
I sometimes get asked why I decided to write crime, and my answer is: I didn’t. I just wanted to tell this story, and didn’t realise that it was crime at all (despite the policeman, the murder, and the trial…what was I thinking?) It wasn’t until the publisher wanted to buy it as crime that I realised it could come under that genre. I’m glad it did because crime readers are really dedicated, and other crime writers are brilliant fun to hang around with (and they drink a lot).
I’ve always wanted to write, but I spent many years not taking it seriously, messing about with different ideas and giving up on several novels, often quite far in. I re-discovered one recently and realised I’d got 40,000 words in before stopping because I couldn’t think what happened next. It wasn’t until 2007 that I really fixed on an idea and determined to finish. I worked on it for several years, deleting and re-writing thousands of words. In 2010, after much dithering and fear of rejection, and I finally sent it out to agents….and of course it got rejected. The fourth agent I sent it to asked to see the whole thing, which I immediately took to mean I had arrived and would be published in a matter of days.
Six months went by. I heard nothing. Frustrated, I decided to get on with a different idea, which became The Fall. I wrote it over three months, mostly on the train as I commuted up and down to London from Kent. The day after I finished I came across a competition for unpublished authors and on a whim, sent the book off. I got shortlisted, appeared in the Bookseller, and suddenly had agents and editors contacting me, a very surreal turn-around.
Soon after I signed with one of the agents and she sold the book, which came out in February this year. I’m now writing a series set in Ireland, which is very crime-focussed, and it feels like my natural home. Maybe it’s something to do with being from here that makes you more inclined to crime. I’m writing about a town in Northern Ireland, which has ample material for dark secrets and past traumas.
I now write more or less full time, but I still find it’s best to get the book out as fast as I can, not editing the first draft at all or doing any planning. It’s a bit like spinning plates, and if I don’t go fast enough the whole plot collapses! I then edit after and make sure it all holds together. If you’re struggling to finish something, I would suggest trying this approach, and maybe writing longhand to stop you fiddling with it as you go along. Try entering competitions, and do think about genre as well – you never know, you could also be an accidental crime writer.
Bad things never happen to Charlotte. She’s living the life she’s always wanted and about to marry wealthy banker, Dan. But Dan’s been hiding a secret, and the pressure is pushing him over the edge. After he’s arrested for the vicious killing of a nightclub owner, Charlotte’s future is shattered.
Then she opens her door to Keisha, an angry and frustrated stranger with a story to tell. Convinced of Dan’s innocence, Charlotte must fight for him – even if it means destroying her perfect life. But what Keisha knows threatens everyone she loves, and puts her own life in danger.
DC Matthew Hegarty is riding high on the success of Dan’s arrest. But he’s finding it difficult to ignore his growing doubts as well as the beautiful and vulnerable Charlotte. Can he really risk it all for what’s right?
Three stories. One truth. They all need to brace themselves for the fall.
Reviews for The Fall
Daily Telegraph ‘Funny and perfectly paced, the pervading sense of “there but for the grace of God go you” chills you to the bone.’
The Guardian ‘The characters are finely drawn, and it’s concern for them, rather than for whodunnit, that provides the page-turning impetus in this promising debut.’
Daily Mail, 17/2/2012: ‘McGowan writes utterly convincingly in three very different voices and she knows how to tell a cracking story. She will go far.’
Link to Order your copy of THE FALL below :
Connect with Claire at http://Clairemcgowan.net
Follow on Twitter @inkstainsclaire