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From Series to Stand-Alone: Writing The Killing Kind by Jane Casey

Writing.ie | Magazine | Crime | Interviews

By Jane Casey

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Writers can find reasons to be anxious about just about anything to do with the creative process and I’m no exception – fourteen books into my career, I still worry every time I start a book. Everything I’ve ever written before feels like an impossible achievement, and I have no idea if the magic will make it all come together again. 

That feeling was much stronger when I started working on my new book, The Killing Kind. After ten years of writing a series, with all the comforting familiarity of characters I know and a setting I can conjure up relatively easily, I set out to write a stand-alone novel. It centres on a new character, a young barrister named Ingrid Lewis who is excellent at her job. After representing a client, John Webster, on a charge of harassment, Ingrid herself becomes the target for his obsession. But that is just the beginning of her worries – and when Ingrid suspects someone is trying to kill her, Webster offers her his services. He can operate outside the law, which is just what Ingrid needs – if she can only trust him.

So far, so straightforward! However, writing Ingrid’s story required me to immerse myself in a new world. The legal setting is a challenging one, even though I have a secret advantage in that my husband has been a criminal barrister for over twenty years. For me, an outsider, it seems impossibly glamorous and complicated, with its own set of rules, language and superstitions. First I had to learn about court procedure and chambers life, and then I had to think about how to make it interesting and comprehensible to readers who, like me, picked up most of their legal knowledge by watching Kavanagh QC. It turns out that television isn’t always the most reliable source of information, and I had to unlearn quite a lot. I talked to a few female barristers, finding out about the things that make their job harder than it might be for their male counterparts. I was already aware that the idea of a barrister as a wealthy, pampered loudmouth wasn’t accurate, particularly in the criminal world. Ingrid works very hard for a fairly small income and covers a lot of ground, in between skirmishes with the various people who seem to wish her harm. But she’s not a hapless, passive victim by any means. She brings her incisive mind to bear on her situation – even if she finds it hard to get to the truth.

With the Maeve Kerrigan series, I know that readers are committed to the main characters, Maeve herself and her boss DI Josh Derwent. Seeing their relationship develop and deepen has been immensely satisfying for me over the last few years, and often surprising even though I’m nominally the one in charge of deciding what happens. Readers respond to them and have strong opinions about what should happen next (but I’m not going to offer any spoilers here, don’t worry . . .). Writing a stand-alone feels risky because I need readers to engage with Ingrid, someone they don’t know (who isn’t Maeve!) and to do that within the space of a few pages rather than nine books. Of course, there are readers who are daunted by the prospect of reading a long series to catch up with the current book, and readers who refuse to start on book eight or nine, and for them I hope The Killing Kind will be an opportunity to pick up one of my books and find out more. For loyal readers, it’s a different story. Maeve and Derwent’s relationship is complicated, often electric – and a joy to write. Replicating their interactions in The Killing Kind wouldn’t have made sense. Instead, I focused on pitting Ingrid against the cynical, ambivalent John Webster, a man who is capable of anything and regrets nothing. Their spiky conversations have a different kind of energy, charged with threat rather than a more positive tension, but in their own way they are just as fascinating.

The plot of The Killing Kind is complicated, even for me (I do love a complicated plot!). It has a lot of moving parts. For once I needed to bring all of the storylines to their conclusion in one book, instead of leaving a loose end. It was incredibly challenging to manage all of the different plots and create a satisfying ending, but I enjoyed it. My editor signed off on the book, after making many helpful suggestions that improved it greatly. It went to the copy editor and I fixed the remaining issues with timelines and details. Everything was perfect with my single, stand-alone book. Then I woke up in a cold sweat early one morning, ran downstairs and emailed the copy editor. ‘I need to change one line. Just in case [x] ever came back . . .’ I don’t intend to start a new series, but I do have an idea in the back of my mind, and one day it might just make it to the front.

I am crossing my fingers that readers will take Ingrid to their hearts. If you are really a die-hard Maeve Kerrigan fan, furious at being denied a new book this year, all I can say is that I’m writing the next book right now. I will try to make sure it’s worth the wait.

(c) Jane Casey

About The Killing Kind:

He tells you you’re special…
As a barrister, Ingrid Lewis is used to dealing with tricky clients, but no one has ever come close to John Webster. After Ingrid defended Webster against a stalking charge, he then turned on her – following her, ruining her relationship, even destroying her home.

He tells you he wants to protect you…
Now, Ingrid believes she has finally escaped his clutches. But when one of her colleagues is run down on a busy London road, Ingrid is sure she was the intended victim. And then Webster shows up at her door…

But can you believe him?
Webster claims Ingrid is in danger – and that only he can protect her. Stalker or saviour? Murderer or protector? The clock is ticking for Ingrid to decide. Because the killer is ready to strike again.
Praise for The Killing Kind

‘Nobody understands the dark gap between justice and the law better than Jane Casey’ Val McDermid

‘A truly masterly thriller’ Liz Nugent

‘One of my favourite writers’ Dervla McTiernan, author of The Ruin

‘Endlessly surprising’ Catherine Ryan Howard

‘Fast-paced’ Jo Spain, author of Dirty Little Secrets

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Jane Casey has written ten crime novels for adults and three for teenagers. A former editor, she is married to a criminal barrister who ensures her writing is realistic and as accurate as possible.

This authenticity has made her novels international bestsellers and critical successes. The Maeve Kerrigan series has been nominated for many awards: in 2015 Jane won the Mary Higgins Clark Award for The Stranger You Know and Irish Crime Novel of the Year for After the Fire. In 2019, Cruel Acts was chosen as Irish Crime Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. It was a Sunday Times bestseller.

Born in Dublin, Jane now lives in southwest London with her husband and two children.

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