When my first novel The Bones of It came out in 2015, crime writer Louise Phillips interviewed me about it for writing.ie. I said then that you don’t choose your genre, it chooses you. The book was marketed as being a psychological thriller and I certainly hadn’t thought about it in those terms, or in any marketing terms when I wrote it. I got asked to be on crime fiction panels which I was delighted about, being a crime nut. Some people said they thought the book was actually literary fiction.
This didn’t surprise me. I write short stories and began my writer’s life with literary fiction. I read both. I didn’t mind that I didn’t quite fit into the crime genre because I knew I was a crime writer too. That is because behind the scenes, for almost six years by now, I have been writing a detective series. Quietly I was researching forensics, and police procedures, and legal terms, learning everything I needed to know to give me the confidence to take the job on.
The first book in the series, The Sleeping Season, will be launched on Friday 27 March in No Alibis bookstore, Belfast, with the help of local crime writers Simon Maltman and Sharon Dempsey, and it has been a long time coming.
The second instalment will be released in November this year, and is set in May 2018; slightly after the Belfast Rape Trial and during the Repeal referendum. And then there is book 3 … I have no date for its release yet, but I am putting the final edits to it right now.
I envisage this being a long-running series and I know you shouldn’t have a favourite – because your books are like your children, aren’t they? – but I enjoy the process of writing police procedurals in a way I never expected I would. Catriona King – writer of the Craig series – has called them ‘intellectual puzzles’. I couldn’t agree more. They are challenging to write. Every writer learns what works for them in terms of plotting, but the feeling at the end of each full draft is intensely satisfying. There is a whole extra layer to the writing process. Along with characterisation, dialogue, creating atmosphere, pace and suspense, everything has to hold together.
I love writing a series but I can understand that it might get tiresome for a writer. I write standalones, short stories and poems too, so I have that variety, yet I always have my protagonist Harriet Sloane in the back of my head. I have some story threads I know I will pick up and run with in future books.
As an avid viewer of TV crime shows and true crime documentaries I was always interested in the genre. What I wanted to read was a police procedural about a female detective that really encapsulates what it is like to be a woman on the police force living in NI. And because I didn’t see the book I wanted to read on the shelf, I wrote it. It mattered to me that I addressed themes that are important to me, like domestic violence, stalking, disability. And inside those, finer areas that are rarely touched on.
My understanding was that police are there to help, and usually do, but sometimes the laws just aren’t in place to make a difference – especially with stalking, for example. Aware that domestic violence can happen to anyone, even to strong confident women, I haven’t shied away from showing that. I wanted to see, what if a detective is, herself, a victim of an awful crime but doesn’t trust that the law can help her?
The Sleeping Season is set in East Belfast which I pass through all the time on my way from Newtownards to Belfast. It seemed like the perfect spot: it’s gritty, it has that noir-ish texture, but is undergoing a lot of changes and regeneration. The setting is another character in this book. Despite the dark subject matter, like with all my writing, and like a lot of writing to come out of Belfast in general, it has plenty of that dark Northern Irish humour.
The genesis came from a writing class I was taking years back. The tutor set us exercises looking at ethics. I thought of a family that has its own set of values. A family of five adult children: one a minister, one a stay-at-home mum, one a social worker, one battling with drug addiction, the last a detective. After writing mainly working class characters I decided to do something different. I decided they would be from a privileged background, with their mother having been a judge and the father once the Chief Constable of the RUC, as it was in his day.
I had this family set-up in mind when I picked out the detective sister – who later became DI Harriet Sloane – and wrote a short story about her. But it was too big for that and took on a life of its own.
(c) Kelly Creighton
About The Sleeping Season:
Someone going missing is not an event in their life but an indicator of a problem.
Detective Inspector Harriet Sloane is plagued by nightmares while someone from her past watches from a distance.
In East Belfast, local four-year-old River vanishes from his room.
Sloane must put her own demons to bed and find the boy. Before it’s too late.
‘This is a novel of style and verve, that explores the darkness within relationships and the choices we make to protect those we love. The Sleeping Season is unapologetically feminist.’ Sharon Dempsey
‘A breath of fresh air for the genre. The combination of a well conceived plot and clever characterisation coupled with Creighton’s obvious prowess as a wordsmith makes The Sleeping Season a chilling but compulsive read.’ James Murphy
Order your copy online here.
The Sleeping Season launches at No Alibis Bookstore, Belfast at 6pm on Friday 27 March. Entry is free and everyone is welcome.