In conversation with... Jane Casey

Hi Jane! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of Cruel Acts! Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: Cruel Acts is about a convicted killer named Leo Stone, who has been found guilty of the murder of two women. Unfortunately, during his trial the jurors searched for his name on the internet and discovered parts of his criminal history that they weren’t supposed to know. He is released pending a retrial, and Detective Sergeant Maeve Kerrigan is one of the police officers tasked with finding new evidence to make sure he isn’t set free for good.

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing the book or did it take an unexpected turn as the characters grew on the page?

A: I thought I had the plot completely worked out but it became much twistier as I was writing. There was one paragraph where the characters were supposed to find a single body, but I found myself typing that they had found four. It sounds flippant, but actually it took the story into a different place and changed how I felt about one character in particular. I credit my subconscious for that!

What kind of research, if any, did you have to carry out while you were writing this novel? In general, is research something you enjoy or a means to an end?

A: I did a lot of research on decomposition and the life cycle of insects! It was fascinating but I probably wouldn’t have wanted to read about it unless I had been doing research. I love research – it can lead you in unexpected directions – but I like it to be almost invisible for the reader. Writers need to know a lot about what they’re writing about, but the reader doesn’t necessarily need all of that information! There’s nothing worse than a few pages of research in the middle of a story, unless it’s a story that’s based on no research whatsoever.

If this novel was going to be turned into a film, who would you cast in the roles of DS Kerrigan and DI Derwent?

A: That is such a tricky question! I have a list of actors I’d love to cast but I don’t want to put any images in readers’ heads. People have a very strong relationship with the characters in the series and very strong opinions about what they look like. Derwent in particular seems to change depending on personal tastes…

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about a scene in the book that you love or that was particularly difficult to write?

A: My favourite scene involves a horrible bathroom, a sink, some washing-up liquid and a lot of blood. I loved writing it. Even though there isn’t much dialogue I think it says a lot about the characters.

Is there anything that didn’t make it into the final version of the book?

A: Not a huge amount! I keep everything I cut in a rejects file and often find a use for it later, in a different part of the story. At the start of a book it’s very tempting to describe everything and everyone, just to get the word count looking respectable. I find the first few chapters really benefit from a lot of pruning when I reach the end of the first draft.

If you are already working on your next writing project, would you mind giving us a little anticipation of what we are to expect?

A: My next book is already written and being edited at the moment! I work quite a long way ahead of publication. It’s another Maeve Kerrigan novel about a young journalist who goes missing while working on a big story about an exclusive gentlemen’s club – only these are not the kind of men who behave like gentlemen. As ever, I’m interested in the risks that women have to take just to do their jobs, and the different kind of sacrifices demanded of them.

What are you reading at the moment?

A: I’m reading advance proofs – I’m lucky enough to be sent a lot of books before publication. I’ve just finished Alex North’s The Whisper Man which chilled me to the marrow, and I’m now thoroughly enjoying Catherine Ryan Howard’s Rewind. I love reading other crime writers – we may all be writing about more or less the same subjects but everyone handles it differently. It’s the most inventive genre, I think, and the most compelling!

Due to the popularity of social networking websites, interacting with readers – be it via Twitter, Facebook Instagram etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?

A: I love getting to chat to readers and I don’t mind it at all. I just need to be disciplined about limiting the amount of time I spend on social media. The job is writing first and foremost, then pottering around pretending to work! But Twitter in particular often gives me inspiration as well as company.

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: Finish what you start. You learn so much more if you keep going with a short story or a novel. Everyone hits a wall in their work, usually around a third of the way through – even hugely experienced and bestselling writers. People with drawers full of beginnings tend to have lots of ideas and lots of self-doubt. The secret to success is definitely letting the ideas drown out the doubt. 

Thank you for your time!

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