So later this week I’ll be telling you all about what happened in Stirling at this years Bloody Scotland festival but while I recover from that I’m kicking off a new series of interviews with some of my favourite authors. 20 Questions is not meant to be a serious bookish interview (although I do throw some bookish questions in for good measure) but rather a chance for a bit of fun and to get to know them a little better. The final question is the same for everyone but otherwise they vary.
My first victim, erm obviously I mean participant is the wonderful Corrie Jackson – author of Breaking Dead which you can find out about if you click the handy links at the end. Great book, lovely lady. And, it turns out, very funny.
So Breaking Dead then – Fashion and murder – What made you go for that as a narrative choice?
I’ve been in women’s magazines for fourteen years and have witnessed both the beautiful and the ugly side of the fashion industry. I’ve worked on stories that highlight the dark side: eating disorders, sexual harassment, suicides, murder. Where there’s beauty, glamour and money, there’s corruption, violence and greed. So it didn’t feel like a stretch to set my crime thriller in the fashion world. And the idea for Breaking Dead has been brewing since 2006. I was Commissioning Editor at Grazia magazine when two high-profile murders occurred within a fortnight of each other. On the afternoon of September 13, beauty consultant Clare Bernal, 22, was shot dead in Harvey Nichols. Twelve days later 18-year-old model Sally-Anne Bowman was stabbed to death outside her house. My fictional crime reporter, Sophie Kent, remarks that ‘some stories are harder to wash out at the end of the day than others’. For me, that’s true of the Bernal and Bowman murders. Perhaps because they occurred so close together. Or because the victims were young, female and appeared to lead such glamorous lives. Or perhaps it’s simply because the murders coincided with my first experience of ‘bringing in the story’. Yep, I was the person responsible for approaching the bereaved family for quotes (an experience that chews you up and spits you out, but one that gives you a humbling insight into an unfolding tragedy). In any case, those two murders buried deep inside my subconscious. Then they rose to the surface a decade later and provided the spark of inspiration for Breaking Dead.
What was the last thing that made you laugh?
My husband, who thinks he has a talent for accents. He hasn’t.
In Breaking Dead the fashion industry is featured warts and all – name one thing you love about it and one thing you don’t love so much…
The people. They are an insanely creative bunch. And mad as a box of frogs. I’ve had the biggest laughs of my life with work colleagues. Hmmm, what don’t I like? The idea that youth equals beauty. Although that’s probably because I’m getting older!
What was the last thing that made you cry?
A video that went viral on Facebook recently: a son’s reaction to his mum’s surprise visit. He hasn’t seen her for a decade because he can’t afford the airfare home. He’s an enormous guy, h-u-g-e, and when he spots her he collapses to the floor. I was in bits. I’m a sucker for a viral video. And if there’s a kid or a grandma involved, forget it.
When writing do you often lose the plot?
Literally or metaphorically?! Put it this way: I spent this morning reading through the first draft of book two and have hit what I’m going to optimistically call a ‘sticky patch’. So, yes.
One piece of advice you would give anyone contemplating writing a novel.
There is 100% chance you’ll fail if you don’t at least try. Oh my god, that sounds like something you’d read in a shit fortune cookie. Sorry. How about this: start bloody writing?
Favourite flavour of ice cream…
Salted caramel, preferably with chunks of chocolate, cookie dough, honeycomb and anything else guaranteed to rot my teeth. My life motto = go big or go home.
One book to rule them all….
Roald Dahl’s Matilda. I reread it every year. It’s the ultimate bookworm’s book – and I’m the ultimate bookworm. (Yes, I know it’s not a very crime writer-y answer).
Last fancy dress costume you wore and was it successful?
My brother-in-law’s 21st birthday was 70s-themed. My purple flairs were a success, but the evening wasn’t. I decided to teach the yoof a thing or two about how to party and initiated a drinking game called ‘Round the World’. Do you know it? If not, pay attention. It’s very complicated. Ready? You stand up, down your drink, then sit down. The next person necks theirs, and so on until everyone has done it. Then you start again. Highbrow stuff, right? By the third round I had to leave the marquee. I told my father-in-law I was going up to my room to ‘look for my camera’. This was at 8.30pm. I woke up the following morning, still wearing the flairs, having missed the whole party. My in-laws have never let me live it down.
What’s next for Sophie Kent?
She’s still piecing her life back together after her brother’s death, but throwing herself into her next story, of course! When a woman’s body washes up on the banks of the Thames, the evidence points to The London Herald’s Charlie Swift. A man Sophie trusts with her life. She puts her reputation on the line to clear his name. Then he flees. With each step, Sophie is drawn deeper into Charlie’s web of deceit, his troubled marriage and his twisted past. As she starts to question his innocence, something happens that blows the investigation – and their friendship – to pieces. Now Sophie isn’t just fighting for justice, she’s fighting for her life. Still, Charlie is her friend. He wouldn’t hurt her, would he?
How did it feel when you held the book you had written in your hands for the first time?
Magical. Until my four year old, who was standing next to me at the time, asked me what the story was about. I didn’t want to traumatise him so stuffed the book back in the box and went back to building a LEGO pirate ship.
What is your most embarrassing moment in life to date?
My whole life is an embarrassing moment. But if I had to choose a printable one. My first job was Features Assistant at Harpers Bazaar. The men’s mag, Esquire, was on the same floor as us and they asked to ‘borrow’ me for a fashion shoot because they needed an extra to pose alongside the gorgeous male and female model. The shoot took place on a private jet, but the fashion director didn’t tell me the ‘storyline’ until I arrived. Which was this: a super-rich couple splits up during a flight because the man shags the air hostess. Guess who played the air hostess. Put it this way, my mum hasn’t seen the pictures.
One writing cliché or plot device that drives you absolutely crazy when you see it…
I can’t stand wet characters who stand by and let things happen to them. I’m interested in do-ers. Even if I don’t always like what they’re doing.
If you had to resort to a life of crime do you think you could plan the perfect heist?
Hell, yes. You should see my internet search history. I’m a criminal ninja.
The last book you read…and did you like it?
The Girls by Emma Cline. Phenomenal. Her brilliance almost makes me want to give up writing. Almost.
The last film you saw…and did you like that?
I have two small kids so my movies are generally Disney-themed. The last one I watched was Aladdin. Although I think Aladdin is extremely hot for a cartoon character, no?
How much do you love Neil White and would you two like to have another chat for the blog? (I’m asking him this in his 20 Q’s too just so you don’t think I’m picking on you…)
Who? Just kidding! He’s awesome. And very northern. He’s been introducing me to the delights of meat dripping (no, that’s not a euphemism).
If you could sit in a room and have a chat to 3 people, fictional or real, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, because my crime obsession started with him. I’d love him to teach me the secret to successful puzzle-writing. Selena Meyer – the fictional US President in HBO’s comedy, Veep. She’s smart, sassy and seriously vulgar. My kind of woman. And…Aladdin (see above).
If you could rid the world of one thing what would you get rid of?
I should probably say cancer, or terrorism. But I’m going to say horseflies. I hate the bastards.
How much do you hate me right now?
Not as much as horseflies.
Ha! Thank you!
About the Book:
Sophie Kent is hanging on by a thread. Her tenacity and talent have seen her rise through the ranks of a tough newspaper industry. But her brother’s suicide has thrown her career and personal life into chaos.
Whilst out on the job interviewing witnesses of a brutal child murder, Sophie befriends a beautiful but traumatised Russian model. When the girl’s mutilated body turns up in an upmarket hotel on the eve of London Fashion Week, Sophie knows she could have saved her. Eaten away by guilt, she throws herself headfirst into the edgy, fast-paced world of fashion with one goal in mind: to catch the killer. Only then can she piece her grief-stricken self back together. As she chips away at the industry’s glittery surface, she uncovers a toxic underworld rife with drugs, secrets, prostitution and blackmail.
You can read my review of Breaking Dead AND more from Corrie HERE
Follow Corrie on Twitter HERE
To Purchase Breaking Dead clickety click right HERE