Today is one of those days where I’m having a TOTAL fangirl moment – 24 Hours from Claire Seeber is a recent read for me that I was absolutely enthralled by and made me immediately go out and buy the rest of Claire’s books – and of course anyone who follows my book rants knows what a huge fan I am of Neil White – so when he agreed to interview Claire for the blog I was, well, really quite pleased. It is a fascinating and insightful interview, so thank you SO much to both Neil and Claire for taking the time.
Over to them then…
Neil: It’s a pleasure and a privilege to chat with an old friend of mine, Claire Seeber, a crime writer who started out at the same time as me at Avon, a HarperCollins imprint, and enjoyed great success and accolades with her psychological thrillers Lullaby, Bad Friends, Never Tell and Fragile Minds. Her latest release, the fabulous 24 Hours, has shot into the top 50 on the Kindle charts and garnered rave reviews.
Claire, your last novel, Fragile Minds, was back in 2011, with 24 Hours ending a four-year absence. Where have you been and how does it feel to be back?
Claire: I have been around and about, believe it or not J but I had a bit of a break because of various life events that slightly surprised me. At the end of 2010, I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease (blood cancer), and in the middle of pretty intensive treatment for that I also got divorced and became a single mum to my 2 boys. So writing was on the back burner a bit, though I didn’t actually stop, I started to write something quite different than my previous thrillers.
When I got better, I also started to study psychology and moved out of London with a bit to Derbyshire with my boys and my new partner. We all came back to London in January this year, and it’s brilliant to have a new book out! I’ve missed all the other writers like you, Neil!
Neil: Such a nice thing to say, and great to hear that you are though what sounds like a dreadful time. Going back to your books, give us a snapshot of what 24 Hours is about, and why you say it differs from your previous thrillers.
Claire: Ha – this is not the ‘very different’ book…it’s a bit different though! 24 Hours is about a woman called Laurie whose best friend Emily is killed in a hotel fire when they’re away for a weekend in Devon. Laurie is recovering from a traumatic divorce and thinks someone has killed Emily by mistake instead of her. So begins the most frantic 24 hours as Laurie tries to get back to her young daughter Polly, who’s arriving back in London soon…it’s told in 2 separate time-frames: THEN & NOW ie past and present. One of the reviews said it was quite philosophical, which I quite liked, but it’s also quite fast-paced for a lot of the action…
Neil: This may involve revealing too much information, and I’ll let you decide what to say, but I know that you were inspired to write Lullaby after a personal experience/near miss with one of your children. Have you channelled some of your own divorce into 24 Hours? For the benefit of those who are discovering you for the first time, what happened to inspire you to write your first book, Lullaby, and how much of Laurie in 24 Hours is Claire?
Claire: Ooh Neil what an incisive interviewer you are – David Dimbleby eat your heart out J Ok, so first of all – I’d like to say on record now that Laurie & Sid’s marriage in 24 Hours is NOT based on my ex-marriage. But I was fascinated in why people stay in very destructive relationships – sometimes even when we know they’re not good for us, we stay. I think this was also fuelled by my interest in psychology too and how we make decisions; what’s gone before in our lives that shapes us. So Laurie – she’s not me, but I recognise things about her, and, yes I’ve made bad/ rash decisions – and I’ve worked very hard to get my life into a place where I feel more settled and less pulled by the tide of emotions I don’t understand (do I sound profound?!). Sometimes the things that we think are lovely are just addictions, and optimism, which I suffer from, is actually being deluded!! Gawd – bleak!
The idea for Lullaby was triggered by my now ex-husband wondering off with our first baby when he was about 6 months old at the Tate, and me not being able to find him for about an hour and feeling absolutely mad with panic (lack of sleep, hormones etc). Also I was interested in the desperation around infertility and what state that might push someone into, as it took me a while to fall pregnant that first time.
Neil: Your response to the question brings to mind the current popular strand of crime fiction, which has been coined as domestic noir. This seems to involve a much more microscopic look at relationships, and the horrors that can arise from them, which is something that your books deal with. It’s a shift away from the slice and dice thrillers of a few years ago, where I gained a perception that writers were trying to out-gore each other (and something that I recognised in myself, perhaps). One thing that is noticeable is that the domestic noir sub-genre seems to be dominated by female writers. Do you think that female writers are more adept at picking up on the subtleties in relationships?
Claire: Hmmm…I have mixed feelings about this whole subject, Neil! I don’t know if female writers are better at subtleties, I’d be quite scared to make that assumption, but I do know from my studies in psychology that women use our brains differently because our brains are actually made up differently! And because of that women are GENERALLY (& everything’s a generalisation) more in tune with emotion/ empathy and men are more systemising. And personally I’m not interested in slice & dice anyway; I’m interested in what makes people tick, in both good and bad ways. But the whole domestic noir thing drives me a bit crazy anyway! I do know how publishers love genres, and how they like us to fit into neat boxes! And so the fact my first book was published in 2007, and written in 2005, but there is only recently a genre I apparently fit into, well. It has been a little galling at times to have been slightly ahead of curves, but not recognised as that – and now the ‘domestic noir’ market is perhaps in danger of being saturated?! So it’s time for a re-think in my little writing room…J
Neil: My view is that these things go in trends, that a successful strand leads to publishers looking for stories that are similar, to stay aboard the bandwagon, and eventually leads to books that aren’t as good that make people look for something different. Take Da Vinci Code, for example. I bet a lot of mysteries based upon ancient scrolls were rejected prior to Dan Brown, but you couldn’t move for them in the mid-noughties, until they all started to feel a bit samey. I can see the argument that women writers are better than men at these type of thrillers, because they are based so much on emotions and empathy, for the reason you have espoused. Something else will come along as a big hit, and then another bandwagon will leave the station.
Claire: Yes I agree with that and when I worked in TV, which I did for years, it was coined by someone “Me-Too” TV, ie commissioners copying what was rating so then every channel commissioned the same kind of programme. Same with books. Come on publishers – be braver!! Think out of boxes! (this will probably come and bite me in the **** now)
Neil: Your point is interesting though, that you’ve been writing that kind of book for so long, and it’s right that you should write what you like and just hope everyone likes it too.
You mentioned your little writing room. Describe it, and your routine. What does being Claire Seeber involve?
Claire: Ha! Being a bit mad I think! Trying to understand life and loving the escapism of writing but also loving the opportunity to share stories and maybe, occasionally, make people
think, or understand parts of difficult life better; me trying to entertain but also make sense of things: especially, probably, since some of the things I’ve been through. Hmm. Deep!
My writing room overlooks the garden and the park from the first floor and I can feel like I’m in the middle of the country, not SE London (I would rather be in the country I think, and was last year, much as I love London). The cat is usually perched on the desk, uninvited. It’s messier than it could be!! Lots of notes and cuttings & pictures stuck on a noticeboard. And Samuel Beckett’s classic quote on a postcard: No Matter, Try again, Fail Again, Fail Better. My routine depends where the kids are but once they’re not here, that’s when I write, I like the mornings best. There’s usually too many coffee cups around!
Neil: A final question. 24 Hours has rocketed into the top 30 of the eBook charts, and deservedly so. After the traumatic break you’ve had, which I know has also included some issues with agents and publishers, how does that feel?
Claire: Ah thanks. It’s been very nice. It goes to show that we have to keep picking ourselves up and getting back on that horse, because we never know what might happen. And I am trying to just enjoy the moments and not to worry too much about the future!
Thank you SO much both of you!
You can read my review of 24 hours here: http://lizlovesbooks.com/lizlovesbooks/liz-currently-loves-24-hours-by-claire-seeber/
Visit Claire’s website here: http://www.claireseeber.com/blog/
And on Twitter: https://twitter.com/claireseeber
Neil’s latest novel is The Domino Killer, completing the Parker Brothers trilogy.
Visit Neil’s website here: http://neilwhite.net/
And on Twitter: https://twitter.com/neilwhite1965
Happy Reading Folks!