So in at No 10 this year for my Top Ten of 2014 was The Kill by Jane Casey. So I caught up with Jane and asked her a couple of little questions and here is what she had to tell me.
So outing No 5 for Maeve then, do they get easier to write as you know the characters or harder because you care more about them?
The joy of series fiction is that you can let things play out over several books and you can really delve into your characters’ souls. Unfortunately that generates its own pressure because you have to hope you’re living up to the ambitions you had three books ago! I found THE KILL quite hard to write because the previous book, THE STRANGER YOU KNOW, was very well received and I decided early on I couldn’t possibly live up to it (pure author paranoia). I was also including a plot line that I’d thought up a few books ago – so there was a lot of pressure on me to deliver a good ending for that particular story, but one that wasn’t too much of an ending in itself for my characters. It all worked out in the end!
It’s becoming easier in one way to revisit the characters every time as I know them better and better, and I understand aspects of them I probably didn’t quite recognise at first. I think all writers have the experience of writing a story and then subsequently understanding it. It’s the same for me with the characters I create. I don’t always realise how complex they are to begin with. I learn more about them every time. And because I write from the perspective of Maeve, the heroine, I can show her understanding of the people around her developing. I should say though that just because I write from her perspective, that doesn’t mean I endorse her opinions about things. She can be wrong and frequently is. Something that happens in THE KILL can be interpreted in two very different ways, and I knew when I was writing it that it would be a complex development for readers. I’ve had readers get in touch who were very angry with me about that particular scene and how Maeve handled it. She’s not always the wisest person on the page.
Most people know about my total crush on Derwent (and I’m not the only one!) He did not appear in the first novel – where did the inspiration for that character come from?
Derwent completely surprised me, to be honest – he wasn’t in the first book and he would have been a major distraction if he had been. THE BURNING is all about Maeve establishing herself on the team and developing closer relationships with the people on her team. I brought Derwent into THE RECKONING to be a headache for Maeve – an overbearing boss she didn’t trust. Originally I intended to make him a proper villain and dispose of him at the end. But there was something about him that made me feel he needed to hang around and he’s grown in importance with every book. He’s heroic but definitely not a hero – far too awkward for that. He’s hugely vulnerable and insecure and makes up for that by being arrogant or angry. I think we all know people like that! I don’t think he would make a good main character but he and Maeve are a great team. In some ways he’s her opposite, but in other ways it’s the two of them against the world. I love writing about the dynamic between them – the way Maeve stops him from going too far, the way Derwent rescues her from disaster when she’s got herself into trouble, the way the two of them bicker constantly. He starts off being someone she can’t stand and really doesn’t want to work with. Then they develop a wary respect for one another. By this stage he and Maeve are like a squabbling pair of siblings – often angry with one another, but woe betide anyone who comes between them. I think neither of them appreciates how much the other one cares about them – not in a romantic way, but as an important part of their lives. It makes me very happy that readers love Derwent, but I’d say there are as many people who detest Derwent as those who like him. It amuses me when first-time readers mention how much they dislike him and how awful he is. If you think he’s awful in THE KILL, you definitely wouldn’t think much of his behaviour in THE RECKONING! But he wins over a few more people with every book. And he’s so much fun to write when he’s being bad.
How far ahead do you plan? Which is my sneaky way of asking if you’ll tell us anything about what is next for the gang?
I’m always looking forward and back, making sure the whole series makes sense and there’s a feeling of steady progress – a series arc, if you like, above and beyond the individual book’s narrative. Each book has to relate to what precedes it and comes after, although I do leave myself room to change tack if it feels right – you can’t necessarily force things to be the way you originally imagined them. I have a strong sense of how the next two or three books will be, and how the relationships will change, and the types of plot I want to tackle. All I can say is that none of my regular characters are wholly good or wholly bad, so people who come across as negative now might surprise readers later on, and vice versa. And if you’ve read the other books in the series, you know there are secrets that must come out, probably at the worst possible moment.
As the series goes on, readers are becoming more and more involved in the characters’ lives, which is amazing to me. I’m obsessed with them, of course, but it’s always a surprise that anyone else is! I know that readers feel quite strongly about some of the things that have happened so far, and I’ve read many predictions about how things will play out for the characters. I don’t want to disappoint anyone but let’s just say the most confident predictions of what I’m planning for Maeve and the others are almost entirely wrong. And yes, that does give me a malevolent thrill.
Which book would you most like to give to friends and family this Christmas?
Everyone would love and cherish Lists of Note compiled by Shaun Usher, a gorgeous book and a keeper forever. (I know, I know it’s cheating not to pick a novel but genuinely there were too many great ones this year to pick a favourite! I’ll be buying lots!)
Thank you Jane!
My original Review:
Maeve Kerrigan is used to investigating murders.But this time a killer has struck far too close to home…
When a police officer is found shot dead in his car, DC Maeve Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent take on the investigation. But nothing about the case prepares them for what happens next: a second policeman dies . . . and then another . . .
The Metropolitan Police struggle to carry out their usual duties, but no one knows where or how this cop killer will strike again. While London disintegrates into lawlessness Maeve’s world starts to fall apart too. For if the police can’t keep themselves safe, how can they protect anyone else?
The fifth adventure for Maeve Kerrigan already – seems like only yesterday I started that journey and these days a new Jane Casey book is always one of the highlights of the year for me, so when this one dropped through my letterbox I promised myself that the weekend would belong to Maeve and Derwent. As it happened only a couple of hours overall was required which should tell you just how addictive these books are – plus of course there is my huge literary crush on Derwent, a character who, if he came to life, would be fighting us off as I know I am far from being the only one. Hey he would love it! And I’d win….
In this instalment, police officers are dying and there appears to be no rhyme nor reason to it – no-one is safe, not even Maeve’s nearest and dearest and the fact that I don’t believe Ms Casey would be adverse at any point to killing off one of our favourite characters kept me right on the edge of my seat. Add to that some of the ongoing threads of Maeve’s story starting to come to a head, and Im surprised I didnt suffer more than the odd papercut in my desperation to keep turning the pages.
Crime fiction being one of the most popular genre’s, it is hard to keep things fresh and new, keep the reader involved in the characters and the story but in this case it seems almost effortless. There is a beautiful ebb and flow to these novels overall, not just in this particular story but as an ongoing tale – with each new book you sink deeper into this world and each time there is something new to learn about the characters, their motivations and their relationship to each other, all influenced and impacted by what has gone before. On top of that each one has its own complete story within whichever current mystery is being unravelled – you can actually pick up any single one and not feel like you are missing anything. There is a subtlety to the writing that lets you know the things you need to know without the use of endless exposition and “previously on” type paragraphs that can take a constant reader out of the equation – in that respect these are perhaps some of the most cleverly constructed crime novels out there. I’m not constantly thinking “I KNOW this already I’ve read them all for heavens sake!” but equally I’m reminded gently of what has led us here. That is not easy to achieve – I know, I read a lot of crime fiction.
I often see these described as Police Procedurals, and I guess thats a fair description if you are looking solely at the basics. But personally I dislike that tag for the Kerrigan series, it gives the impression that this is “by numbers” writing. It is anything but – it is the art of creating a group of characters, putting them into varying and often dangerous situations and letting them live. It just so happens that in this case they are Police Officers, but thats not all that they are by any means, and there is nothing generic or standard to be found here. Jane Casey has a humerous and realistic touch that just makes everything brighter and more substantial. Magic on the page yet set in the real world.
I love Maeve. I love that she’s a bit useless sometimes but also intuitive, loyal and lovely. I ADORE Derwent with every fibre of my being despite the fact that as a woman I should probably often frown at his antics and show some disapproval. But hey, I’ve always been one for the bad boys. Surrounding them are many more authentic and often enigmatic characters, none of which you would want to be without – and here we are full circle to earlier in my review – edge of the seat stuff!
Anyway, I guess you can say I kind of liked this one. Now I’m going away to deal with my Derwent withdrawal. Sigh.
5 bright shiny stars plus an extra gold star just because. Go read them now. Go on…I promise you won’t be sorry.
Find out more here: http://www.maevekerrigan.co.uk/
Follow Jane on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/JaneCaseyAuthor
Also why not try out Jane’s excellent series for Young Adults featuring Jess Tennant.
Happy Reading Folks!