Monday, 13 August 2012

Sneak Peeks & Author Interview: Claire McGowan - The Fall

This week sees the publication of another debut novel, The Fall by Claire McGowan (which has already been published in Hardback and Kindle format earlier this year).  One of my book resolutions for this year is to read as many debut novels as possible and there have definitely been plenty for me to choose from.   
What would you do if the man you love was accused of murder?

Bad things never happen to Charlotte. She's living the life she's always wanted and about to marry wealthy banker, Dan. But Dan's been hiding a secret, and the pressure is pushing him over the edge. After he's arrested for the vicious killing of a nightclub owner, Charlotte's future is shattered.

Then she opens her door to Keisha, an angry and frustrated stranger with a story to tell. Convinced of Dan's innocence, Charlotte must fight for him - even if it means destroying her perfect life. But what Keisha knows threatens everyone she loves, and puts her own life in danger.

DC Matthew Hegarty is riding high on the success of Dan's arrest. But he's finding it difficult to ignore his growing doubts as well as the beautiful and vulnerable Charlotte. Can he really risk it all for what's right?

Three stories. One truth. They all need to brace themselves for the fall.

Claire is the current director of the CWA (Crime Writer's Association) and I'm delighted that she has taken time out from her busy schedule to fill in my questionnaire.

Can you tell us a little bit about The Fall?
The Fall is a crime novel set in central and north London.  It's about the brutal murder that takes place in a nightclub, and ends up bringing together several different people who would otherwise never have met.  As they try to piece their worlds together and find out what really happened that night, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Where did the inspiration come from to write The Fall? 
I had a dream about two women meeting in a court room, where one's boyfriend had just been sent to prison.  The story came out of that and also wanting to write about issues of class an race, and the way we live so close together in cities but often never met or speak.  I'd been living in the area where the book is set - Camden and then Hampstead - and that also inspired me.  

What came first, the characters or the plot?
The characters of the two women came first, along with the set -up and idea of them meeting in court for the first time.  It's quite useful if you have ideas in dreams as you get the characters and the story all in one!

The Fall is your first book, how long did it take you to get it published?
I was pretty lucky and got shortlisted in a competition for unpublished novels, so it was about eight months in total to write, get an agent, and sell the book.  But, in case that sounds too easy - it's actually not my first book.  There was another I worked on for three years and didn't get published. 

Do you have a set daily writing routine?
Not at the moment as I have another job I do from home.  It's also hard to get into a routine when so much of the year is taken up with editing and tweaking.  When I do write new stuff it's usually very fast and I can do up to 6,000 words a day.  I only do that for a few months of the year though.

Have any of your characters in your book been based on people you know?  If so, did they recognise themselves?
I try not to do this as I think it's a bit of a creativity failure.  When they have crept in a few occasions - usually because I've been so furious with someone I can't help myself having a go in fiction - I've taken it out.  Or maybe changed their gender or something to disguise it more.  I'd be horrified if someone thought I'd written about them.  However people do recognise things I might have said or conversations we've had.  My dad claims I steal his jokes too.

How hard is it to keep coming up with fresh ideas for books?
It's not been hard so far - I always have more than I know what to do with, but what is difficult is coming up with the right idea that your agent and publisher will like.

If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?
I have a literary novel I've finished and I've just had an idea for a young adult novel which I'm excited about.  But probably I'm most drawn to women's fiction.  Sometimes I think about writing something funny and romantic, instead of unrelentingly dark and full of dead bodies.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Finish the book, however you can.  Even if you think it's awful, even if you get through tough bits by writing 'come back to this later' or 'insert big fight here', just finish it.  When you write THE END you'll have such a feeling of achievement, and you'll really understand how the  story unfolds and how to fix it.

Are you able to give us a hint about your next novel is about?  And when is it likely to be published?
Yes, we're well under way with the next book though it won't be published until March.  It's the start of a crime series featuring a female forensic psychologist who goes back to her hometown on the Irish border.  She swore never to return, but she can't help going back to help find the two teenage girls who have gone missing.  She soon finds nothing about the case is what it seems, and everywhere she turns in the town she's surrounded by difficult memories of the past.

Do you have much spare time to read books?  If so, what was the last book you read or what are you currently reading?
Sometimes I get distracted and don't read as much as I should, but I agree with Stephen King, who says it's the only way to get good at writing.  I read about three books a week, mostly crime.  However, I just finished Bring Up the Bodies and am deciding what to start next.  I'm also re-reading Riders for that Olympic show-jumping nostalgia.

If you could have The Fall made into a film, who would you cast in the leading roles?
I'd have British actors - Imogen Poots as Charlotte, Tom Riley as DC Hegarty, and Lenora Crichlow as Keisha.

If you were going to be stuck on a desert island and could only take 3 books with  you, which ones would you choose?
That's a very tough one.  I'd take the biggest notebook I could find, as I'd never be bored as long as I could write.  Then maybe something big and boring like a reference book.  For a novel I'd take Mansfield Park.  It's one of my favourites and it;s so dense and brilliantly plotted you could read it over and over.

Can you describe The Fall in 20 words of less?
Two women from different backgrounds find their lives collide after a brutal murder, and work together to find the truth.


  1. The new one sounds great, Claire.

  2. Great interview. One for the wishlist.

  3. Great interview. Like the sound of the book.