Saturday, 4 January 2014

Debut Spotlight: Eva Dolan

The first debut spotlight feature for 2014 features crime writer Eva Dolan whose debut book Long Way Home was published on Thursday. 

Eva Dolan is an Essex-based copywriter and intermittently successful poker player. Shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Dagger for unpublished authors when she was just a teenager, Long Way Home is her debut novel and the start of a major new crime series.

A man is burnt alive in a suburban garden shed. 

DI Zigic and DS Ferreira are called in from the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit to investigate the murder. Their victim is quickly identified as a migrant worker and a man several people might have had good reason to see dead. A convicted arsonist and member of a far-right movement has just been released from prison while witnesses claim to have seen the dead man fighting with one of the town's most prominent slum landlords. 

Zigic and Ferreira know all too well the problems that come with dealing with a community that has more reason than most not to trust the police, but when another migrant worker is attacked, tensions rapidly begin to rise as they search for their killer. 

Eva kindly agreed to answer a few questions so I'll hand you over to her... 

Can you tell us a little bit about your debut book Long Way Home?

Long Way Home follows detectives Zigic and Ferreira of Peterborough Hate Crimes Department, as they investigate the murder of a homeless migrant worker who has been sleeping rough in a garden shed. Initially suspicion falls on the homeowners, but it soon emerges that the dead man has made many enemies during his short time in the city and the pursuit of his killer takes Zigic and Ferreira into a hidden world of illegal slums and brutal gangmasters, where human life is the cheapest commodity going. 

How much research did you have to do to complete writing this book? 
There was quite a lot of research involved. I was lucky enough to have access to people who explained the business of gangmastering to me, from both sides; the bosses and the workers, and without their generosity Long Way Home would have been a very different book, because until I started getting firsthand information I didn't realise just how corrupt and precarious that world was. Achieving a strong sense of place was really important to me, and since I don't know Peterborough or The Fens very well I spent some time there, walking the streets where my characters lived, going in the cafes and shops, soaking up the atmosphere. 

How long did it take you to write Long Way Home? 

The first draft took about six months, with a few weeks of plotting and planning before hand. The inevitable redrafting, taking into account some very sensible advice from my agent, was another two months, then the book it was ready to go.

Are you currently working on the next book in the series?  If so, are you able to tell us anything about it? 

I'm just closing in on the end of book 2 - currently untitled. I'm very superstitious about discussing work in progress, but I can say it sees Zigic and Ferreira investigating a horrific series of murders with an apparently political dimension, against the back drop of a rising racial tensions.

How long did it take to get a publishing deal? 

I started writing seriously at eighteen so it was quite a trek! For ten years I didn't let anyone read what I was working on because nothing felt quite good enough. It was a tough slog but I learned a lot from those stowed manuscripts and the work paid off because I signed with an agent a few days after the initial submission. Getting published took a bit longer though. Two years and a few false starts later Harvill Secker snapped up Long Way Home.

Do you have a set daily writing routine?  

Long Way Home was written during a quiet period on my day job so for the first time in my life I had the luxury of writing from nine to five on a daily basis, just like a proper author. In retrospect that might be what made this book different, the opportunity to approach it in a professional manner; a quick run, a quick breakfast, then into my special pjs and close the office door. Bliss. Thankfully I've managed to keep the routine up for book 2, with the addition of a big, woolly cardigan to deal with the autumn/winter weather.

Are there any writers that have influenced you as a writer? 

John Harvey and Ian Rankin were huge influences when I moved over to crime. I love the complexity in their books, the way they expose social and political issues within these perfectly constructed crime narratives. Henning Mankell was a slightly later discovery, but his books attracted me for the same reason.

If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?

For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a writer, so all other jobs were just stop gaps and necessary distractions. Professional poker player would be my dream occupation though, and the hours do fit in well around writing. 

Having you got anything exciting planned for publication date?   

The major celebrating happened over Christmas, which I was still recovering from on publication day, meaning I wasn't fit for anything more than a long, boozy lunch in the village pub.

Are you going to treat yourself to anything as a reward for publishing your first book?  I've been thinking about this a lot. How do you mark achieving your childhood dream? Nothing seems significant enough. A tattoo maybe? An eye-wateringly expensive handbag? It will probably be jewellery, once I find the right piece, but for now I've treated myself to a gorgeous new espresso maker.

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