A.X.: Twelve years in the police environment and with a police officer husband, it could be said that it is very easy to write police literature. Is that true?
C. M.: It isn’t ‘easy’ to write any form of literature! Working on a complex crime investigation is a similar process to weaving together the strands of a novel. When you tell the story of a victim, you are presenting the tale in the most absorbing and compelling way possible. That’s what I do as a novelist. Working as a police officer exposed me to people from all backgrounds, which is a great asset to me now and enables me to write well-rounded characters.
A.X.: Your first book, I LET YOU GO, was really subversive. How did you manage to outline Jenna's profile?
C.M.: There is a huge twist in I LET YOU GO, which changes everything the reader has believed. It was incredibly hard to write, and required an almost forensic level of detail. I wrote eight drafts, each one tightening up the twist. It was important to maintain the truth of Jenna’s story, so I spent lots of time looking at her character and her backstory, and imagining how she would be feeling.
A.X.: And then, I SEE YOY. As you said, you were inspired the story by observing the people in the Subway, where they make the same route every day. What was it that fascinated you most through observing people? Did you imagine what the background of their life might be?
C.M.: I went to London with a friend of mine who’s a commuter. We were standing on the platform, and she moved me about two metres to the left and said, ‘If we stand here, when the train gets in, we’ll be in exactly the right place for the doors.’ And sure enough, the train came and the doors opened, and because we were standing in just the right space, we got on and got the last two seats. She could have done her commute blindfolded: she knew exactly which way to go, she knew which escalator went faster than the other, she reached out and picked up a copy of Metro without even looking, and I realised that all over the world, there are people doing exactly the same thing, every single day. We find routine very comforting, very familiar. The crime writer in me (and the former police officer) immediately thought about the risks that we’re opening ourselves up to.
A.X.: After two successful books, did you feel "pressure" that you have to meet the requirements of your reading audience?
C.M.: Writing I SEE YOU after I LET YOU GO had done so well was really challenging. I had days where there was so much good news coming in about I LET YOU GO that it paralysed me, and I couldn’t write anything at all. I had a couple of false starts, writing a book that actually just wasn’t strong enough, which I then put to one side. But as soon as I had the concept of I SEE YOU, it was so clear and so strong that I was able to put those concerns and that pressure to one side, and just thought, all I can do is write the best book that I can write. I had similar difficulties when I started LET ME LIE, but this time I trusted myself more, and the process was easier.
A.X.: What was the biggest challenge you encountered when you started writing «LET ME LIE» and how did you overcome it?
C.M.: Let Me Lie had rather miserable origins. I’d had a meeting with my editor and decided that the book I was writing wasn’t good enough – 60,000 words were going in the bin. Travelling home, the idea for the new book came to me in a flash and I knew that this book was the one I should be writing. I started work that night and had a first draft to my editor a few months later. The biggest challenge was the first major twist, which required very careful writing to make sure it worked, without ‘cheating’ the reader.