What surprised me most while writing ‘The Monogram Murders’ was that everything I needed seemed to arrive in my head exactly when I needed it.
I’m snobby about books that aren’t crime fiction: if I start reading a literary novel and there’s no mystery emerging in the first few pages, I’m like, ‘Gah, this obviously isn’t a proper book. Why would I want to carry on reading it?’
Only Agatha Christie can write like Agatha Christie.
For me, a big part of writing psychological thrillers is choosing crimes committed for motives which would only apply to a particular person in a particular situation; a unique, one-off motive that is born out of someone’s particular range of psychological afflictions.
I am trying to write novels for properly clever people, but I also want them to be proper novels that also stick in a person’s mind and have an atmosphere about them.
With me, even if my life depended on it, I wouldn’t be able to cry. Not with somebody there. Because even if I’m talking about bad and upsetting things, if there is somebody else in the room, I am trying to entertain them. If there is somebody there, I am in performance mode. I can only cry if I am on my own.
Most crime fiction plots are not ambitious enough for me. I want something really labyrinthine with clues and puzzles that will reward careful attention.
I am a fellow commoner at Lucy Cavendish College. My husband used to be a lecturer at Leeds University, and we lived in Yorkshire for 11 years. When he gave up his job, we realised we could live wherever we liked.
I know a lot of crime writers feel very underrated, like they’re not taken seriously, and they want to be just thought of as writers rather than ghettoised as crime writers, but I love being thought of firmly as a crime writer.
My crime novels are highly structured. I never start out with a dead body. I start with an impossible scenario. Opening questions should be mysterious, weird, intriguing, and contain the seeds of the solution. The structure has to be meticulous – I’m a structure freak.