Last summer, I met fellow American writer Val Penny at the Winchester Writers' Festival - a marvellous weekend, with opportunities to meet and mingle with writers at all stages of their careers from all over the world. Val's a crime writer who also lives on this side of the pond, so it was good to compare notes and learn more about her writing. Since then, her brilliant Edinburgh-based novel Hunter'sChase has been published - the first in her series of Edinburgh Crime Mysteries.
Here, Val gives us few words about crime writing.
Reasons to Write a Crime Novel
Often, those who write crime novels find an emotional release in their craft. Crime novelists deal with the dark things that people usually push to the side of their minds in order to get on with every day life. The cathartic attraction of writing can be decisive.
Some crime authors tell of poor sleep patterns, punctured by night-mares that are repaired when they start to write. Others, panic, constantly scanning doorways for signs of danger. The stiffening fear that afflicts them resolves when they are busy writing crime.
The Story-Telling Urge
The sources for crime novels are many and varied. Ideas can spring from the news and current affairs; memories from the past and historical events or things that puzzle or fascinate the writer. Once an author begins to exercise their creative muscles, they often find that they run into stories demanding to be told. The stories demand to be told and will not stop coming.
It is often said that writers can be difficult people: gloomy, competitive and quarrelsome. However, for the most part, I have found crime writers to be an inclusive and convivial bunch. They are certainly hard-working. The pressure of producing a book a year is intense, yet they never seem to turn their backs on fun. If you have a chance to go to a crime-writers' convention, do take it. They are exhausting, exhilarating and irresistible.
An Outlet for Aggression
The Thrill of Research
I can personally confirm that the research you do for crime novels and for academic purposes are equally satisfying. It is also extremely diverse. It may involve visiting prisons, refuges, police stations or drug dens. Police are often very willing to be of assistance to crime writers, even if it is just to avoid being irritated when otherwise the writers would get police procedures wrong. This information is most useful and helpful. Indeed, when you are writing a novel, no information or experience is wasted!