Wednesday, July 10, 2019

One of these things is not like the other... by Cathy Ace

Reading: Do you read the kind of books that you write or do you tend to read books that are the opposite or different – and why?

Another interesting question. It's made me stop and think about two things – “What type of books do I write?” and “What type of books do I read?”

Funny thing – I wonder if my answer to the first question will tally with what those who read my work think!

So, here goes. Part One – what do I write?

My Cait Morgan Mysteries are traditional mysteries, in that they are all closed circle mysteries, classic “whodunits” with a recurring pair of not-so-amateur sleuths (a professor of criminal psychology and retired homicide detective) but with a different location (different country!) for each book, so new characters/suspects etc each time. When I planned them, I wanted to upend some of the expectations those who had read Agatha Christie might have, in that I enjoyed the way the Poirot PI novels moved from place to place, with new suspects each time, but also enjoyed the sleuthing aspect of Miss Marple (and the Marples where she’s in an exotic locale vs St Mary Mead). 

So – contemporary, not historical, not with a PI but a sleuth well-versed in crime and criminality, with an ever-changing stage and cast in exotic locations. 

I would never have chosen to call these books “cozy” and I still don’t think they are; the use of the word “cozy” to describe the books, and the use of the word “eccentric” to describe Cait Morgan, were choices made by my publisher. My thoughts? They are traditional, not cozy…in that they are complex puzzle plots, tackling some darker themes, which are plot-driven rather than character-driven. Also, I don't think Cait is eccentric - she's just...Cait.

My WISE Enquiries Agency books are character-driven, and much cozier – though they feature four professional private investigators, rather than sleuths. Another sign of me wanting to turn expectations on their head – usually PIs are rather less softly-boiled than mine. They run their business (after the first book) out of a converted barn at a Welsh stately home. There are cats, dogs, cakes, much tea is drunk and the cases are a bit batty and quintessentially British. As are the four main characters – one of whom is Welsh, one Irish, one Scottish and one English – hence WISE. The recurring location of the stately home itself – Chellingworth Hall, where the eighteenth Duke, Henry, is in residence, along with his Dowager Duchess mother Althea…who likes to “help” the WISE women – and the local village of Anwen-by-Wye allow for a recurring cast of characters to become familiar to the reader…much more like a St Mary Mead set-up, but with PIs not a sleuth. Each book features several cases for the team to solve – sometimes the cases becoming, or even already being, interconnected.
My most recent book, The Wrong Boy, is a novel of psychological suspense, set in a Welsh clifftop village, where the discovery of human remains in the locale affects the villagers in unexpected ways – not least of all the three generations of women who run the local pub, whose stories and histories entangle retired Detective Inspector Evan Glover and his psychotherapist wife Betty in unimagined ways. It’s a dark, haunting, and ultimately tragic book.

Part Two - What do I read? Waiting on my Kindle: Lee Child, Martina Cole, Alexandra Sokoloff, Margaret Millar, Val McDermid, Craig Robertson, Ruth Rendell, Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, Catriona McPherson, Alan Hunter, Harlen Coben, Steve Martini, Ian Rankin, Luke Jennings, Mick Herron, Lynda La Plante, Robert Crais, Elly Griffiths, Linwood Barclay, Peter Robinson, Barbara Nadel, Len Deighton, John le Carre and Georges Simenon. 

The “coziest” there would be Sue Grafton and Elly Griffiths, I’d say, with a range of gritty, dark, blackly/bleakly-funny tales, with legal, PI and police procedurals, plus a few full-on thrillers, rounding out the list. 

Nothing much like what I write. But that’s what I hope to be enjoying during July, when I am away from my desk for three weeks, with a couple of long flights and some time at my mum’s when I can lie in bed, reading in my childhood room once again – feeling the thrill of the words on the page creating worlds beyond Swansea…

The world outside my childhood bedroom window

As for the worlds I have created since I left the view above...maybe you'd like to find out more about them, or me. You can do that by clicking here. Maybe you'll even consider reading some of my books!

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