The sea, the sea #killerfest15

Category: Author Post

A few thoughts about the importance of setting in Mindsight

We’d reached the Old Town, huddled between two hills, and the gulls were circling over the boats drawn up on the shingle and the tall, black net huts where the fishermen stored their gear.

Mindsight is about memory, guilt, loss and above all about a search for the truth and I didn’t have to think too hard about where to set the story. I live in Hastings, on the south coast of England, and it seemed the ideal retreat for Clare when she’s released from prison. She wants to be in a place where no one knows her, where she can walk up and down hills until she’s exhausted and where the sight and sound of the sea may help to ease her pain.

I love the sea and as I was writing I realised it was becoming almost an extra character. Like memory and human relationships, the sea is unpredictable. On a warm summer’s day it can be wild, with white peaks of foam racing and churning, and yet there are times in midwinter when it’s a tranquil sheet of brilliant blue. At night it becomes a mysterious void: a dark emptiness that can still be heard as it whispers or roars, tumbling to the shore. It’s invisible but impossible to ignore, just like Clare’s buried memories.

A single light shone in the black absence of the sea: a boat moving slowly through the nothingness, night fishing.

The town of Hastings plays an important part in Clare’s story too. It’s often portrayed as a down-at-heel seaside resort, but long before the pier, the amusement arcades and the fair were built it was a working fishing port. And so it remains. The Old Town is a huddle of crooked houses where gulls shriek as they circle above the fishing boats drawn up on the shingle and the black weather-boarded huts that sell the catch straight from the sea. The streets nestle between two hills, each with its Victorian funicular railway clanking up to a wide grassy space with spectacular views of the town, the ruined castle and the English Channel.

Although Clare was hoping to remain anonymous, she discovers that the natives are very friendly, which was something that struck me too when I moved here. Idiosyncratic, bohemian and with an incredible zest for life, many of the locals are artists, musicians and writers. Hardly a month goes by without some kind of festival or celebration, whether it’s for the herring harvest, for May Day or to defend the world record for the largest number of people dressed as pirates. So it’s a place that feels positive about life, which is what Clare needs.

But of course Mindsight is a crime novel and when gales blow up or the sea mist descends Hastings can take on a darker mood. Stories are told about gruesome murders committed by smugglers and about fishermen lost at sea. In last year’s storms huge rocks crashed from the cliffs onto the beach where people had walked not long before and walls and roofs were ripped from houses. The narrow lanes, that the locals call twittens, are picturesque during the day, but they take on a Dickensian gloom when night falls.

The perfect setting for a crime novel, in other words.

Blog by Chris Curran

Latest book: Mindsight

Q&A with author Chris Curran @Christi_Curran #killerfest15

Category: Author Post

Your name: Chris Curran

Tell us about yourself: I was born in London and left school at sixteen to work in the local library – my dream job at the time. After an idyllic few months reading everything on the shelves I returned to full-time education, took my degree, and became a primary school teacher. I’ve also worked as an actress and copy editor amongst other things. I inherited a ready-made family when my two young stepchildren came to live with us. Later my own son arrived and we moved to the south coast of England. Now that all three children have left home the space they vacated is rapidly filling with books.

Tell us about your latest book: Mindsight is a psychological thriller. The story begins on the day Clare is released from prison. She crashed her car, whilst under the influence of drugs, killing her father, husband and young son. Although she can’t remember anything about the accident she has accepted her guilt. The only thing that has kept her going over the years is the hope of one day being reconciled with her surviving son. Tom. But when she meets him again, Tom demands answers – he wants to know exactly what happened on the night of the crash.

So Clare is forced to delve into the past. But as she does so she begins to fear that she may be putting not only herself, but also Tom, into danger.

When did you start writing? I wrote my first novel when I was about 12. It was a Famous Five rip off and filled one small exercise book.  Even I could tell it wasn’t much good, so I gave up for 20 years. It took me around 20 more years to get a novel published.

Where do you write? Usually in the dining room next to my kitchen so that I can top up with Earl Grey as often as I want. I write standing up, like Charles Dickens (!), with my laptop on a bookshelf just above waist height. Standing allows me to pace up and down, which I like to do, and to work out action scenes by performing all the parts. Needless to say I never work in public places!

Which other authors do you admire? Too many to list, but some modern crime writers I love are:  Cathi Unsworth, Tana French, Elly Griffiths, Sheila Bugler and two independently published authors, JJ Marsh and Gillian Hamer.

Book you wished you’d written? Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. People don’t always think of Du Maurier as a crime writer, but her best books have crime at their heart and they are wonderfully atmospheric. What’s brilliant about Rebecca is that it’s not obvious until a long way into the book that there even has been a crime. And you leave the story with many, many questions – the mark of a special novel.

Greatest fictional criminal: For me it has to be Count Fosco, from The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. He is such a complex creation: fascinating, but repellent, evil but also attractive.

Greatest crime or criminal from the real world: The greatest crime is the fact that people are living in abject poverty whilst others enjoy extraordinary luxury.

Greatest fictional detective: My favourite at the moment has to be Matthew Shardlake. He epitomises Raymond Chandler’s description of the perfect detective as a man who walks the mean streets but is not himself mean. In Shardlake’s case those mean streets are in the London of Henry V111: one of the most fascinating periods of history.

What scares you? The thought of anything happening to the people I love.

Are you ever disturbed by your own imagination? I’m a real scaredy cat. If I’m writing a particularly menacing scene I often find myself looking behind me and flinching when I hear an unusual noise.

3 crime books you would recommend to EVERYONE

Do you listen to music when you write? No. I need silence to hear the characters’ voices and the sounds of the story rather than anything from the world around me.

Are you on social media? Yes. Writing is a solitary occupation so it’s great to interact with the world on Twitter and connect with friends through Facebook.

How can fans connect with you? Through my website http://chriscurranauthor.com/ My facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chris-Curran/421251721385764?ref=aymt_homepage_panel Or follow me on twitter @Christi_Curran

An autobiographical setting: Chris Curran on MINDSIGHT

Category: Author Post

To celebrate the publication of Mindsight, we’ve got an exclusive post from the author on her affinity for the sea and the role it played in her new book.

 

A single light shone in the black absence of the sea: a boat moving slowly through the nothingness, night fishing.

 

Mindsight is about memory, guilt, loss, and above all about a search for the truth. I didn’t have to think too hard about where to set the story. I live in Hastings, on the south coast of England, and it seemed the ideal retreat for Clare when she’s released from prison. She wants to be in a place where no one knows her, where she can walk up and down hills until she’s exhausted, and where the sight and sound of the sea may help to ease her pain.

I love the sea, and as I was writing I realised it was becoming almost an extra character. Like memory and human relationships, the sea is unpredictable. On a warm summer’s day it can be wild, with white peaks of foam racing and churning, and yet there are times in midwinter when it’s a tranquil sheet of brilliant blue. At night it becomes a mysterious void; a dark emptiness that can still be heard as it whispers or roars, tumbling to the shore. It’s impossible to ignore, just like Clare’s buried memories.

The town of Hastings plays an important part in Clare’s story. It’s often portrayed as a down-at-heel seaside resort, but long before the pier, the amusement arcades and the fair were built it was a working fishing port. And so it remains. The Old Town is a huddle of crooked houses where gulls shriek as they circle above the fishing boats drawn up on the shingle and the weather-boarded huts that sell the catch straight from the sea. The streets nestle between two hills, each with its Victorian funicular railway clanking up to a wide grassy space with spectacular views of the town, the ruined castle and the English Channel.

Although Clare was hoping to remain anonymous, she discovers that the locals are very friendly, which was something that struck me when I moved here. Idiosyncratic, bohemian and with an incredible zest for life, many of the locals are artists, musicians and writers. Hardly a month goes by without some kind of festival or celebration, whether it’s for the herring harvest, May Day or to defend the world record for the largest number of people dressed as pirates. It’s a place that feels positive about life, which is what Clare needs.

But of course Mindsight is a crime novel and when gales blow up or the sea mist descends Hastings can take on a darker mood. Stories are told about gruesome murders committed by smugglers and about fishermen lost at sea. In last year’s storms huge rocks crashed from the cliffs onto the beach where people had walked not long before and walls and roofs were ripped from houses. The narrow lanes, that the locals call twittens, are picturesque during the day, but they take on a Dickensian gloom when night falls.

The perfect setting for a crime novel, in other words.

 

If you missed our Q&A with Chris earlier this week, be sure to check it out. Mindsight is available now! You can also follow Chris on twitter @Christi_Curran.