Hello my fellow bookworms and page turners, This will be my final post on the Britcrime event!, this post will cover Panel Ten which was the final open Panel of the event (with the exception of the Slaughtered Author) the Literary Festival, was moderated by my good friend Stephanie Cox. (please check out her blog)
Due to the sheer amount of information and chatter that you would expect in a open event such as this, all questions, where sent 24 hours in advance and where typed into the comment section for the present authors to answer in real time. In this post I will be documenting some of the questions within all the individual authors panel 10 Q&A’s.
Panel 10 – Femme Fatales : Helen Giltrow | Ava Marsh | Marnie Riches
Panel 10 – Femme Fatales : Helen Giltrow | Ava Marsh | Marnie Riches
Ava Marsh, Author of Untouchable
Q: Mason Cross: what other authors (if any) inspired you when you were writing Untouchable?
A: Hi, Mason. Bloody hell, trust you to ask something difficult 😉 I’m not sure I had any writer or book in mind. I wanted to find my own way into telling Grace’s story. I was rather aware that people might compare it to Secret Diary of A London Call Girl, but hand on heart I haven’t read that book, though I did watch a bit of the TV show.
Q: Sarah Ward : how sympathetically did you want to portray the men who visit prostitutes?
A: great question. I felt quite strongly that I wanted to break through the stereotypes surrounding prostitution. I’ve met people on both sides of the equation and in the main they’re nice, normal people. It’s as silly to assume all prostitutes and punters are the same, as it would be to say all writers and readers are the same.
So yes, I have a lot of sympathy with many of the men who visit escorts. Many have really genuine reasons for seeking physical and indeed emotional connection outside their marriage or relationship.
Q: Book Trail: you’ve chosen a kind of femme fatale we’ve not read much about in novels. How did you come to chose Stella and her world..well two worlds
A: The book started with the idea that escorts actually enjoy a very privileged insight into a world most of us are excluded from, and it wasn’t long until I was asking myself what would happen if a woman like Stella discovered something clandestine. What would she do? What would be her options? How would it rebound on her?
Q: having written in other genres are you permanently tempted over to the darkside now? Are there other genres you’d like to explore?
A: I think I’m probably hooked. I read a lot of literary fiction, but I enjoy writing things that are quite fast-paced. I’m not sure I could bear to spend years writing one novel – what would you do for all that time?
One of my favourite book and film genres is sci-fi – I read tons of it as a teen. Love all that Philip K Dick reality bending stuff. But I could never ever write it. I don’t have that sort of imagination.
Q: Christine Elizabeth : what’s your next book about?
A: It’s about an ex porn star, called Kitty. We join her in prison, and the story is essentially her account of how she got there.
Helen Giltrow, Author of The Distance
Q: Lesley Mace : In The Distance Karla operates in the shadows, selling information to the criminal world. Traditionally suspense fiction would have a male protagonist operating in this role. Do you think it’s important for her to have a recognisable moral standpoint, despite her job? And in what way (if at all) do you think her gender has to affect her moral standpoint?
A: I probably ought to start with a quick into to my lead character, Charlotte Alton, aka Karla, who runs a successful business trading information with criminals. But when she’s approached by an old and trusted client with a particularly dangerous job, she knows something’s wrong, and starts to investigate. So yes, she definitely fits the ‘hero from the wrong side of the tracks’ mould – and people have remarked that that sort of character is usually male. But given her line of work – which requires a good judge of character, knowledge of information technology and an ability to cover her tracks, why shouldn’t she be female?.. Going to part 2 of Lesley’s question, about Karla having a recognisable moral standpoint – yes, definitely, but I think that’s true of even the most unlikely heroes: there must be some moral line they won’t cross. Otherwise, how can you root for them? How can you empathise with them? In Karla’s case: she hands terror-related information to British Intelligence and she’ll happily shop psychopaths, paedophiles and those who indulge in sadism or torture. I suspect that’s true of many a professional criminal: there’s a line they’ll never cross… On to part 3 of Lesley’s question: ‘And in what way (if at all) do you think her gender has to affect her moral standpoint?’ Hmmmm. Interesting one. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in discussions with TV companies interested in adapting the book, but one in particular was very troubled by the idea that Karla was a criminal – and a woman. The gender thing was HUGE for them. They felt audiences wouldn’t tolerate any form of criminality for a woman; I get the impression audiences felt such criminality would be unnatural. I’ve got to say, I can’t talk for TV audiences but I do think as readers we judge our female characters differently. We’re more interested in whether a character is intriguing and believable, rather than if they conform to implied social norms!
Q: Mason Cross : everyone asks about lead actors, but who would you want to direct the movie of The Distance? And would you want to write the script?
A: gosh, direct the movie and write the script? How far ‘in your dreams’ am I allowed to go. I’m a huge fan of Danny Boyle and Paul Greengrass. Boyle because he seems to remove the safety net in his films – you’re never assured of a happy ending. Greengrass because of the Bourne movies, which were stunning. I’ll probably come up with more before the panel ends. Script? Oooh, need more time for that one… Any suggestions, Mason? Are you putting yourself forward? I guess once you’ve finished adapting the Carter Blake books
Q: The Book Trail : The Program was a very intriguing premise. What made you think of this and how did you research it?
A: Thanks for asking about the Program – my experimental prison, where the hitman Johanssen has been sent to kill an inmate. Honestly, it came out of the character of Johanssen. The book was originally to be his, before Karla hijacked it – I loved the idea of sending this driven professional killer on a lethal job, but I wanted to send him into an environment where he would be challenged, and where HE would be the good guy. Also – because he’s so damn efficient – I wanted an environment where he couldn’t just do the job and walk away. Within a prison he not only has to carry out the job – he has to get out alive. So, a lethal prison, effectively run by inmates rather than staff … oh, and his target’s female … so, let’s call it a ‘secure community’. And the Program was born. I read up a lot on conditions within giant US prisons, to get a feel for the conditions. But it all started out with the challenged I wanted to set my male lead.
Q: Tammy Cohen : There was a piece in the Telegraph recently about whether ‘The Strong Female Lead Character’ has had her day, and it’s time we all started writing more rounded, complex women who have their weaknesses just like all of us. Do you have an opinion on that?
A: I think I saw that article – it was based on a quote from Samantha Shannon I think? And I couldn’t agree more about the need for rounded, complex women characters. I did wonder if Shannon, writing in the YA/fantasy crossover area, finds she’s under pressure to write more of a kick-ass female lead, to fulfil the requirements of a post-Hunger-Games readership, though. Whereas in the crime genre I think we’ve got a lot more leeway to write interesting and complex women characters … ours can be damaged or troubled or scared (or even sociopathic), but provided we can deliver them in the context of an engrossing story, readers will stick around… going back to Tammy’s point about the Telegraph article: I loved Samantha Shannon’s indignation that we’re still talking about ‘strong female leads’ as if they’re not a given. (After all, no one comments on the fact that a book might have a ‘strong male lead’). As one of my fellow panelists said last week when we were discussing it on twitter: why would anyone write a weak female lead? And yeah, I know, I do it too – I love and have oft repeated the quote that described The Distance as ‘George Smiley meets Jason Bourne with a strong female lead’. See? It just trips off the tongue …
Q: Eva Dolan : loved The Distance! Interesting to hear about industry resistance to a female lead, how has she gone down with readers though? Fwiw i think she’s fabulously steely and cool
A: Can I quote you on ‘Fabulously steely and cool’??? smile emoticon I’ve got to say, in defence of the TV industry, that two other companies have loved Karla, so I wouldn’t want to generalise … just that it hadn’t struck me before that came up that her being criminal AND FEMALE could be a problem. Readers seem to like her. I’ve had some great comments from women in their 20s and early 30s – she really seems to strike a chord with them. And bloggers have really got behind the book, which is terrific.
Q: The Book Trail : we would love to know about your inspiration for Georgina and her tenacity? An Erasmus student in Amsterdam is a great premise..
A: George was my response to Lisbeth Salander, actually. Back in the early noughties, when I read the Larsson books, I was really taken with Salander. It was refreshing to see someone I considered to be a really unapologetic, kickass heroine in crime fiction – almost like a superhero. I wanted to write a character that was similarly strong, but one that reflected some of my own experiences – someone who traveled and was academic. A girl from a hard, urban background. And I wanted to make George mixed race, as there’s not enough diversity in mainstream fiction.
Q: Joy Kluver : Why Amsterdam?
A: I chose Amsterdam because as a languages student, I lived in Utrecht in the Netherlands for a year. Although I thought Utrecht was a beautiful place, the city girl in me always hankered after the bright lights and sleaze of Amsterdam – a place I adore. I should have gone there, in retrospect. I visited often and still do, though.
Q: Christine Elizabeth : ‘The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die’ and cannot wait to read the next book. George is a fantastic character. Where did your inspiration for her come from?
A: To be honest, although I took Larsson’s Salander as a starting point for George, her character is very much based on the women around me. She’s tough, gobby and unapologetic, much like the women in my family (and me, if I’m honest). She’s flawed too, but willing to have a go. I wanted a well-rounded heroine – a real woman’s woman. Someone men could fancy and women could aspire to be.
Q: Mason Cross: have you seen your namesake Hitchcock film and do you like it?
A: yes, I saw the Hitchcock film years ago and I can’t remember a bloody thing about it. But lots of people have said having Marnie as a crime-writer’s name is a great move. It hadn’t occurred to me until people pointed out the Hitchcock analogy!
Q: Christine Elizabeth : I’m looking forward to book 2 and more George. What have you got in store for us next
A: Book 2 – The Girl Who Broke the Rules – is done and dusted. The cover’s been approved. The novel was finished weeks ago and I have to say, I prefer it to The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die. George is a little older in this second installment and is studying for her PhD in criminology. She has to hunt down what appears to be a sexually motivated serial killer who has left two women eviscerated in Amsterdam’s red light district – one is an underaged prostitute and one is a niche violent porn actress. It’s dark! And it’s bloody twisty.
that just about wraps up my highlights of Panel Ten n if you wish to read the full panel convocations you can view them here on facebook… and that me fellow booky companions was the Britcrime Literary Festival! I hope you Enjoyed reading the too and throw from both the fans and the Authors, I will be continuing my Crime Week until the Tuesday, there are still some more reviews and possible Interviews to come! so watch this space!.
Until next time, read more books