Remember, remember the 5th of November – it’s First Monday Crime night! And to be honest, you’re not going to forget it with the line-up First Monday has provided. William Ryan, Liz Nugent, DB John and Fiona Cummins will all be grilled by Jake Kerridge. To give you a little idea of what to expect, I’ve asked Fiona Cummins a few questions. Fiona burst onto the Crime genre scene last year with Rattle – a scarily good and creepy story about a man with a rather unusual hobby. She turned up the creepiness this year with her sequel – The Collector. Next year, her third book, The Neighbour, will be published. I’ve been fortunate enough to read it. I’ve not written my review yet because I don’t have the words other than – Wow, just wow! It’s an exceptional book. But let’s allow Fiona to tell us a little more about all her books.
Q&A with Fiona Cummins
You have a new book coming out next year, The Neighbour. What can you tell us about that?
It’s a story about a troubled family, The Lockwoods, who move into a new home on The Avenue. But with a spate of local murders and suspiciously friendly neighbours, they soon discover this is a street filled with very dark secrets indeed.
How the hell did you write this book?!!! With so many characters, how did you keep track of their different arcs within the whole story?
Although there are several characters in this book – I always knew it would be a challenge – it was very important to me to make sure their voices are as disparate as possible in order not to confuse the reader. I knew from an early stage who would be responsible for the murders so that made the writing process a bit easier. This is a book filled with red herrings and clues, and I had to be extremely careful not to give too much away while at the same time creating suspicion, which was tricky at times. The seeds of each story are scattered throughout the book and as it reaches its climax, the separate threads begin to weave together (I hope!).
Your first two books, Rattle and The Collector told the very creepy story of The Bone Collector aka Mr Silver. Where did you get the idea for him?
I had this vision of an older man in a pin-striped suit and shiny black shoes for a long time. Tall, thin, lived-in face. Full of threat and dark compulsions, but who also loved his wife very deeply. It’s only now that I realise this shadowy figure, hovering on the periphery of life, was inspired by my experience of being stalked as a teenager by a married – and faceless – merchant banker who worked in London.
One of the things I love about your books is your ability to set the scene using weather and nature. Is this something you consciously do?
I think that both these elements can almost become characters in their own right. I do think about setting and how can I use it to emphasise themes and emotions within my writing. I’m interested in the natural world too, but the use of this is rather more unconscious, although it does seem to recur. Particularly dead birds and animals. I’m not sure what this says about me.
You always have great names for your characters. How do you choose them?
I love choosing unusual names for my characters. I have done this since I began writing because I’m constantly striving to find a way to make them memorable. I collect names. If I hear an unusual one, I squirrel it away until I can find a character I think it will suit. I find them all over the place, from overheard conversations to the credits at the end of films.
You previously worked as a journalist. Has this helped with your fiction writing?
In numerous and immeasurable ways. It helps with the discipline of deadlines, the process of being edited, writing tight and punchy dialogue. But it’s not just about the nuts and bolts of being a journalist. It’s about empathy too. Most books that resonate with me do so because of the emotion at the heart of the story. I’ve covered many high profile murder investigations, and once you’ve sat down with the families of victims, pressed up against their grief, the desire to be as authentic and respectful as possible also becomes extremely important.
You’ve done a Faber course. What was the most important thing you learnt there?
Finish what you start. Don’t be seduced by shiny new ideas. Draft, redraft and redraft again.
Is there any further news on the TV series of Rattle?
There is – but my lips are sealed for now!
On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you to be doing First Monday Crime?
I’m so excited, it’s OFF the scale.
Thank you so much for answering my questions, Fiona. Monday 5th November is going to be great so don’t miss out on your chance to be there. Make sure you book your seat by clicking here. And you can find out more about Fiona Cummins and her books here.