Author Thorne Moore answers a few questions from Lovereading about her book Unravelling
Academically bright, socially hopeless. It wasn’t my happiest time.
Were you good at English?
Yes, great at English Language, which involved grammar and what would now be called creative writing. My best O level grade was English Language. However, I very nearly failed English Literature, since it seemed to be about expressing the correct opinions about other people’s writing. I have never been short of my own opinions.
Which writers inspire you?
Iris Murdoch, Barbara Vine, Kate Atkinson – and Jane Austen in a very humble, kneeling-at-her-feet sort of way. I used to use milestones in her life to encourage me not to give up. She was 36 when she first got published. That encouraged me until I was 37. She died at 42, so I gave myself till 42. Seriously annoying when I turned 43. Now I reconcile myself with thinking that she took her time to get going.
So, what have you written?
Well, apart from the 20,000 novels written and discarded since I was about 14, I have three novels published by Honno – A Time For Silence, Motherlove and The Unravelling, which was published in July this year. My first published work was a short story, in a magazine, in 2010, which was voted 1st prize by the readers. It gave me the push I really needed to get over the finishing line.
What genre are your books?
A difficult question. Crime, but not whodunits. I am not interested in crime as a puzzle, with clues to be followed in order to reach a triumphant conclusion. I am not interested in a duel between goody and baddy, with a clever criminal carefully planning a crime and determined to mislead an even more brilliant detective. The crimes I am interested in are the unintended ones, the ones committed on the spur of the moment by people pushed into a corner, crimes that are just the fatally wrong choice at the wrong moment. The crimes they didn’t mean to commit and wish they hadn’t. It’s the psychological impact that interests me, and the long-term consequences. Even if I write about psychopaths, I am really interested in how it all came about and how people would cope with having a psychopath in their midst. Would they recognise the phenomenon or try to pretend it’s not true? And how would they cope with the aftermath? I could call my genre Psychological Mystery, but I quite like Domestic Noir.
How much research do you do?
Enough to make sure I get details right when necessary. I don’t want any reader to start screaming ‘She’s got that wrong!’although I expect some will, but I try to get dates, procedures, little details right. I don’t want to make any research too obvious, though. Sometimes, research uncovers details that I itch to include, because they are so astonishing and interesting, but if they are irrelevant to the theme or characters, I have to be firm with myself and put them to one side. So I put aside all the fascinating information I discovered about a local POW camp, when I was writing A Time For Silence, because it didn’t add to my theme, but I did read local newspapers and talk to local people in order to get the general background right. In my latest book, The Unravelling, I needed to check small things like the weather on very specific days, or TV schedules from years ago. The internet really is a godsend for that sort of research. Instant answers found at the click of a mouse. How did I manage before? On the other hand, it is about a girl who was 10 in 1966, and I didn’t have to research that. I just had to remember it.
Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?
Any author worth her salt is supposed to say, ‘Oh I always write in longhand with my trusty Parker fountain pen,’ or ‘Call me old fashioned, but I still tap with two fingers on the Remington Standard 2 I inherited from my great-great-grandmother.’ Rubbish. The word processor, on my laptop, is the best thing since unsliced Granary bread. No more throwing reams of paper in the bin, no more illegible corrections scribbled in margins, and extra bits sellotaped in. No more realising that you’ve used the wrong name and wondering how many times you’ve done it in the previous 300 pages. Cut, paste, find and replace – brilliant.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I have a loose outline and yes, I see where it takes me. I usually have very definite images of the locations, and of most of the characters but sometimes I think I know what they’re going to do and they surprise me. If they have developed in a realistic enough manner, who am I to argue with their choices?
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Writing isn’t hard. Deleting half of what you’ve written because it shouldn’t be there is the hard bit. All the editing – and the endless waiting. “Writer” is only one letter removed from “Waiter.” That’s the most agonising part of the process.
What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
I’ve never wanted to in the past, but a carrot has been dangled before my nose and I’m seriously thinking about it. I can see the appeal.
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
My thoughts on bad reviews don’t bear repeating. But mostly, really bad reviews are by bad tempered people who got out of bed the wrong side, or who are simply the wrong audience for the book. I don’t write bad reviews, because if I think a book is really bad, I can’t be bothered to review it. If someone can be bothered, he or she is probably prompted by hidden issues. Good reviews, on the other hand, really lift the spirits. They don’t have to be five star reviews to be good. A good review, for me, is one that shows the reader has read my book and thought hard about it. That is very flattering.