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Interview with Belinda Bauer

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In 2010, Belinda Bauer won the Crime Writer’s Association Gold Dagger for her novel Blacklands, her debut and the first such to win the award in 37 years. Now her sixth novel, The Shut Eye, has been published by Bantam Press and the author speaks with Chris High about the novel and, also, the effect winning the CWA Dagger has had on her career and self-confidence as a writer.

DCI John Marvel is s truly dislikeable character, who pretty much deserves everything he gets. How well do you need to get to know your characters before you commit them to paper?

I need to know them better than I know most of my friends. I have to know how they feel about everything. If I don’t then the plot gets stuck or feels clunky. Only good characters make a good story. And I love John Marvel! He’s such an arse.

The humour in the novel comes across as being extremely fresh. Is this as a result of continuous editing or is it something that comes to you naturally?

Life is funny. And sometimes, so is death.

Anna Buck is, conversely, deeply troubled. How much research did you have to undertake to draw her so vividly?

This kind of characterisation doesn’t come from research, but from experience. We all go through difficult times in our lives but, while most people try to forget about those times, writers hold onto them – whether they want to or not – and draw on them for work.

Do you believe in psychics?

I’m not sure. I used to be a pure sceptic, but now I’m an adulterated sceptic! I think it’s good to be scientific about things and to seek proof, but also to remain open minded to all possibilities until they are disproved.

You won the CWA Gold Dagger in 2010 with your debut novel, Blacklands, the first debut to win the award in 37 years. How did winning the award affect your writing career?

It gives me the self-belief to keep going even when I think I’m rubbish. I spend much of my life thinking everything I do is wrong, so sometimes all I have to cling onto is that Gold Dagger! I look at it and think ‘I’ve done this once so I must be able to do it again!’

What was it that made you want to be a writer and why the crime genre?

I always loved reading, so started making up stories in my head from an early age and found that often they were more fun than the ones I was reading. Throughout my life I would entertain myself for days or weeks, perfecting huge sagas, streams of dialogue and multiple characters, all in my head. I never wrote them down. I’ve always been lazy. As for crime, I never chose to write it. It just so happened that Blacklands had a serial killer in it, and I was off. At first I was worried about being labelled as a crime writer because I had a lot of ideas for other genres, but then I realized there’s barely any story you can’t tell within the crime genre and that it’s actually very liberating.

What is the best writing advice you have been given?

It’s never finished. Leave your completed story alone for as long as possible. A month is good; a year is not too long. When you go back to it, you will see all your mistakes and how to make everything better. If you can’t see your own mistakes, you shouldn’t be a writer.

What would you like to see put in place so as to encourage publishers to take on new writers?

I would only encourage writers to be original, and publishers to reward that.

What do you find the most difficult and most rewarding aspect of writing?

The most difficult thing is to produce a book that matches my original vision.  I am constantly checking to see whether the book is fulfilling its potential. When it does, that’s the most rewarding thing for me, and when OTHER people feel it does, that’s the icing on the cake.

What’s next?

I’m working on my next book, which is called The Beautiful Dead. It’s about art, love and obsession. Oh, and murder, of course!

If you would like to comment on this interview with Belinda Bauer in 2015, please feel free to contact me - GUESTBOOK

“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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