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Interview with Emma Kavanagh 2016

Emma Kavanagh  promo image

After graduating with a PhD in Psychology from Cardiff University, Emma Kavanagh spent seven years working as a police and military psychologist, training firearms officers, command staff and military personnel, throughout the UK and Europe, to deal with the most extreme situations. An expert in her field, she now applies her knowledge to her writing: creating realistic and incredibly tense stories. Still only in her 30s, Emma has had a fascinating career thus far, which she has now stopped to pursue writing. On April 21st, she publishes her third novel – The Missing Hours (Century) – a tight, fast-paced story which has just about everything fans of psychological thrillers could possibly want.

This is quite a big career shift, leaving behind being an integral part of police and military psychology team. How are you finding the solitary occupation of authorship?

I have always worked alone, from doing my PhD to developing my training courses. Of course, those periods of solitude were interspersed with times of intense interaction - I think the biggest group I ever taught was around 300 people, including a 3 star general. I’m comfortable in my own company, but the thing I miss most is the laughter. Police and military have an amusingly dark sense of humour. I do very much miss that aspect of my former role.

The Missing Hours is taken from multi-viewed but nonetheless first person narratives. What made you decide to use this technique?

I’d love to tell you that this was a strategic choice. I think this is one of the things that is most dominated by the characters I’m writing. I often try a number of different narrative styles before I decide which one works best for any particular character.

DC Leah Mackay and DS Finn Hale are brother and sister. What made you decide upon this dynamic between them?

This one took me a while to figure out. I think that the brother-sister dynamic worked better because it allows for a close relationship which nonetheless can sometimes be competitive, adversarial, even. It also allowed them to have a very easy bantering interplay between them, which I thoroughly enjoyed writing.

You also use ‘case studies’ of different Kidnap & Ransom scenarios. How long did the research aspect of the novel take and how did you make those parts you were left with ‘fit’ the plot of The Missing Hours?

The case studies in The Missing Hours are all entirely fiction. However, it took a lengthy process of research in order to make sure that what I was writing about was plausible, and that the techniques employed were realistic. I spent many hours talking to experts in the K&R field, so that I could better understand the kind of world in which the Cole Group operates. The ‘fitting’ was the tricky part! Ultimately the entire novel became a puzzle I had to solve, which was fun but extremely challenging at times.

The beauty of the novel lies in its pace. Was that something you found difficult to maintain throughout, whilst still maintaining such credible timeline as far as the investigations are concerned?

Pace and credibility are not easy bedfellows. Much of police procedure happens at a slower pace than one would wish to see in a novel, so it can take a lot of careful plotting to ensure that things happen in a realistic manner, whilst still holding the reader’s attention.

What is the best writing advice you have been given?

Get it written, then get it right. You can’t do anything with a blank page, so get the words out and then worry about making them pretty, making sure they are in the right place, after you have your first draft down.

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

I think it’s always a balancing act for publishers - taking a chance on a new voice versus the very real need to make money. I also think that finding new and powerful voices is something that publishers place an extremely high value on. That said, it often doesn’t feel like that when you are that new author trying to break in to the industry. I’m a firm believer that talent will out and that persistence will lead to opportunity.

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

I think the most difficult part is the fear. What if I’ve somehow lost my abilities and cannot write another book? What if no-one buys the books? What if they buy it and hate it? The fear is ever present and has to be battered down before anything productive can be achieved. The most rewarding aspect is simply that I get to tell myself stories for a living, that living within my own fantasy world is an integral part of my job.

If there was one author alive or dead you could ask a question of, who would the author be, why and what would you ask?

JK Rowling has shaped the childhoods of an entire generation of children. She has created a universe that seems unlimited in its scope. I recently got to go to the wizarding world of Harry Potter in Universal Studios, Florida, and the enormity of that, as an author, took my breath away. My question would be - how did it feel to walk the streets of a world that once only existed in your own head? And, does the fact that they are now shared by so many thousands of other people ever make you a little sad, or nostalgic for a time when these people and places were yours alone?

I am currently (inevitably) working on book four, whilst attempting to reassure myself that I haven’t entirely forgotten how to write. I also have a couple of other writing challenges ongoing, which is allowing me to really flex my creative muscles. Watch this space!


If you would like to comment on this interview with Emma Kavanagh in 2016, 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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