Today, I’m thrilled to be hosting the next stop on the Sweet Little Lies blog tour, penned by Caz Frear and published by Bonnier Zaffre Books. As part of the tour I have a fab interview with the author. As always, don’t forget to check out all the other fab stops on this tour.
Welcome to the CKT blog, Caz. To start off with, can you tell us a little bit about your debut novel, Sweet Little Lies?
Of course! Sweet Little Lies tells the story of DC Cat Kinsella, a young detective with the Met, who starts to believe that her father may be involved in the murder she’s investigating to and the disappearance of an Irish teenager in 1998. It’s very much a police procedural at heart, however it has strong domestic/family noir overtones as Cat struggles to balance her professional responsibilities and her personal allegiances.
How did you get into writing? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Like most authors, I’ve been writing my whole life, on and off. And yes, I always wanted to be a writer, even if I forgot for a few years in my mid-late-twenties when boys, boozing and going out kind of took over J Things really started to come together though when I was selected to join the Curtis Brown Creative course a few years ago. This was a huge personal challenge but also a privilege to work alongside other aspiring writers and learn from industry-leading experts. I finished the course in 2015 with the seeds of Sweet Little Lies sown (although it has changed quite a bit since then) and in 2016, I became aware of the Richard & Judy Search for a Bestseller competition. The rest, as they say, is history….
You have a killer premise, how did you come up with the idea for Sweet Little Lies and how long did it take you to write?
The honest answer is I don’t know, or can’t remember, how exactly I came up with the idea for Sweet Little Lies. I always had an image of a young Irish woman travelling to the UK for an abortion and something happening to her, and I also knew I wanted to explore a toxic dad-and-daughter relationship as I think it’s a fascinating dynamic and not as represented in fiction as mothers-and-daughters. Added to that, I’d always always wanted to write a police procedural (even though I wasn’t sure if I was qualified to!) so the three things eventually collided, really, and after a lot of false starts, Sweet Little Lies just came to be!
All in all, Sweet Little Lies probably took just under two years to write but that’s taking it right from initial conception until that glorious moment when I tapped The End, and there were certainly periods during that time where life took over and I didn’t write as much. Having the deadline for the R&J competition was a godsend though, as I’d probably only written 30,000 good words by the end of 2015 (plenty of bad words!) but then in 2016 the remaining 80,000 were written in a 7 month deadline frenzy!
Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process, did you plot the story out first or dive right in and see where it takes you? Or a mixture of the two?
I secretly wish that I could just dive right in and see where I end up but I’m a really plotter. Sweet Little Lies and Book 2 spent their early lives on an Excel spreadsheet rather than a Word document, and I refer back to it all the way through – it helps me track who’s in which scene, whether the red herrings are evenly paced, whether there’s too much ‘personal’ stuff and not enough procedural etc. Having been through the Excel stage with Book 2, it now currently exists as a 12,000 word novella – basically I’ve written it in incredibly messy form, I’ve got the gist of everything down and now I need to go back and tell the story properly. I should add, I don’t always stick to the plan, there were a few twists and turns in Sweet Little Lies that actually surprised me, but I need a detailed plan to work from, at least. I find it hard to get going if I can’t see where I’ll end up.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Everyone and everywhere! Characters are usually an amalgamation of several people I’ve crossed paths with. Just overhearing a conversation on a bus can inspire a whole new piece of dialogue. I think ‘inspiration’ is a slightly mystical term as usually there isn’t one image or anecdote that literally inspires the writing of a 100,000 word novel. You just start with a character and a dilemma and get writing (or in my case, get plotting!). Just writing, even badly, fuels inspiration, rather than the other way around. If you wait for the killer idea or the killer hook to hit, you could be waiting a very long time!
Your book is set in London and Ireland and features a detective. How much research did you do for Sweet Little Lies?
In terms of locations, I know London extremely well as I lived there for fourteen years and I know the west coast of Ireland as well as any regular tourist as my parents both hail from there. Mulderrin is a fictional town though. As Ireland only features in very short chapters, I was conscious that I wouldn’t do justice to the beauty of the real towns I know across County Galway and County Mayo and therefore I made a deliberate decision to keep the Irish location pretty vague.
I did a lot of research for the procedural element of the novel. A hell of a lot! While I don’t doubt there’s still a few holes and inaccuracies, it was really important for me to get this bit as right as I could. I’m a huge Lynda La Plante fan and I’m in awe of how authentic her books feel and so I strive towards this, at least. Luckily in the course of writing the novel, I met the most patient and generous police officer who didn’t mind me fact-checking and putting scenarios to him on a daily basis! And obviously these days, Google can be your guide – there isn’t a lot you can’t find out online (although I still think you can’t beat actually speaking to someone in the know.)
What would you say are your top five books you would recommend? (I know this is a hard one)
Very hard! I’ve written a few times about my favourite crime novels but personal favourites are obviously very subjective so instead I’ll try to think of the top five books that I recommend to literally everyone – the crowd-pleasers.
- The Shock of the Fall, Nathan Filer’s novel about mental health tells the story of Matt and the guilt he feels over his younger brother’s death when they were younger. Sounds depressing, right? It isn’t. It’s funny, sharp and made me laugh out loud and cry like a baby. Such clean, unaffected writing too. I force everyone to read it!
- What Was Lost, Catherine O Flynn tells the story of Kate Meaney, a 10 year old girl who went missing from a shopping centre in 1984, and the people who try to find out what happened years later. Again this is a bittersweet tale – a really sad story that still manages to make you laugh and feel warm inside. In Kate Meaney, O Flynn nails a precocious but also desperately lonely 10 year old. She’s one of the strongest child narrators I’ve read.
- Rachel’s Holiday, Marian Keyes had well and truly hit her stride by this 1997 cracker! Rachel’s holiday is actually a stay in a Betty Ford-style rehab centre and while she’s initially pleased, thinking it’ll be a hotbed of celebrities and relaxing massages, what she finds is something quite different. This novel is peak Marian Keyes in terms of combining fierce wit and warmth with a serious subject matter – addiction.
- The Burning Air, Erin Kelly crafts the perfect psychological thriller – atmospheric, taut, beautifully plotted and with a mid-point twist that makes your jaw drop.
- Lying in Wait, Liz Nugent is a recent addition to the ‘authors I rave about’ list. Her first novel, ‘Unravelling Oliver’ was good but Lying in Wait is something else. And what an opening line – ‘My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle but the lying tramp deserved it.’ So deliciously sinister – I absolutely love it.
Just for fun, if you could have a dinner party with three guests (dead or alive) who would they be?
Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac – I just think she’s the coolest woman that’s ever lived – I even named my novel after a Fleetwood Mac song! Actually that’s a lie, my editor came up with the title but I like to think it’s serendipity…
Arsene Wenger – Because I’m a massive Arsenal fan and I’ve got several bones to pick with him. At least around the dinner table, we could keep it civilised.
Victoria Wood – She was an absolute genius and makes me cry laughing every time. I love how she always gave the best lines to other people and she could be known to spend days on one joke, trying to make sure it was as sharp as it could be. I adore that level of perfectionism. I actually have a quote from her as my screensaver, it reminds me that even writing geniuses struggle like the rest of us…
“I used to find writing scary but now I’ve got used to it once it gets going. I used to find it hard to start. Fear of the blank page. The first thing you write down won’t bear any relation to what’s in your head and that’s always disappointing.”
Are you working on anything at the moment? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
Yes – work has definitely started on Book 2! Cat and MIT4 will be back for more fun and games and Cat’s family will still feature. It’s a completely new story and one that Cat isn’t personally attached to this time (don’t want her becoming a Jessica Fletcher type, even though I’m a big fan J) However the events of Sweet Little Lies will still cast a shadow over Cat’s life (and potentially her career *she added cryptically)
Finally, what is the rest of 2017 looking like for you?
Busy! I’m doing lots of promotional stuff for Sweet Little Lies but then I need to roll my sleeves up and properly crack on with Book 2! As I mentioned, I have the most detailed synopsis for Book 2, and I’ve started to have fun with key scenes and key characters, but what I really need to do is stop plotting and playing and just start getting the story in down in a linear way. I’m sure my editor agrees J
Big thanks, Caz for answering my questions!
Thanks so much for asking them!
Sweet Little Lies is out now and can be purchased on Amazon here.
Or Waterstones here.
To find out more about Caz Frear follow her on Twitter at @.