CRIMINALLY GOOD: interview with author Cassandra Parkin

1) Who are you and what have you written? 

I write contemporary literary fiction – you can check out my Amazon page HERE.   I blog occasionally HERE, and my twitter handle is @cassandrajaneuk (which is apparently horrifically rude in Dutch, but I’m too stubborn to change it). The Winter’s Child is my fourth novel, and my first crime novel.

2) Why do you write Crime fiction?

When I was about fifteen, a teacher dropped a copy of Kiss, Kiss on my desk and said casually, “You should read these. You’ll like them.” Once I’d got past my outraged disgust that he’d just given me something by the same bloke who wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I started reading.

It was a transformative moment for me. The crimes in those stories were so human and believable – much as I love serial-killer novels, I find criminals who are just like everyone else absolutely compelling. The stories weren’t just about the big reveal, either: sometimes there was a shock ending, but in others you knew what the crime was right from the start. That’s what drew me into Crime as a genre, I think: the awareness that criminals don’t have to be some sort of brilliant / damaged Other. We all have the capability to cross the line.

3) What informs your Crime writing?

For The Winter’s Child, I started with the thing that scares me the most, which is the thought that one of my children could be lost and I would never know what had happened to them. That blank silence – no clues, no more information, just that endless void of waiting – terrifies me, as I imagine it terrifies most parents. But at the same time, there’s the fear of the story resolving, because for almost all of these disappearances, the ending is the discovery of the missing person’s body.

So The Winter’s Child began with the torment of that moment – my heroine Susannah, seeking out information from a fortune teller because she has no-one else left to consult, all the while knowing that finding her lost son Joel will almost certainly mean knowing he’s lost for ever.

4) What’s your usual writing routine?

I tend to write in the mornings, at my dining table. Left to myself, I prefer to write in my pyjamas, but my kids’ friends call for them on the way to the bus-stop and I don’t think it’s fair to make them look at me in all my scruffy un-brushed un-showered glory just before a long day at school, so I only do the pyjama thing at weekends. I have a sort of little tray-table thingy that balances on the table so I can write standing up, and the cats come in and out and yell for cat-treats / for attention / to tell me it’s raining / because they want me to look at a dead bird. The window looks out onto the village main street, so I still feel connected to the outside world.

5) Which Crime book do you wish YOU’D written, and why?

I would love to have written Endless Night by Agatha Christie. I’ve never read one of her books and not loved it, but Endless Night is the one that’s haunted me. Christie was the queen of gently coaxing the reader up the garden path, before leaping out and sucker-punching them from behind the rhododendrons. I reckon Endless Night is the biggest sucker-punch she ever threw.

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