Why I write crime

I should have known I would end up writing thrillers. My first attempt at a novel, a frothy take on dating in one's twenties heavily based on my own experience, ended with the otherwise superficial heroine being brutally murdered in her car. In my teens, I wrote and presented a play to the rest of the class where an innocent schoolgirl falls in love with a tattoo artist and the whole romance culminates in a showdown between two street gangs. The twist in that tale is that the tattoo artist was an angel. What can I say, I was a massive fan of City of Angels at the time...

When I first started to pursue fiction writing as a career, I focussed on literary short story competitions and residencies. Crime and thriller novels were light books, the kind that I wrote off as guilty pleasures. But then, I wrote my first crime story and realised how wrong I had been. 

From a personal point of view, and especially from the viewpoint of a woman, writing a thriller is cathartic. It is a way to examine power relationships in the world and subvert them. I write psychological thrillers, which helps me get to the bottom of why ordinary people do bad things. A villain doesn't do something because they are simply evil - they come from a specific context. So in that way, writing in this genre teaches me compassion. 

Then there is the issue of craft. Setting up and maintaining suspense is one of the hardest challenges I have faced intellectually, as a writer. It requires an immense amount of skill, and is something I continue to study every day. Now, more than ever, the novel is competing for attention spans. I have to write something that not only competes with incredible thriller series on Netflix, but that hopefully goes deeper, and does something different in the minds of my readers. Commercial writing is a lot like the myth of 'natural makeup.' It takes a lot of work to make it look easy. 

Having the opportunity to write and sell books within a highly competitive commercial genre has taught me that, no matter what subject matter you write on, and whether your book is marketed towards the  mass market, the intelligentsia, or a niche group of people, stories are important. For me, writing crime has helped me face my own personal demons and challenge the society we live in. And I will know that I have done my job well when I touch a reader in a similar way.