Do you think you’re born a narcissist, or can you become a writer?
Ha! The trick is getting the patient better, and the process of diagnosis is almost the same as that of solving a crime. You have to get answers. I think all writers who go out on the circuit have a degree of narcissism. It takes balls to write a 400-page book and then say to people: “I want you to pay money to read this.” I loved it when Donna Moore got a panel of crime writers to read out the worst reviews they’d ever had. I give my due to them, because they all did, and those reviews were just awful.
What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
There’s a review of Dark Water on Amazon that says: “I couldn’t put this book down… until about 400 pages in. Then it was a huge disappointment. It was a totally engrossing and believable tale of procedural investigation. Then it badly unravelled. The links between the two crimes seemed utterly implausible and then an orgy of very unlikely deaths seem to run out of control. The funeral scene, with the albatross taking off, was, frankly, farcical. So sad.”
That person obviously doesn’t like albatrosses.
Does the symbolism develop as you write, or do you add it in the edits?
I think the writer’s brain goes about, gathering things up which then sit in a part of your brain, working away as you unconsciously write towards them. Then they pop up. Take, for example, the symbolism of crows in The blood of Crows. I found out that the part of the Russian Mafia which the book is about is known as ‘crows’. I knew that crows are bright birds with a very tight social structure, and I found out that they gang up on cats, so you don’t cross a crow.
Now that you’ve run marathons and had books published, what are your remaining ambitions?
I’d like to get the roof of my turret fixed. I don’t know if I have any big ambitions, but every book I’ve written has nearly won something, so it would be nice to go to an award ceremony and walk away with something. Being a narcissist, it’s marvellous when people get it, so the best thing somebody’s said to me was: “I nearly missed a flight because of you.” That’s why I write.
What do you wish you’d known when you started writing?
How to plan a book before writing it. I think that’s also one of my editor’s heartfelt wishes. “It would be a good idea if you knew roughly what’s going on in your book before you write it.” I also wish I’d learned to type. I am of an age when, at school, you were streamed, and I was streamed into physics, i.e. hitting people with a blunt instrument, chemistry, i.e. poisoning them, and biology, i.e. proving they’re dead. I never went anywhere near a keyboard in school, and when I wrote my dissertation at university, someone else typed it up for me. Now I’m totally at a loss, so my editor had to teach me how to track changes and make comments. I could probably write at twice my speed if I could type properly. I have tried, but my fingers just won’t learn – probably because of all that rubbing of buttocks.
Len Wanner © 07/2017
Das Interview mit Caro Ramsey
“The Crime Interviews Volume III”
bei Blasted Heath 2013