Fiction Blog, Guest Posts, Musings & Bookish Things, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Guest Post: Exploring Truth in Crime Fiction by Kate Evans

Today, I’m excited to welcome back crime fiction author Kate Evans. She’s talking about using her Scarborough Mysteries series as a vehicle to explore human truths, psychology, and mental health. Whether you’re a writer or a reader, this is a fascinating take on one author’s approach to fiction! Stay tuned tomorrow, when I’ll be reviewing Kate’s latest book, The Art of Breathing.


art-of-the-imperfect-cover‘What should the novel do: be a mirror to the reader’s world, reflecting it back at her, or be a clear pane of glass, not reflecting but offering something away from the self, a vista of a bigger, wider, different world outside? The moral energy of the novel form derives from its capacity to imagine the lives of others. This empathy can be seen as the beginning of the moral sense.’ Neel Mukherjee, shortlisted for 2014 Booker Prize.

Mirror or window, I enjoy novels which are either or both. I want my reading to make me think, make me ask questions, offer me perspectives on parts of the world I am unlikely to visit.

I write the kind of novel I would like to read, which means a novel which looks askance at the world we live in.

My own experience of depression and therapy and then my training as a psychotherapeutic counsellor led me to interrogate how we in the UK (and, perhaps, more widely in Western culture) perceive mental health. I am intrigued by discussions around why we talk about physical and mental health, why are the two separated? What we mean by good and bad mental health, what is the line, the distinction? About the idea of diagnosis, are we medicalising too much what are straightforward human responses?

art-of-survival-coverThese kinds of questions underpin my three Scarborough Mysteries novels: The Art of the Imperfect (long-listed for the Crime Writers Association debut dagger); The Art of Survival; and The Art of Breathing. The series is set in Scarborough, the North Yorkshire coastal town where I live. The stories are told from the point of view of three characters: Hannah Poole; detective sergeant Theo Akande; and Aurora Harris. Hannah is training to be a counsellor, but her own rickety sense of self is sent into turmoil when her father dies and she begins to get back in touch with the memories of the childhood abuse she suffered. Theo is black and gay and a new-comer to Scarborough, trying to find his place on the town’s police force. Clever and kind, he undoubtedly has the most psychological equilibrium of the three story-tellers. Aurora Harris is neighbour and friend to Hannah; solicitor and new mum she struggles to balance these roles. Each book has a different crime which the three characters are drawn into, plus the emotional stories of Hannah, Theo and Aurora twist, interweave and develop.

Through Hannah’s narrative, in particular, I hope to give the reader a taste of depression from the inside and also the experience of a possible route towards recovery. I know that several readers found Hannah ‘too hard to like’, missing, perhaps, the point that depression leads to a self-loathing which is unutterably distressing and all-encompassing.

The Scarborough Mysteries are a result of a thirty year long journey of writing and they didn’t find their genre – crime – until I made the decision to give my novel writing the time and space to come to fruition. So why crime? It was one of those weird writing experiences when I’d been tussling with the problem of structure and one day I woke up knowing that a crime novel would offer me the scaffolding within which to construct my story. Since I’ve always enjoyed reading a lot of crime novels, it was relatively easy for me to reacquaint myself with the crafting of one and the writing began to flow. It was a good decision. Having said this, the first in the series, The Art of the Imperfect, is less like a traditionally plotted crime novel than my third, The Art of Breathing, and I did a lot more planning for this most recent book with the usual shape of a crime novel in mind.

art-of-breathing-coverIt was only after taking my decision that I began to hear writers talking about crime as a genre for exploring the way our society is today. For instance, author Val McDermid has said that, of all the genres, crime is the best at tackling current issues. In a recent Artsnight (BBC2, 22nd July 2016), she explored what she described as the ‘complex relationship between truth and fiction.’ She said she had, ‘Walked the fine line between making things up and staying real.’ And, for her, ‘The very act of imagining has been a powerful way of accessing the truth.’

In addition, I want my novels to go against what I see as a wrong-headed trend in modern day crime writing, the propensity to label the perpetrator of the crime, usually murder, as a psychopath. For me this is too easy. It also has the tendency to mark out the murderer as ‘other’, it’s too cosy, for me, for the reader to think, ‘I am not a psychopath and so I would never do anything as awful as this.’

In my stories I want to explore what measures very ordinary people might take – out of fear, jealousy, hate, love – and how it might all go horribly wrong. I do believe most people who commit crime, particularly abuse and murder, are able to justify their actions to themselves, and I am very interested in those justifications. I do think we have many potentials within us and if we ignore what may be lingering in what Carl Jung called our ‘shadow’ we do so at our peril. Firstly because we are not fully aware of all of ourselves. Secondly, we might unknowingly act from our shadow which could have disastrous consequences for ourselves and others.

In the UK, around a quarter of the population live with emotional or psychological vulnerabilities. I hope they may recognise some truth in my novels. And, maybe, those who are around them may gain an increased understanding of what mental health and resilience means.


Kate EvansAuthor Biography
Kate Evans is a writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Her non-fiction articles have been published in (among other publications) The Guardian, The Independent, Counselling Today, Poetry News, The Journal for Applied Arts in Health and The Journal of Poetry Therapy. Her book Pathways Through Writing Blocks in the Academic Environment was published by Sense Publishers in April 2013. She has created two word-based installations for the arts festival Coastival, one inspired by the works and life of Edith Sitwell. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Sussex University and teaches on the Degree in Creative Writing at the University of Hull, Scarborough campus. She is trained as a psychotherapeutic counsellor.

In October 2016 she will be appearing at the Beverley Literature Festival. The Art of Breathing will be launched in WH Smiths in Scarborough on the 29th October 2016.

Connect with Kate Evans
Email: kateevans@tinyonline.co.uk
Website: www.scarboroughmysteries.com
Twitter: @KateEvansAuthor
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kate.evans.author
The Art of the Imperfect: https://goo.gl/JrGat2
The Art of Survival: https://goo.gl/6RPzk5
The Art of Breathing: http://amzn.to/2fbu1g7

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Month-End Update: October 2016

With a productive October behind me, I can feel the wintry winds of November nipping at my heels. Despite how much I accomplished in October, I don’t really have much to say about it. The month revolved around finishing up my nonfiction prompts series, which I did, with the writing and publication of 100 Horror Writing Prompts (Fiction Ideas Vol. 10). I also had a great reading month and blazed through quite a few titles on my to-be-read list.

As November begins, I feel like a race horse prancing at the starting gate. It’s NaNoWriMo season, and for some reason, I’ve decided I have time to take on the challenge. I’m out of excuses, and I will finally (with much anxiety and cautious excitement) be returning to the world of fiction with Desertera #3. Wish me luck – and feel free to add me as a writing buddy @KateMColby!

Writing & Editing

  • Blog Posts Written 7 and one guest post
  • Fiction Words Written  0
  • # of Days I Wrote Fiction  0
  • Nonfiction Prompts Written 100 prompts (plus work on the prompts anthology)
  • # of Days I Wrote Nonfiction 20
  • Drafts Revised Proofread of 100 Horror Writing Prompts
  • # of Days I Revised  1
  • Outlines Written – 1 (upcoming prompts anthology)
  • Days Without Creation/Production  11

Reading

  • Books Begun/In-Progress

*Remember, I review every book I read on my Goodreads page.

Author Business Activities

Goals for November

  • Participate in and “win” NaNoWriMo 2016
  • Finish and decide on publication date of the prompts anthology
  • (Beta-)read and review books on TBR list

What did you accomplish in October? What goals are you working towards in November? What is your NaNoWriMo project? Share below!

Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things, The Desertera Series

Go Indie Now! Bibliotherapy Box

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EDIT: Since the writing of this article, Go Indie Now! book box has become the Literary Vacation Club. You can visit their all-new website at: https://www.literaryvacationclub.com/

Okay, I’ve been sitting on this super-fun announcement for a while now, and I’m so thrilled that I can finally share the good news without spoiling anything. Earlier this year, Ashley Nestler, the founder and CEO of the Go Indie Now! book box subscription service contacted me and asked to feature The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1) in her September Alternative Realities box. Of course, I said yes!

So what is the Go Indie Now! box? It’s a book box subscription service (like OwlCrate) that sends readers a new book (or two) each month, along with a host of other really fun goodies! But here’s the catch: it only features independently published novels! Being an indie author herself, Ashley wanted to create a way for readers discover professional, well-written indie books (and help deserving authors reach new fans, too!).

What I love about Go Indie Now! is that Ashley has focused on making it a bibliotherapy box. As it says on the Go Indie Now! website:

“We are all about mental and emotional healing through literature, while also promoting the makers movement — a movement that promotes handmade items and artisans.”

Each box features at least one item that relates to each of the five senses. Here’s the full list of items that featured in the September Alternative Realities box (this represents The Full Scoop, General Fiction plan):

Ashley is one of the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever met. I’m not promoting her Go Indie Now! book box for my own gain, or even because I was featured in it. The truth is: Ashley is providing a wonderful service to the indie author and bookworm communities, and she deserves to be recognized for it.

So, thank you, Ashley for all you’re doing for readers and authors everywhere. I hope your boxes bring happiness, peace and creativity to all who open them!

If you’d like to learn more about the Go Indie Now! book box mission or sign up for a subscription, check out their website at https://goindienow.cratejoy.com.

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Month-End Update: September 2016

Goodbye, book launch month! As you likely noticed, September was all about the release of The Courtesan’s Avenger (and, of course, this month’s booklet: 100 Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense Writing Prompts). Unfortunately, my fiction book launch dominated the month, and the booklet took up what little time remained. While I’m thrilled to have them both out in the world, I’m even more excited to get back into creation mode. Desertera #3 has been calling my name for weeks now, and it’s about time I answered. Fingers crossed that October can be a strong start leading into November (aka National Novel Writing Month).

One thing that I did manage to make a lot of time for was podcasts. When I first started on my indie publishing journey, I would listen to podcasts all day at work. They helped me get up to speed on the industry and gave me a sense of community in what is an often lonely journey. I’ve really missed listening to them, so making time to do so on my commute (and at the gym gasp!) has been really refreshing.

On a personal note, my husband and I also took a very bookish anniversary trip to Salem, Massachusetts, in September. I share more about the trip, my inspiration, and a few travel tips in this post. For now, allow me to recap September and get sorted for October.

Writing & Editing

  • Blog Posts Written  12 and one reblog
  • Fiction Words Written  0
  • # of Days I Wrote Fiction  0
  • Nonfiction Prompts Written 95 prompts
  • # of Days I Wrote Nonfiction  15
  • Drafts Revised  Final proofread of The Courtesan’s Avenger (Desertera #2)
  • # of Days I Revised  4
  • Outlines Written –  1 (100 Horror Writing Prompts)
  • Days Without Creation/Production  7

Reading

  • Books Reviewed on Blog
    • None

*Remember, I review every book I read on my Goodreads page.

Author Business Activities

Goals for October

  • Begin writing Desertera #3
  • Write and publish 100 Horror Writing Prompts (Fiction Ideas Vol. 10)
  • Reflect on one year as a published author and set goals for year two
  • Catch up on my friends’ books and help a few out with special projects

What did you accomplish in September? What goals are you working towards in October? Share below!

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Month-End Update: August 2016

August went so quickly that I almost feel like it didn’t happen. As in July, I enjoyed a much-needed break from author work toward the end of the month while I visited my family and friends in Kansas. However, my mini-vacation also left me a little behind heading into September. The next two weeks will be especially busy, as I prepare for the publication of The Courtesan’s Avenger, but I’m ready to tackle my monster to-do list. Stay tuned for more updates – there are a lot coming very soon!

Writing

  • Blog Posts Written  9
  • Fiction Words Written  0
  • # of Days I Wrote Fiction  0
  • Nonfiction Prompts Written 105 prompts (plus two rounds of front/back matter material)
  • # of Days I Wrote Nonfiction  9
  • Outlines Written –  1 (100 Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense Writing Prompts)
  • Days Without Writing and/or Editing 16 (thank you, Kansas!)

Editing/Revising

  • Drafts Revised  Final line edits and first proofread of The Courtesan’s Avenger (Desertera #2)
  • # of Days I Revised  7

Reading

*Remember, I review every book I read on my Goodreads page.

Author Business Activities

Goals for September

  • Final proofread of The Courtesan’s Avenger
  • Finish cover design process (now that my designer is back from vacation)
  • Publish The Courtesan’s Avenger
  • Write and publishing 100 Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense Writing Prompts (Fiction Ideas Vol. 9)

What did you accomplish in August? What goals are you working towards in September? Share below!