Ritual question to start my interviews, can you define you in three words, just three? (three words each, in your case)
Sean: distracted, fearful, curious.
Nicci: small, impatient, insomniac
Writing together is quite unusual. How do you do, what is your working method? What are the advantages of working together on a same story?
Our main working method is we talk together, we plan together, we research together, but we never write together. Because even in collaboration, the business of putting words on a page remains solitary, private. Once one of us has written a section, he or she will send it to the other who can rewrite, edit, cut, leave as it is, and will then continue with the baton. Then, when the whole book is finished, both of us revise the whole book, one after the other.
There is an advantage in having two people work on a story, just as it is useful to have two people working together in the construction of a machine. More importantly, there is a sense that when we collaborate, we free ourselves to write in a way that we don’t – or can’t – on our own (Separately we are very different kinds of writer).
There is a great expression that applies to us: folie a deux, in which two people spur each other on to commit far more serious crimes than either would do alone. We’re just like that, except with books rather than crimes.
Your main character is often a strong and complex woman. Why this choice?
Once we became ‘Nicci French’ we found that she developed certain obsessions, one of which was the idea of telling stories with women at their centre. We were interested in a certain paradox. Modern women have achieved a certain degree of independence, of power, of equality, and yet they are still vulnerable. In fact, it is arguable that women’s progress has actually inspired a certain kind of animus. What we also found was that if you put a woman at the centre of a book, you get a different kind of thriller, perhaps more founded in psychology (and less on technology).
You seem to favor the psychological depth of the characters and of the plot in your novels …
We like people with psychological depth, we like books about characters wish psychological depth, why wouldn’t we want psychological depth? The best thrillers – those of Simenon would be one example – have always given us a view into the depths of the human psyche. The ‘whodunnit’ part of a thriller is always important, but without psychological depth, and a sense of place and of atmosphere, it is just a boring game.
You are engaged in writing a series of eight novels with the same character, Frieda Klein. Why choosing a psychoanalyst as the main character?
Sometimes we feel that Frieda chose us, rather than the other way round. As soon as we thought of her – a complicated, mysterious woman, who believes that the real terrors are those inside us – we knew that we had to write about her and that one novel was not enough. And the more we thought about it, the clearer it became that a psychoanalyst is a kind of detective. Neurosis is a kind of crime scene which the psychoanalyst searches for clues. Frieda doesn’t want to be a detective, but she is cursed by having a gift for it.
The character of Frieda Klein is particularly worked. By her psychoanalyst profession, she unlocks the secrets of others, but she has also many secrets…
Of course, we all have secrets! But Frieda has such a sense of other people’s secrets, she knows so many of them, that she is particularly protective of her own. There is a modern tendency to expose all our secrets, to proclaim our victimhood, and Frieda distrusts that. She doesn’t want to be pitied and she doesn’t want to be understood.
London is a full-fledged character in this series. The city and its inhabitants occupy an important place…
We were clear from the beginning that this is a sequence with two main characters: Frieda Klein and London. Among many other things London is an image of Frieda’s imagination: it is unfathomably large, full of secrets, hidden rivers, endlessly being destroyed and built over and destroyed again. Each book takes place at the time we are writing it. As a result, some of the locations in the early books are already gone, destroyed, built over.
Have you in mind an overview of the evolution of the character, Frieda Klein, and of future intrigues of the series?
It is important to us that each of the books can be read separately, as a thriller in its own right. But there is a thread running through all of the eight books that will form one large story. And they characters will develop and change as the years pass. At least, those that survive!
Can you tell us a few words about this new novel « Maudit mercredi” (Waiting for Wednesday), released in May in France ?
Frieda doesn’t want to be a detective. She wants to return to the safety and privacy of her consulting room. After Tuesday’s Gone, she seems to have been driven out of the police force. But in Waiting for Wednesday, quite against her will, circumstances drag her bag into two quite separate inquiries. With good consequences and bad consequences.
You visited France several times in the course of signings (and Nicci Gerrard, you speak pretty good French). Do you feel a difference between the French and British readers?
A big and complicated question! One simple answer is that French and British readers approach crime through quite separate traditions. In Britain, the crime tradition suggests Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Agatha Christie. In France, one might think of Balzac (‘behind every fortune lies a crime’), Simenon, and the great crime films starring actors like Yves Montand and Jean Gabin.
This blog is made of words and sounds. Is music involved in your creative process?
Yes, in many different ways. Some people may notice that the English titles are named not just after days of the week, but after songs. We both listen to an awful lot of music, and it’s hard not to imagine a soundtrack to Frieda’s London, a combination of Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, the Kinks, punk rock, the Small Faces, Joy Division, and much, much more….
You have the choice between give us your final word or talk about your favorite dessert …
Sean: That’s easy! My favourite dessert is something I eat every summer when we go to Sweden (I am half-Swedish). Wild strawberries and blueberries from the forest, sprinkled with cream. And accompanied by a glass of sauternes.
Nicci: That’s hard – but I think I would have to have a selection of cheeses: a ew’s milk cheese, a goat, a creamy blue, with very thin home-made poppy-seed crackers. And good red wine.
Catégories :Interviews littéraires