I’d heard a lot of great things about Caroline England’s books and added them to my reading list. Then, when I attended an author meet-up recently, Caroline was there and I had the pleasure of meeting her in person. We chatted about all things writing related and Caroline kindly agreed to be interviewed.
Q. Your first legal suspense, Convictions, under the pen name, Caro Land, came out in January of this year. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
A. After a five year absence, solicitor Natalie Bach returns to Manchester. Her old boss is delighted to have her back at Goldman Law, but his partner, Wesley Hughes, is less keen.
Just like old times, Jack immediately embroils Nat with cases he would prefer to keep away from prying eyes, including a criminal charge against his estranged son Julian. Nat soon gets stuck into raft of legal, ethical and moral dilemmas which, with the help of fellow lawyer Gavin Savage, she eventually untangles.
Though the story touches on aspects of the law, including crime, sexual assault, entrapment, abuse of power and attempted murder, relationships are at the fore of the narrative. And as usual with all my novels, there are twists, turns, reveals and some darkness. However, there is humour too, so I would describe it as more intriguing legal uplit than a taut thriller.
Q. You’ve also written three psychological thrillers. What made you want to start writing legal suspense thrillers?
A. I began writing novels in ‘the closet’, so to speak, and I just wrote stories I would like to read without any ‘genre’ in mind. When my debut BENEATH THE SKIN was taken on by HarperCollins, I was told, to my surprise, that it was crime fiction! On reflection, I think my style of writing is a blend of crime and contemporary fiction because my real interest is people. I think the legal suspense novels are an extension of that, but this time the characters revolve around the law.
They also say to write what you know, don’t they? Natalie Bach is a feisty feminist solicitor. Guess what my pre-writing job was?
Q. How different is it to write a legal suspense to a psychological thriller?
A. As mentioned above, not a great deal. I like to look behind the human mask and find out what’s beneath it in all my novels. I love exploring the moral grey area. I enjoy weaving a twisty, intriguing plot, but my favourite part of writing is characterisation, creating people and relationships.
My career in the law has been a great source of inspiration for all my novels as I practised criminal law as a trainee, then specialised in divorce when I qualified, later moving on to professional indemnity. I dealt with clients at their lowest ebb and often in dark places.
My legal suspense novels do have a lighter tone, and of course, they have the back drop of a busy solicitor’s office.
Q. Which do you prefer writing and why?
A. I like the freedom of writing stand alone psychological thrillers/suspense as I can let my mind wander and go wherever it takes me – indeed, in some very peculiar directions! A series will be more tricky as you have to stick with the characters and setting. However, I have only written two Natalie Bach stories – CONVICTIONS and CONFESSIONS (due out in June) so far, so we’ll see. One thing is for sure, the law is a very fertile place for story ideas!
Q. Where do you get your ideas from?
A. Like Frankenstein, I get inspiration by pinching tiny bits of people’s lives, news stories, films, TV, newspapers, documentaries. The legal cases I have worked on help, though of course it wouldn’t be ethical to steal them outright! Like many authors, I put a bit of myself in characters and storylines too. Then there’s my crazy imagination…
Q. You’ve been involved in literary festivals and interviewing writers. Do you enjoy this side of writing and how do you prepare for it?
A. Although I get nervous beforehand, I do enjoy being on festival and library panels. And it’s an honour to interview writers such as Jane Harper. In the main I prepare by reading the interviewee or fellow panellists’ novels – so that’s actually a pleasure!
Q. What’s the hardest thing you find about being a writer?
A. It’s tough getting those one word one star reviews which say ‘boring’ or ‘rubbish’. However, some one star reviews bring a smile. One reviewer described MY HUSBAND’S LIES as a ‘mass of depravity’. I took that as a compliment!
Q. You’ve had experience of being published with different publishers. Can you tell us about your different journeys to publication?
A. My first two Caroline England novels, BENEATH THE SKIN and MY HUSBAND’S LIES, were published by HarperCollins. I then moved to Little Brown for BETRAY HER (UK standard paperback out in July) and I’m looking forward to the publication of my next book, TRUTH GAMES, next year. I hope to be with them for my psychological suspense novels in years to come.
Little Brown kindly allowed me to have a concurrent publisher for my Caro Land books, CONVICTIONS and CONFESSIONS, so I’m also with Bloodhound Books.
Penguin Random House audio have recently acquired the audio rights of MY HUSBAND’S LIES, so I’m excited to listen to it when it’s out in June.
Having all these wonderful publishers is a dream come true!
Q. Do you get time to read yourself and if you do, what books do you read?
A. I used to read a mix of contemporary fiction and crime, but I’m very lucky to be sent books occasionally, so I have a ready supply of crime novels when I have time!
Q. Finally, what advice can you give to writers who haven’t yet had the break they’re looking for?
A. Only a few writers get lucky with an agent or a publisher the first, tenth or even thirtieth time of trying. When yet another rejection comes your way, my advice is to shed a few tears, then pick yourself up, dust yourself down and carry on polishing that manuscript until it positively gleams.
Looking back, I would also recommend paying for a professional edit if you can afford it. An alternative is to find a beta reader to feedback on your work. Don’t ask your great aunt Mildred who’ll say it’s fantastic, but someone who is prepared to dish some hard truths if necessary – doing a swap with another writer is a great idea.
Above all – don’t give up!