Family drama and human trafficking in new novel
Whether it’s happy or dysfunctional, there are always disagreements, so imagine that you have a family torn apart by mental illness and now… murder.
Kristin’s husband dies and with people casting their suspicions on her, she runs away. Around the same time, Frank and Birgitta’s son supposedly drowns but they suspect foul play and decide to go after the suspect themselves: their daughter. ‘It felt bizarre to think of his daughter as the enemy, but she had crossed the line from being mentally challenged to a destroyer of lives.’
That’s how my second novel, 'What Did I Do?' starts. The characters and their actions took me on a fantastic ride, and they quite often did the unexpected, making me alter the plot to follow them on their journeys.
I’m often asked if I plan my novels in advance since there are authors who spend months carefully constructing their books before they start writing. I don’t. Although I put a synopsis together at the beginning of the process, I didn’t completely stick to it. The story came together organically. Having said that, I did know what I was working towards, that is to say, the ending.
'What Did I Do?' is out now
Dealing with trafficking
Women as victims in novels has caused a bit of a stir recently. A new literary prize was announced for thrillers that don’t star female victims. It has divided opinion and although I understand the frustration the organizer feels (and the reason this has been set up), I also believe it’s important for female victims to have a voice. Until issues such as trafficking have been eliminated, we shouldn’t pretend they don’t exist. But more importantly, writers shouldn’t be told what to write, or not to, write about.
Trafficking seems to be one of those issues which isn’t written about enough. The fact that some people think it’s okay to enslave other people (often women), destroying lives, families and destinies, horrifies and angers me. No one should have that power over another human being. While writing my new novel, I found myself skirting around the issue, until I decided to include a character who is wholly dedicated to this and contributes to the 'What Did I Do?' story from another perspective. This made more sense to me.
These days writers are also told to be politically correct and write about what they know. But if writers can’t explore and learn while they write, they would be writing memoirs and although I’ve had a fairly interesting life, there are only so many books you can write about yourself (and I’m not sure I want to write any!).
A recent article in The Guardian by 'We Need to Talk about Kevin' author, Lionel Shriver (who I was lucky enough to meet at a literary festival a few years ago) rightly said: “If all modern literature comes to toe the same goody-goody line, fiction is bound to grow timid, homogeneous, and dreary.” How true that is. Writers are supposed to entertain their readers. I hope that 'What Did I Do?' does just that, while also shedding light on an issue, which I feel strongly about.
This Blog Post first appeared on Fiction Books.