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Monday, 11 July 2011
An Interview With Tana French
Tana French, author of the amazing 'Faithful Place' is my guest today.
Tell us about your most recent book ‘Faithful Place’.
Frank Mackey showed up in 'The Likeness' as Cassie’s old undercover boss, a detective who’ll cheerfully do anything – to himself or anyone else – to get his man. In 'Faithful Place', he’s the narrator. Twenty-two years ago, he and his first love, Rosie Daly, were teenagers in Dublin’s inner city, making plans to run off to London and get good jobs, get married, escape from all the poverty and problems of their tight-knit community. On the night when they were meant to leave, though, Rosie never showed. Frank assumed she’d dumped him, probably because of his deeply dysfunctional family. He never went home again. But then Rosie’s suitcase is found in an abandoned house on Faithful Place, and Frank is going home whether he wants to or not…
I loved ‘Faithful Place’ and in particular found its setting in Dublin very vivid. Is this a geographical area that means a lot to you?
I’m very glad you liked it! I was an international brat, grew up in three continents, so there’s nowhere I can really call ‘home’; but Dublin’s the nearest I’ve got. I’ve lived here since 1990; it’s the only city where I know all the details and quirks – the connotations of every accent and area, the slang and the sense of humour, where to go for a good pint and where not to go after dark. And I can list all the ways in which it’s crap, while being ready to leap to its defence if anyone from anywhere else suggests it might not be perfect. In a lot of ways, 'Faithful Place' is a love song to Dublin – its bad sides as well as its good ones.
What first attracted you to the idea of writing crime/mystery?
I love mysteries – real ones, fictional ones, historical ones, mythical ones, you name it. I always have, ever since I was a kid. It’s not just the process of watching them get solved that I love – although that’s hugely satisfying – it’s the mysteries themselves, for their own sake. I think it was inevitable that, when I started writing, it was going to be mystery.
When you sit down to write a new book, do you find inspiration in particular ways or from particular sources?
I’m always looking for the potential mystery in things. 'In the Woods' came out of a wood near an archaeological dig where I was working – one day I was looking at it and thinking it would be a great place for kids to play, and then I thought, What if three kids ran in there one day, and only one came back – and he had no memory of what had happened to the other two? And what if he grew up to be a detective, and a murder case drew him back to that wood? My second book, 'The Likeness', came out of a pub conversation about what it would be like to meet your double; I started wondering what it would be like to meet her when it was too late, when she was dead, and the only way you could get to know her was to go into her life – to become her, in a way. And 'Faithful Place' came out of a blue suitcase in a skip, outside an old house that was being gutted; I started wondering what was in it, who had left it in that house and when, whether they had meant to come back for it…
What are you working on now and what do you see yourself writing in the future?
I’ve just handed in my fourth book, 'Broken Harbour', in which Scorcher Kennedy (Frank’s old friend/rival from 'Faithful Place') deals with the murders of a young family on one of the ghost estates that have been festering all over Ireland since the Celtic Tiger. I’m hoping to stick with the same general group of characters – the Dublin Murder Squad, give or take – for a while. I hop from narrator to narrator, with a supporting character from one book becoming the narrator of the next, and I’d like to keep doing that, more or less: it means each book helps to springboard me onto the next one, and it means I get to explore the ways in which the previous narrator’s viewpoint may not have been the whole objective truth.
What’s the best advice you could give to someone who is writing a novel and hoping to get it published?
Don’t get discouraged if you’re hammering away at a sentence or a paragraph or a chapter, and it keeps coming out wrong. You’re allowed to get it wrong, as many times as you need to; you only need to get it right once.
That was a big revelation for me when I was writing 'In the Woods'. I was used to acting in theatre, where you need to get it right every time, because you’re playing to a different audience every night, and tonight’s lot don’t care if you were amazing yesterday. It took me a while to realise that, with writing, it all counts as rehearsal until you actually hand the manuscript over to someone else. There’s nothing wrong with making a mess on your way to getting it right.
Thanks to Tana for those great answers. I particularly like the idea of 'Faithful Place' being 'a love song to Dublin'.
You can read my review of 'Faithful Place' here. You can find out more about Tana here, and buy 'Faithful Place' here.