Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest Rosie Claverton author of Captcha Thief (Amy Lane Mysteries), Binary Witness (Amy Lane Mysteries Book 1), Code Runner (Amy Lane Mysteries Book 2) and Car Hacker (The Amy Lane Mysteries).
grew up in Devon, daughter to a Sri Lankan father and a Norfolk
mother, surrounded by folk mythology and surly sheep. She moved to
Cardiff to study Medicine and adopted Wales as her home. She then
moved to London to specialize in psychiatry.
Her first short film Dragon Chasers aired on BBC Wales in Autumn 2012. She co-wrote the ground-breaking series of short films The Underwater Realm. Her Cardiff-based crime series The Amy Lane Mysteries debuted in 2014.
Between writing and medicine, she blogs about psychiatry and psychology for writers in her Freudian Script series, advocating for accurate and sensitive portrayals of people with mental health problems in fiction. She is the co-founder of #psywrite, a monthly Twitter chat about mental health and psychology in fiction.
Norm: Good day Rosie and thanks for participating in our interview.
How did you get started in writing? What keeps you going?
Rosie: When I was finishing medical school, something in me rebelled – I didn't want to be only a scientist for the rest of my life. I had some friends in the indie film business, so I fell into screenplays and, after that, took my novel-writing seriously. After my first novel Binary Witness was published, I felt so warmly welcomed into the crime community by readers and authors alike that I thought I might stay a while.
Norm: Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?
Rosie: I have a full-time job as a psychiatrist, so my writing has to fit around that. I think it makes my writing much richer, as I meet a diverse group of people every day and see much more of the world than I would from my desk
Norm: Why have you been drawn to writing mystery novels?
Rosie: It's the genre I love to read. I really enjoy solving a puzzle, trying to fit all the clues together with the detective to find the answer. However, I am terrible at it – I almost never get "whodunnit".
Norm: Has your writing of films influenced in any way your writing of novels and if so, how?
Rosie: Structurally, films are much more rigid in terms of plot and emotional beats. I think that really helps to keep my novels pacey, with economy of description. In the novel edit, I mark each chapter with a description, a point-of-view and the central conflict. This is a key screenwriting technique and I think it helps to make sure there are no dead, useless chapters in the finished novel.It also helps me indulge my love of dialogue, which I refined with screenplays and now carry over to novels.
Norm: What do you think most characterizes your writing and what inspires you?
Rosie: I enjoy exploring themes of identity – who are these characters and how do they see their place in the world? With The Amy Lane Mysteries, I started with two distinct characters who both feel conflicted about their identity – Amy feels defined by her illness, and Jason is struggling to move away from his past as a thief. They're both looking for some idea of who they are outside those narrow parameters. I enjoy exploring that with them.
Norm: What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?
Rosie: My favorite writing advice came from Save the Cat, which is a great book on writing screenplays with traditional Hollywood structure. It taught me a lot about character arcs and how to keep the audience – and readers – interested in your story. I also learned that writing gets better with practice. The more novels I write, the better I get at writing novels.
The least useful thing was trying to write the kind of books that I would never read. I wasted a couple of years faffing around with those before deciding crime was for me.
Norm: How do you find time to write and does you medical career conflict with your writing career?
Rosie: When I'm on a deadline, I have to be quite strict about the time I spend writing – trying to fit in an hour or two when I get in from work, slowly racking up the word count. Some long on-call shifts, waiting between patients, can be the most fertile writing time. I've done some good work at one o'clock in the morning!
Norm: Could you describe your writing process and what is the most difficult part of the process?
Rosie: I start with a very loose sketch of the plot, a central idea or concept - “What if a priceless painting was stolen from the museum? How would Amy and Jason tackle that?” From there, I lay out the big happenings, both in terms of the investigation and the emotional arcs. For Code Runner, it was “the crooked cop needs to go missing” and “Jason must go to prison – and then somehow escape”. This is also where I finalise exactly who the criminal mastermind is and work out their motivations. These might evolve with the plot, but they have to be in place from the beginning.
Then I write the thing. I usually get surprised somewhere between the midpoint and the finale – an extra complication appears, or a character suddenly makes a decision that derails everything. I like those surprises.
My first editing stage is reading through the whole novel again (after a pause of about a month) and describing each chapter, including point-of-view and conflict. Here I pick up most of the loose threads, inconsistent character behaviour, and bits of plot that don't make sense. I find this bit the most difficult. I much prefer the next stages of doing these things but with guidance from a professional editor.
Norm: What do you want your work to do? Amuse people? Provoke thinking?
Rosie: I like to challenge preconceptions. It's particularly important to me to take on mental health stereotypes, especially with Amy. I want to show what it's like to live with a chronic illness, to live in its shadow and yet still live. I also show that illness improving and worsening, independent of circumstances. It can make Amy really difficult to relate to at times, but some people really take to her for the same reasons – she's a proper Marmite character!
Norm: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Rosie: I hadn't expected my supporting cast to take on a life of their own. From sidekicks and siblings to people dragging the plot with them in all kinds of interesting directions, and creating their own ongoing drama. I enjoy my recurring characters a great deal and they seem to really flesh out the world of my novels.
Norm: In your Amy Lane Mysteries which character was the easiest to write? Most difficult? As a follow up, what was your main focus when you created Amy Lane?
Rosie: I love writing Jason – he's often very straightforward, though also stubborn and with a skewed perception of personal risk. I find the point-of-view of the killers really hard to get into. They're partly anonymous in their sections, but they need to be real and have understandable motivations – without giving everything away.
Amy turned up in my head fully-formed. I was almost surgically attached to my computer as a teenager, so I understand a degree of that mindset. I wanted her to be stand-offish and yet with a glint of something more there, waiting to be discovered. By someone with patience – like Jason.
Norm: In your most recent novel, Captcha Thief what motivated you to bring into the story geocaching and how easy or difficult was it to weave it into the story?
Rosie: With The Amy Lane Mysteries, I'm always seeking to look at different types of crime – serial murder, drug trafficking, art heists – but also different ways of solving problems with technology. Geocaching enabled me to bring a tech-based hobby into the narrative, which gives our heroes lots of cyber trails to follow and also gives me the opportunity to create fun, solvable puzzles for readers to try their hand at.
Norm: What served as the primary inspiration for Captcha Thief ?
Rosie: I wanted to do something different, first off. Wales has a low crime rate, so serial killers aren't really sustainable villains. I love spending time at the National Museum of Wales – I even had my wedding reception there! - so it seemed like the ideal place to embroil in the crime. I also got to add history and art to what's usually a very modern and digital setting, which stretched my writing.
Norm: Is there much of you in the Amy Lane Mysteries?
Rosie: Amy shares my love of computers, fandom and really good T-shirts. Jason has my drive to take care of people and make them proud of him. I am naturally inquisitive and like to get to the bottom of an issue, which makes writing crime novels so much fun.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?
Norm: What is next for Rosie Claverton?
Rosie: Terror 404, the next book in The Amy Lane Mysteries, is due for publication next year. I've just started work on the fifth novel in the series – so Amy and Jason aren't going anywhere! I also have some completely different novels and feature film projects in the pipeline.
Norm: As this interview comes to an end, what question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?
Rosie: I really want to talk more about Frieda. I love writing a complicated character who's not a bad guy but not really one of the good guys either. She's also going to show her face in future novels, so keep an eye on her!
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.