I am delighted that EVA DOLAN is joining me on my blog today as my Author in the Spotlight, as part of her Blog Tour. Eva's book - After You Die - was published by Harvill Secker on 14 January 2016.
What was the original inspiration behind the characters and setting of your novels?
The characters came fully formed when I realised I was going to be setting the series in a Hate Crimes department. I conceived it as something of a dumping ground - sorry Zigic and Ferreira! - a unit created for political reasons, the local constabulary's way of proving that they were taking the newly passed Hate Crimes laws seriously. Thinking about what kind of officers would be placed there I decided it would be staffed by people of immigrant backgrounds, those sensitive to the community's challenges and suffering, ones who would speak the languages they would encounter and be regarded as more approachable than 'English' coppers.
So Zigic is a third-generation Serb - essentially English in all but name. While Ferreira came to the UK as a child from Portugal and has grown up in a migrant community. As a result she is more sympathetic to victims and far less tolerant of aggressors.
Peterborough felt like the perfect location to drop this team into because it has seen such a high influx of migrants in recent years, something the locals haven't adapted well to, leading to a lot of social unease and political tension.
After You Die moves the action out of those streets, though, and into a pretty commuter village on the edge of the city. It's affluent, comfortable, the kind of place my detectives rarely find themselves working but crime they encounter is as brutal and callous as any they've investigated previously.
The community dynamic is quite important within the wider context of the plots - what research or experience allowed you to make it feel so authentic?
Part of the reason I moved After You Die out to a village was that I wanted to explore a different kind of community and the dynamics within it. For the first two books I was writing about relatively closed-off groups, separated by culture and language, their families and friends left behind in other countries. Getting the feel right was largely a matter of talking to migrant workers and seeing how they felt about their new lives in England, there was just no other way to get that sense of authenticity.
With After You Die it was a much simpler proposition because I've always lived in villages like the one I've used. And, oddly, there is less of a sense of community. Anywhere around Peterborough with high property prices and that feeling of, perhaps, slightly smug, aloofness, is generally occupied by London commuters, people who work long hours and have very little to do with most of their neighbours. So, instead, you get these cliques, very close, almost incestuous, groups who know everything about one another and not much about anyone else. Still, gossip thrives and murder tends to shake peoples' belief in the safety of their own lives.
After You Die finds our pair investigating something a little different from the previous two stories - what made you decide to branch out and do you think you will continue to expand THEIR experiences?
Being based in a Hate Crimes Unit the series is, by definition, solely concerned with crimes which are motivated by racial or religious prejudice, homophobia and transphobia, or in this case disability-related harassment. I felt like I'd already dug deep into the more overtly political crimes in the previous books and wanted to switch to a more family-based, personal one this time.
Disability-related hate crimes are actually horribly common - Mencap suggests that around 90% of disabled people will be targeted in their lifetime - and yet we hear very little about this in comparison to racism or even homophobia. I wanted to bring this matter to light and explore how it affects those suffering, people who are already some of the most vulnerable in our society, dealing with the daily challenges of their disability.
Without giving spoilers...the investigation resonates particularly with Ferreira, who is struggling with the aftermath of injuries sustained in the line of duty and it was interesting, as an author, seeing how she would cope. Zigic and Ferreira are developing from book to book in ways I didn't expect. They have their secrets and I'm still uncovering them as I go along. I don't like to know too much about my main characters, I'd rather investigate them as the stories develop.
Describe your writing style in 10 words or less?
Argh, I can't do that! Nobody really knows what their writing style is. We need readers and critics to tell us that. I hope I write relatively elegantly, as a reader I prefer spare, well balanced prose and it's what I aspire to stylistically.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
Strange, me? I'm quite a superstitious writer. I won't discuss what I'm working on until it's finished because it's such a weird, random process that I feel talking about it somehow breaks the spell. I only ever write at night now as well, having found I can do the same amount of work in four dark hours as nine daylight ones. It's just so much quieter, no online distractions, no psychic background hum. It's easier to access your subconscious after midnight for some reason.
Who are your favourite authors?
Crime wise - I'm not doing this because there are too many list and I'll inevitably forget someone.
Non-crime - Cormac McCarthy, Irvine Welsh, Margaret Atwood, Graham Greene, Richard Yates, Emile Zola, Honore de Balzac, Stefan Zweig. I could go on all day...
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
Something punning? Isn't that the law? I'm rubbish at puns. If only Hunter S Thompson hadn't already taken 'The Rum Diary.'
I don't think anyone would read a writer's life story either. Maybe Graham Greene's or James Ellroy's. Mine, not so much. 'Got up, did messages, ate toast, wrote some stuff.'
I'd probably go for '24/7 Pjs' as a nod to the writer's uniform.
Also, I'd want the audio book version read by Kathy Burke because we sound quite similar.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don't sleep in your make-up!
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Read loads. Talk to weird people. Develop a rhino skin and a drink problem and always make sure you're nicely turned out.
And lastly, why should people read After You Die?
Because it's an important issue, which doesn't get enough attention, explored through the suffering of a very strong and eloquent teenaged girl who has fought to have her voice heard against a barrage of online trolls who want to silence her work as a right-to-die advocate. It's also a story about families and how they cope in the aftermath of tragedy. Secrets, lies, affairs, murder; all that good crime stuff.
About Eva Dolan
Follow Eva on Twitter - @eva_dolan
Eva Dolan is an Essex-based copywriter and intermittently successful poker player. Shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger for unpublished authors when she was just a teenager, her début novel Long Way Home, the start of a major new crime series starring two detectives from the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit, was published in 2014 to widespread critical acclaim.
Follow Eva on Twitter - @eva_dolan
After You Die
By Eva Dolan
Published by Harvill Secker (14 January 2016)
Dawn Prentice was already known to the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit.
The previous summer she had logged a number of calls detailing the harassment she and her severely disabled teenage daughter were undergoing. Now she is dead – stabbed to death whilst Holly Prentice has been left to starve upstairs. DS Ferreira, only recently back serving on the force after being severely injured in the line of duty, had met with Dawn that summer. Was she negligent in not taking Dawn’s accusations more seriously? Did the murderer even know that Holly was helpless upstairs while her mother bled to death?
Whilst Ferreira battles her demons, determined to prove she’s up to the frontline, DI Zigic is drawn into conflict with an official seemingly resolved to hide the truth about one of his main suspects. Can either officer unpick the truth about mother and daughter, and bring their killer to justice?
Read my review here.