Saturday, August 16, 2014

Cat Connor talks about DATABYTE

Although we've been focusing a bit lately on the authors who are in the running for this year's Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, there are several other terrific Kiwi crime and thriller writers putting some good books out there that'd I'd recommend you try. One of those in Cat Connor, the Wellington-based author of the FBI Special Agent Ellie Conway series.

I read one of the earlier books in this series a few years ago, and really enjoyed it. It was a fun read - Connor has an exciting, visual style of storytelling, and nicely mixes some darkness, humour and character relationships into her storylines.

Connor's latest book is the sixth in the series, DATABYTE. In a recent interview with Writers and Authors, Connor talks about her writing and this latest instalment in the Conway saga, which sees the FBI Agent on the run, suspected of murder herself. At the same time she needs to protect the younger brother of one of her team members. In the interview Connor says it takes her between three and six months to complete a first draft, although it isn't quite correct to call it a first draft:

"There is no such thing in my world. It’s not like I write it beginning to end then re-write the whole book, that’s not how it happens at all. Six months work gives me a completed novel. It’s my version of a first draft. No one sees it until I’ve gone over it a few times and added detail, moved scenes, tweaked bits and pieces – that can take another few weeks. There are exceptions to my ‘no one sees it’ rule. I do, at this point, pull out various scenes and send them to the appropriate experts. So, medical, action, and anything I’m not sure about, gets vetted while I’m tweaking other parts of the manuscript. Once everyone’s happy then the manuscript goes out to a few well trusted readers, comments are considered and changes made."

When asked specifically about whether she'd learned anything unexpected while writing DATABYTE, Connor says she learned she can't write while listening to Leonard Cohen! "Well I could, but all my characters would end up dead," she tells Writers and Authors. "I also learned more than I ever needed to know about Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP). Ellie surprised me at one point during the writing process, I didn’t expect her to be quite as jumpy as she was about lying to a priest. That fascinated me."

Having interviewed almost 100 crime writers from more than a dozen countries over the years, I've always found it fascinating how many speak of their characters as these distinct people external to themselves, how they're like friends, and take on their own personalities beyond what the author ever would have expected or planned - like the character speaks to the author or just does what he or she wants, regardless.

You can read the full interview with Cat Connor on Writers and Authors here.

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