Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Obsessive characters and childhood thrillers: an interview with Araminta Hall

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to the seventeenth instalment of 9mm for 2018, and the 189th overall edition of our long-running author interview series!

Thanks for reading over the years. I've had a lot of fun talking to some amazing crime writers and bringing their thoughts and stories to you. You can check out the full list of of past interviewees here. What a line-up. Thanks everyone.

If you've got a favourite crime writer who hasn't yet been part of the 9mm series, please do let me know in the comments or by message, and I'll look to make that happen for you. We've got several further interviews with cool writers 'already in the can' that will be published soon, so lots to look forward to over the coming weeks and months.

Today I'm very pleased to welcome Araminta Hall to Crime Watch. Araminta is the author of one of this (British) summer's very talked-about books, OUR KIND OF CRUELTY. Araminta's third novel, it's a twisting psychological thriller of dark and obsessive 'love', a couple entangled in game-playing and stakes-raising which leads to deadly consequences. Gillian Flynn has called it "Simply one of the most disturbing thrillers I’ve read in years ... I loved it, right down to the utterly chilling final line".

In a piece Araminta wrote about her new book, she says:
"But for the thriller writer it is the darker side of love that fascinates: the unrequited, the end of the affair, the shattering of dreams. To delve in to this dark psychology is such fertile ground for a writer interested in the intricate workings of the human mind because, although reading happy love stories can be uplifting, it’s the tragic love we all remember, from Cathy and Heathcliffe to Nick and Amy Dunne."

Araminta broke through as a psychological thriller author back in 2011 with EVERYTHING & NOTHING, which became a Richard and Judy Book Club selection. Her second novel, DOT, was published in 2013. The great granddaughter of a Titanic survivor, Araminta was previously a journalist, having started out on teen magazine Bliss. Her resume also includes Health and Beauty editor of New Woman, features writer for the Mirror, and the ghost-writer for a super model's newspaper column. She teaches creative writing at New Writing South in Brighton,

But for now, Araminta Hall becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero or detective?
I’m not a big reader of recurring crime fiction, although I love a wide variety of thrillers and crime novels. My favourite writer in this genre is Patricia Highsmith, so could I stretch it and say Ripley, although of course he is neither a hero nor a detective. But I love his obsessive, mean, ruthless character which completely draws you in to his anti-hero world. I’ve also recently reconnected with Agatha Christie, who I read as a teenager, but now as an adult realise there is much more to her work than I realised. And for me, I’m a Marple fan.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
The very first book I remember reading independently was Stig of the Dump, which in a way is a thriller, when you think about it. In fact, lots of children’s literature is based in thrillers. Then, as a teenager, I spent years absorbed in the classics like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Rebecca. I love re-reading these as an adult, as of course you see so much more than you do as a teenager.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything): unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
My debut novel was called Everything & Nothing, which was published as a psychological thriller in 2011. And before then I’d written countless novels, plays, short stories – just about anything. I think that old 10,000 hours saying is so true about writing as you really have to put the time in before you become anywhere near publishable.

4. Outside of writing, touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I live by the sea in Brighton with my husband and three children, so I’m always pretty busy. I love walking by the sea or on the Downs. And I also do a lot of yoga and Pilates, which I know makes me sound like a bit of an idiot, but it is the most soothing activity I know, especially for writers with bad backs from hunching over laptops.

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
I really can’t think of one thing in Brighton that hasn’t been written about. But the most obvious thing is the best – the beach, in winter or summer. My best advice though would be to avoid the bit between the piers and walk left towards Kemp Town or right towards Hove (where you’ll find the -best ice-cream in the city at Marocco’s). Also, even though it’s very touristy, the May festival is filled with fantastic shows every day and night and the artists’ open houses are fantastic.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Surely the beauty of being a writer is that you’re always behind the scenes and this is not something you ever have to consider? I could answer that question about my characters, but not me!

7. Of your writings, which is your favourite, and why?
I think you always like your most recent best, and by that I mean the thing you are working on and not even the one that is in the shops. Most writers I know, me included, are terrible self-critics and when I do readings I actually annotate the page, editing myself when I can’t change anything.

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
Each time it’s felt totally unbelievable and I get a mixture of fear and excitement. But the first time I cried, then went out and bought some champagne.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?

The first ever book signing I did, when my first book had only been out for a few days, was one of the worst. I was sat in the centre of a shop and not one person bought my book or asked me to sign it. I still cringe when I think about it!

Thank you Araminta, we appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch. 

OUR KIND OF CRUELTY is out in hardcover now. You can follow Araminta on Twitter

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