- Crime Fiction
You need to know who your husband really was…
When Paula Gadd’s husband of almost thirty years dies, just days away from the seventh anniversary of their son, Christopher’s death, her world falls apart. Grieving and bereft, she is stunned when a young woman approaches her at the funeral service, and slips something into her pocket. A note suggesting that Paula’s husband was not all that he seemed…
When the two women eventually meet, a series of revelations challenges everything Paula thought they knew, and it becomes immediately clear that both women’s lives are in very real danger.
Both a dark, twisty slice of domestic noir and taut, explosive psychological thriller, After He Diedis also a chilling reminder that the people we trust the most can harbour the deadliest secrets…
| Author Interview |
How do your characters begin in your writing process? Do you have an inkling for a name or you know how you want them to look?
Paula Gadd is the main character in After He Died. She came from a kind of strange circuitous mental route. I was binge-watching NARCOS on Netflix and there was this scene with Pablo Escobar, his wife, and his mother talking about something mundane after he’d ordered the murder of someone – when it occurred to me that this was a vile human being and yet these two women loved him. They knew what he did. They knew what kind of man he was. (If you don’t know just how bad he was let me give you an example. He organised a bomb to blow up a plane holding over 200 passengers just to be sure that a certain individual was killed.) As I was watching this scene I wondered about what kind of emotional accommodation you would have to make to stay with someone like that? How could these two woman still love him? Sure his mother would have that family bond, but his wife?
So, I started writing about a woman whose husband had just died. She’s at the funeral when a young woman, a complete stranger, offers her condolences, and while she’s giving her a hug she slips something into her jacket pocket and whispers in her ear – “you need to know who your husband really was”.
As the novel developed from there I found myself diverging from the Mrs Escobar prompt a good deal. It was only later, in the final analysis that I wondered why I did that. It wasn’t a conscious decision. The writing just took me in a different direction than planned. Perhaps the sensible part of my sub-conscious thought it was a big ask to base a narrative on someone who was quite SO morally compromised.
Paula’s name and that of the young woman (Cara Connolly) who so rudely interrupted Paula’s husband’s funeral just popped into my head while I was writing them. I’ve no idea where the names came from.
Everyone realises that names come with an expectation and some baggage. Someone called Paula brings to mind a different personality (rightly or wrongly) than someone called Chardonnay. So you have to choose names with care. But with this book I was lucky, the first names I thought of worked well.
As far as thinking about them in a physical sense I don’t spend much time on that. I wanted Paula to be small and neat, to give the impression of someone who looked after herself. But also someone who might be physically vulnerable. With Cara the only descriptor I give is that she has blonde hair and she looks as if she exercises. I wanted her to be able to take care of herself if she got into danger. For the rest of it I left it to the readers. They tend to supply those details themselves, I just give a few clues and allow them to run with it.
Which character is your favourite to write?
I had a blast writing both Paula and Cara. They are so very different in age, background, class and personality that it was fun to bring them together and watch how they sparked off each other.
Which character is the hardest to write?
I can’t think of any characters in this book or in any of my other books where the character was “hard” to write. They all present a different kind of challenge. I guess that Anna from A Suitable Lie was one of the trickiest to capture on the page. She was an abusive wife, a downright bully, but I was keen to add some complexity to her so that the reader wasn’t just presented with a two-dimensional character. This kind of abusive behaviour doesn’t happen in a vacuum and I felt it was important to represent that. It’s interesting to note that some readers hated her, and others were repelled by her actions while simultaneously empathising with her.
Are any of your characters based on a real-life person?
Short answer: no.
Longer answer – my main characters are never knowingly based on someone I know. I say knowingly because I’m writing from instinct and dredging stuff up from my sub-conscious – and that sub-conscious is influenced by the people I meet on day to day basis, so there is bound to be lots of stuff that comes from real people I’ve met.
Lastly, if you could have dinner with one of your characters, who would you pick and why?
I’d have dinner with my main character, Paula and her brother-in-law, Father Joseph Gadd. I enjoyed writing the scenes with these two. There was a real bond between them and it allowed me to write some lighter moments to offset all of the darkness around them. So it would be nice to dine with the two of them to see them in action and enjoy their “company”.
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