‘In the Dock’ with Belinda Bauer
Our featured author ‘In the Dock’ is the award-winning crime novelist Belinda Bauer.
Belinda has been both a journalist and a BAFTA-winning screenwriter and her debut novel Blacklands earned her the 2010 British Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger award for the best crime novel.
The Sunday Times has hailed her as the “thriller queen” and The Mirror described her writing as “Thomas Harris crossed with Kate Atkinson and you still won’t be close”. If you haven’t discovered her books yet, you are in for a treat.
We caught Belinda ahead of her whirlwind publicity tour to promote her brand new novel Rubbernecker. Belinda revealed all about her love of crime writing, why she watched anatomy students dissect cadavars in Cardiff and how she would write her own death.
Firstly, let’s hear Belinda tell us in her own words what Rubbernecker is all about:
Rubbernecker is an unusual title, can you tell us what it means and why you chose it?
A rubbernecker is someone who cranes to look at something – often something ghoulish, such as a car accident – in the hope of seeing blood, bodies and death. In Patrick’s case, he is obsessed by the death of his father and seeks to understand what happened to him in terms that he can understand.
Did you attend anatomy classes as part of your research? Did you get to cut any of the bodies open?
I went to the university in Cardiff and watched bodies being dissected. I had already watched detailed dissections online so that I could write about the exact methods the students use to dissect cadavers, but there were some details that I felt I could only get right in person. Those included the kinds of instruments used, the layout of the room, the procedures and jargon, the atmosphere among the students and – most importantly – the smell. I’m very glad I did, because it’s an experience – and a smell – I’ll never forget.
Your books have incredibly strong and complex male characters in them – Steven and Patrick being the two that spring to mind. Do you prefer to write about males?
Out of necessity, I concentrate on the characters who can tell my stories in the best possible way, whether they are male or female. In Darkside, for instance, I thought the story was going to be written with Lucy, Jonas’s wife, as the main voice, but the mechanics of the plot meant that if I stuck to Lucy’s point of view, I would not have been able to tell the story the way I wanted to, so I switched to Jonas as the protagonist. It’s something of a balancing act – what you gain and what you lose with each character. In the book I am writing now, the main character is a ten-year-old girl.
Are you planning to revisit any of the characters of Rubbernecker or is this a standalone?
When I create a character I like, there is always the possibility that I will visit them again, but only if they suit the purpose of the story. I know that when I started Darkside, the reason I set it in Shipcott was because I wasn’t ready to leave Steven Lamb quite yet. I needed to see how he was, and I think the readers did too. Patrick in Rubbernecker is certainly a character i enjoyed spending time with, so I hope he and I will meet again sometime. I plan that my sixth book will include a character from one of the books I’ve already written, and I’m really looking forward to working with that person again.
What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
This is an amazing question. I’m going to ask everyone I know the same question! I was not an extreme or dogmatic teenager, and my views now are very similar to those I held at 18. I think I’m more tolerant now though.
Your books are already genre-defying, but would you ever venture completely outside the confines of crime?
I love crime because it’s so accommodating. Most of the stories I want to tell can easily be made to fit in to the genre, because the crimes in my books are really just the catalyst for the stories I want to tell about people, situations and relationships. Crime shines a spotlight on people at moments of crisis, and forces them to act in extreme ways, which is so useful! However, I have always admired great sci-fi writers like Philip K Dick and Arthur C Clarke, and have some sci-fi stories that I would like write. But wherever and WHENEVER they take place, my stories will always be about people rather than technology, because people are what interest and move me.
Finally, we asked Belinda some suitably gory questions… how she would write her own death and what her final meal would be: