Today I am thrilled to welcome Corrie Jackson to my blog.
"Breaking Dead" is Jackson's debut crime thriller and introduces us to Sophie Kent, a journalist returning to work after a brief time of compassionate leave following the death of her brother. As with all the best protagonists and heroines, Sophie is bright, determined, fiercely loyal and prepared to take any risks in order to uncover the truth. She is also damaged, vulnerable, dealing with grief, guilt and her own demons.
It may be Corrie Jackson's first book but there is nothing novice at her ability to create an intriguingly complex character and spin a story where the back story of the protagonist is as compulsive and affecting as the serious crimes around which the main plot revolves.
So, welcome Corrie and thanks for chatting to me about "Breaking Dead" today!
Sophie Kent is a journalist and you are also a journalist, so the job has clearly inspired and influenced your writing and helped with the authenticity and detail! Is Sophie or any of the characters based on any colleagues, situations, real people or yourself at all? Were you ever in the interesting position of working alongside the police?
Sophie has my dream job! Growing up, my heroes were characters like Lois Lane and Nancy Drew. Tenacious types who went the extra mile for the truth. I didn’t go the newspaper route, instead choosing magazines (Harpers Bazaar, Grazia, Glamour). But I always worked on the Features Desk. Amongst the fluffier articles, there were lots of harder hitting pieces. Anything from newsy reports profiling women on the front line in Iraq, or female victims of crime, to going undercover at the House of Commons. However, I only commissioned and edited these features. I didn’t write them. By creating Sophie, I get to do all the hard-hitting newsy stuff without having to, you know, actually having to get off my arse.
You have a very good knowledge of police procedure and the language of a post mortem etc. Did you acquire this from your job or did you find you had to carry out more research?
Before I started, the only forensics I knew was what I’d gleaned from TV - aka: the souped-up version. Once I started my research in earnest, I realised it’s a lot more technical and prosaic than it appears. I made sure I spoke to former police officers and forensic pathologists to get the details right. There’s nothing worse than reading something that reeks of bullshit. That said, I think there has to be an element of poetic license in order to move the plot along.
Did you always want to write a crime novel? What is it that appeals to you about this genre?
PD James says she loves writing crime fiction because, ‘[the puzzle] is solved by a human being. By human courage and human intelligence and human perseverance. In a sense, the detective story is a small celebration of reason and order in our very disorderly world’. That sums it up for me. Real life is messy and unjust, but in fiction, you get to play God. In your world no one gets away with murder – and there’s something innately satisfying about that.
How have you found fiction writing compare to writing as a journalist?
Tough. I’m a sociable creature at heart and I miss the cut and thrust of a magazine office. I miss the glamour, the people, and the collaboration. That said, there’s something very special about creating something by yourself. It’s given me a different kind of fulfilment. My author copies of Breaking Dead arrived this morning and holding the book in my hand for the first time was magical. I can remember very clearly struggling over the first paragraph and almost giving up, deciding fiction-writing wasn’t for me. And yet, here I am on the brink of being published. I still can’t quite believe it.
“Breaking Dead” is gritty and includes many grim and unpleasant moments or characters. Can you tell me a bit about the effect (if any!) this has on you while writing?
I shrugged off the squeamishness fairly quickly. Mainly because I was keen to get the details right, and you can’t do that unless you’re willing to do the research. Unfortunately that research often entails reading and looking at images you’d rather not. But the desire to get things right trumps the fear for me. What I did find difficult were the scenes about Sophie’s brother, Tommy. I drew on my relationship with my own little brother (who is nothing like Tommy, by the way!); the protectiveness I felt towards him as a child. I loved Tommy, so it was hard to write the more upsetting parts. But the grim stuff you mention: that wasn’t hard at all. I’m not sure what that says about me!
Which three words would you use to sum up Sophie? How do you want readers to respond to her?
Smart, stubborn…sinking. She has sharp edges but there are reasons for it. I hope readers can see why she makes some of the more unwise decisions.
As the subtitle of the book is “A Sophie Kent Thriller” I’m assuming there are more to come? Did you always plan to write a series? How does this affect your planning / writing?
I hoped Sophie Kent could carry a series. It’s wonderful, actually, because it means I have time and space to develop her character. The more I get to know her the more interesting it is for me as a writer. She’s consistently surprising me!
Can you reveal anything about the next book?
I’m halfway through it at the moment! Here’s the gist. A woman’s mutilated body washes up in the Thames. The evidence points to The London Herald’s Charlie Swift. A man Sophie Kent trusts with her life. On the edge of a breakdown, following the recent bombshell about her brother’s death, Sophie puts her reputation on the line to clear Charlie’s name. Then Charlie flees. With each step, Sophie is drawn deeper into Charlie’s web of deceit, his troubled marriage and his twisted past. As she starts to question his innocence, something happens that blows the investigation – and their friendship – to pieces. Now Sophie isn’t just fighting for justice, she’s fighting for her life. Still, Charlie is her friend. He wouldn’t hurt her, would he?
Which other writers do you admire or find yourself influenced by?
The list is endless. I enjoy sharp writing so Gillian Flynn, Tana French. And it doesn’t have to be crime. I recently read Emma Cline’s "The Girls" and the prose was out of this world. I’m so jealous!
What are you reading at the moment?
I just finished Claire Seeber’s brilliant ’The Stepmother’, and am in the final third of Maggie O’Farrell’s ‘This Must Be The Place’. Next up is Angela Clarke’s ‘Watch Me’ and GJ Minett’s "Lie In Wait". I loved both of their debuts so am really looking forward to the follow-ups.
If you could pose one question for a Book Club based on “Breaking Dead” what would it be?
Oooh good question. How about: when it comes to fighting for the truth, do the ends always justify the means?
Thanks so much Corrie for such fantastic answers! Thank you for taking the time to chat with me! I can't wait for the next Sophie Kent book and wish you all the best with the paperback of "Breaking Dead". I hope other readers enjoy it as much as I did!
"Breaking Dead" is available on kindle and publishes in paperback on 15th September 2016 with Bonnier Zaffre.
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