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‘Why I Turned My Back On A Life Of Crime’… A Guest Post by Kate Vane

When author Kate Vane contacted me to request a review for her latest contemporary novel Not The End, I was immediately struck that she had changed genres so radically, since writing her first successful book, Recognition, which falls well and truly into the realms of psychological crime.

Thinking that this sudden, drastic change of direction, could potentially have the makings of a good guest post, I put the idea forward to Kate. Given the alacrity with which she acceded to my request, I have the feeling that this may be the question she has been asked on more than one occasion, so I’ll hand you over to Kate to explain ….

HELLO, I AM KATE VANE

I studied in Leeds and then worked in the city as a probation officer. My first novel, Recognition, is a psychological crime novel set in that same City of Leeds.

I now live on the Devon coast, where I grew up and where my second, contemporary novel, is set. Not The End, was inspired in part by a period I spent working in a local authority cemeteries department.

I now work for a charity in Exeter.

Image Of Author Kate VaneWHY I TURNED MY BACK ON A LIFE OF CRIME

Authors are always being advised to develop a brand. Write a particular genre, in a particular style. Better still, write a series. That way, people will know what you do. If they like it, they’ll come back. So why did I go from writing crime fiction to a literary novel?

My first novel, Recognition, is a psychological crime novel. At the time that I wrote it, I was obsessed with crime fiction, from Ruth Rendell’s claustrophobic domestic dramas, to the epic scope of James Ellroy’s LA Quartet, to Val McDermid’s pacy procedurals.

Nat Keane never forgot her first murder. Sandie Thurston was killed and mutilated in her own bed. Five-year-old Amy lay beside her, soaked in her mother’s blood.

Nat was the first police officer on the scene. She was the family liaison officer who got close to the family. Too close. When a man was convicted, she walked away, lonely and broken.

Ten years on she has another life. She has a job she loves counselling trauma victims and a home with her partner, Dylan, a criminal lawyer. So when Martin, husband of the murdered Sandie, asks her to work with him and Amy, why does she agree to go back?

Amy’s evidence was key to getting a conviction. Now the media are hinting that she got it wrong. Martin is tortured by a guilt he won’t explain. At fifteen, Amy is alternately needy and hostile – a devoted daughter who deceives her father, a sheltered child who can’t stop taking risks.

As Nat is drawn into the family’s secrets, is she helping them find the truth or complicit in their lies? Who did kill Sandie? And why, just when Nat needs Dylan’s support, is he distracted by a controversial case of his own?

Recognition is a compelling novel of psychological suspense, set in and around Leeds.

Image Of Author Kate Vane

Crime fiction is a way to explore areas of society which are often ignored in other types of fiction. People who live in poverty and hopelessness, whose lives are touched by loss or addiction or illness, are often given a voice by crime writers.

The key question for me was not whodunnit, but why. In my favourite crime fiction, the story is driven not just by contrived plot twists and red herrings but by the inner conflicts of the characters themselves. They say one thing but mean another. They believe they want something, but deep down they want something else. They lie to others but they also lie to themselves.

On a more prosaic level, I think I was attracted to writing crime fiction because it gave me a template. I was confident with character, but less so with plot. You might think that in that case, it would be harder to write crime, where plot is crucial, but I felt it was easier. I knew how the book had to start – with a murder – and how it had to end – with the identification of the killer. I just had to work out what went in between.

Recognition was, in many ways, a difficult book to write. The subject matter was dark. It’s the story of a family who are still traumatised by a murder ten years on, who have to face the possibility that the wrong person was convicted. When I thought of writing another book, I felt like I wanted to be in a happier place.

My reading habits had also changed. I’d found new authors who were both funny and serious. Books where you don’t necessarily know the journey before you start. Books that don’t, on the face of it, have the high stakes of a murder investigation, but still have you completely absorbed. That, in a way, seemed a much tougher challenge. I tried to think about how they do it and what I could learn.

Not the End is set largely in a Devon seaside town. It’s the story of three people whose lives are changed by the death of a woman they never met. They are the woman who finds Maud’s body, the cemetery manager who organises her funeral and the heir hunter who is trying to trace her family.

There’s a summer heatwave in Dormouth, the Devon seaside town and former home of the artist Hugh Bonnington.

No one pays much attention to octogenarian sea swimmer Maud Smith, recently arrived from Portugal. But when she drowns and her body is washed up on the beach, she changes the lives of three people she never met.

Brenda, insomniac dog walker, finds Maud’s body and loses a husband.

Jim, reluctant heir hunter and committed birdwatcher, thinks he’s found love, if he can only escape London.

Philosopher-drunk Neil, the cemetery manager, plans Maud’s funeral then finds that art has a funny way of interfering with life.

With wry humour and sharp observation, Not the End is a contemporary novel about love, loss and the therapeutic possibilities of knitting.

Image Of Author Kate Vane

The challenge the characters face isn’t solving a murder but working out how to live their lives, when events or other people or their own thoughts mean their world no longer makes sense.

The two books are superficially very different, but the fundamentals are the same. I am still preoccupied by character and motivation. For me, every book, regardless of genre, is an attempt to answer the question, why?

The narrative techniques that draw readers into a crime novel are the same for literary fiction – complex, believable characters, pacy dialogue, chapters with a clear narrative drive that end on a hook so you want to read just a few pages more.

All novels should surprise you. They should immerse you in a world. They may even make you look differently at the real one. So we shouldn’t make too much of the distinction between genres.

Thank you so much for stopping by today Kate and allowing us all into your personal writing space. I am looking forward to reading Not The End and shall definitely be adding Recognition to my wishlist.

Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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14 comments
  • This is really interesting and has made me want to read Kate Vane’s books. I like the way she writes about her writing! And I like the idea of her second book more than her first. I read a lot of crime fiction, so something different is always attractive. I know the therapeutic power of knitting very well!

    • Hi Margaret,

      I too, found it so refreshing for an author to be able to articulate so candidly about their writing and reading habits.

      I was particularly interested to learn that Kate found the plot building aspect of a crime novel, much less of a challenge than the interaction of the characters within that plot. I would always have assumed it to be the other way around, in that the details of the plot would be much more difficult to synchronise and be flowing, whereas the characters would to some degree, naturally circulate and grow within the framework of the story.

      Either way, both books are on my list to read and I’m afraid that crime / thrillers, will probably always be right at the top of my list.

      I have copious supplies of the therapeutic crafts which I used to enjoy so much …. knitting, crocheting, embroidery, reading and jigsaw puzzles, although I am finding more and more, that after a day spent working and an evening spent blogging, the only therapeutic quality I really find beneficial …. is sleep!

      Thank you for taking the time to read Kate’s post and leave a comment, we both appreciate it and have a great weekend, despite the weather!

  • How brilliant to read about a local (to me) author, that I had not previously come across! I shall definitely be investigating to see if I can track down these two books, particularly the new one which sounds rather good.

    • Hi Cath,

      It somehow makes the whole experience of reading a book so much more personal and inclusive, if the author is local and therefore not only tends to base their stories and characters on local knowledge, but also makes me feel so much more comfortable when placing those characters in locations which I actually know and have visited.

      Surely being a local author, the libraries in the area would want to support Kate in making her books available to as many people as possible?!

      Personally, I have added both books to my TBR list and I hope that you are able to source some reasonably priced copies for yourself!

      Have a good weekend, despite the weather. My brother and his wife are visiting Devon from Wiltshire, for the weekend, although I think that they are up on the North Devon coast, at a place called South Molton.

      • I haven’t checked the library catalogue for books by Kate Vane yet, but I will do so soon.

        South Molton is about half an hour’s drive from where I live, we go up there occasionally as they have a nice library and market. It’s not on the coast but is not far from it, about 15 mins drive. A pretty area as Exmoor is right on the doorstep. The weather is not supposed to be too great but it’s not as bad this morning as they predicted so I expect they’ll be fine.

        I hope you have a nice weekend too, Yvonne.

        • Brother and sister-in-law had a fantastic weekend and covered nearly 500 miles in total, over the three day period!

          I received a reply from Kate about this post and she says this in response to our query about library stock …..

          “Thanks everyone for your kind comments. I’m afraid my books aren’t currently available in the library as they’re only published in Amazon Kindle format. I’d like to move to other electronic formats and paperback in the future.

          I try to keep prices low and Recognition will be on promotion at 99p from 22 May for one week.

          I love living in Devon and enjoyed writing about it. By contrast, most of Recognition was written shortly after I left Leeds so drew on memory (and nostalgia!).”

          Take Care.

  • Thank you for this interesting guest post. It’s always a treat to have an author share the whys and wherefores behind their stories. Both books, while totally different, sound quite good.

    I have a feeling they’ll both end up on my wishlist as I can’t really decide which appeals to me more.

    • Hi Kelly,

      I am already lucky enough to have a copy of ‘Not The End’ for review, but rest assured that I shall be keeping my eyes open on my travels, for a copy of ‘Recognition’ also.

      In as much as Kate enjoys mixing her writing genres to accommodate the particular storyline she has come up with for a set of characters, I also enjoy reading frrom a completely diverse range of genres, with the possible exception of science fiction, which I just don’t ‘get’ at all!

      This has been such an interesting guest post to host, both engaging and relevant and I appreciate your lovely comments.

      Have a good weekend.

    • Hi Tracy,

      I have to admit that I only tend to feature authors who can come up with original guest post ideas and material of their own, as I am not a huge fan of the traditional Q & A scenario. It becomes almost impossible to ask an original question, which hasn’t already been asked somewhere before and this can so often lead to a very ‘closed’ interview, which doesn’t reveal anything about the true personality of the author. The more open and down to earth the author is, the better quality interaction with the reading audience can be achieved. I am not sure just how much the adage ‘people buy from people’ is relevant in the publishing industry, but for me personally, it can make all the difference about the way I approach reading a book.

      I hope that you are well and thanks for taking the time to comment today, it is appreciated.

  • Good for Kate on writing what she likes and not feeling she has to stick to a certain genre. Recognition and Not the End both sound good.
    Great post!

    • Hi Naida,

      I must admit that I only like to publish guest posts, where the author concerned is more than willing to choose their subject and provide copy, without the need for any of the traditional Q & A input from me. It serves to offer a much deeper insight into the life of the author concerned and what motivates them to write as they do.

      Kate certainly got her point across loud and clear with this particular sentence ….

      “I am still preoccupied by character and motivation. For me, every book, regardless of genre, is an attempt to answer the question, why?”

      …. making the sudden change of writing genres between her two books, much easier to understand and definitely all the more interesting to want to read.

      Thanks for stopping by, I hope that all is well with you.

  • Thanks everyone for your kind comments. I’m afraid my books aren’t currently available in the library as they’re only published in Amazon Kindle format. I’d like to move to other electronic formats and paperback in the future.

    I try to keep prices low and Recognition will be on promotion at 99p from 22 May for one week.

    I love living in Devon and enjoyed writing about it. By contrast, most of Recognition was written shortly after I left Leeds so drew on memory (and nostalgia!).

    I should say I haven’t ruled out writing another crime novel, or a novel of psychological suspense.

    Thanks again, Kate

    • Hi Kate,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by, your comments and feedback are appreciated.

      It is such a shame that your books are not as yet available from the library service, as there are several fellow bloggers who rely on this service as their primary source of review copy. However, that great price tag of 99pence, for a copy of ‘Recognition’, is a bargain, especially with it being available for an entire week.

      I do hope that sales of both books continue to grow at a steady pace and look forward to reading that your next new book is out there in print!

Written by Yvonne

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