Nov­el­ist Shari Lapena on how she got into crime fic­tion — and stay­ing at home with her cof­fee, her choco­late and her cat

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - BOOKS - KIM BIE­LEN­BERG

Your suc­cess­ful thrillers are de­scribed as ‘do­mes­tic noir’. Why is that genre so pop­u­lar now? Why did you switch from lit­er­ary fic­tion to crime and were you sur­prised by your suc­cess? When did you start writ­ing fic­tion?

I was a lawyer and then a teacher. I al­ways wanted to be a writer, so when my first child was born, I stayed home, and started writ­ing. That was 19 years ago and my first thriller was pub­lished three years ago. I like to say that my overnight suc­cess took 16 years.

Which books would you take to a desert is­land?

The Col­lected Works of Agatha Christie and A God in Ru­ins by Kate Atkin­son.

Does your lat­est novel, An Un­wanted Guest, have a slight Agatha Christie feel?

Yes, it’s a nos­tal­gic walk-through mys­tery, up­dated with mod cons. A group of peo­ple go away to stay in a nice ho­tel in the Catskill Moun­tains, and get stranded in an ice storm. Some­one dies, then some­one else dies. The char­ac­ters won­der who will be next, and who the killer is.

When and where do you write?

I am not one of those peo­ple who could write in a café. I pre­fer it at home with my cof­fee, my choco­late and my cat. I am def­i­nitely a morn­ing per­son. I do my quota every day. I have a desk in my bed­room. I have a nice com­fort­able of­fice chair, and a nice chair be­side and my cat sits on that. I had to get her her own chair, be­cause she sat on mine.

I al­ways wanted to write a thriller, so I did it as an ex­per­i­ment to see if I could do it. I winged it. When I fin­ished it, I thought it was okay, but I cer­tainly did not ex­pect the pos­i­tive re­sponse. Stranger than fic­tion: Palah­niuk’s own life has had...

One rea­son may be that in these books women are more ac­tive than pas­sive. They dis­play emo­tions that mean that they are not al­ways seen as good char­ac­ters. They are not in­hibit­ing them­selves.

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