I write fiction. When I wrote A Time For Silence, my first book to be published, I saw it primarily as a contemporary novel with historical overtones, but I was told that it would be classified as a crime novel. Which is fair enough; there are crimes in it. But in my head I was just writing about people dealing with distressing situations that were turning their lives upside down, and making them confront strengths or weaknesses within themselves that they hadn’t realised were there. The cause of their predicament may have involved a crime, but really it ran far deeper.
Before I wrote crime fiction, I wrote what could only be described as Science Fiction. Fiction set in the future, on a space ship or on alternative planets, so sci-fi really sums it up. Except that what I was really writing about was people dealing with distressing situations that were turning their lives upside down and making them confront strengths or weaknesses within themselves that they hadn’t realised were there.
Before I’d switched to sci-fi, I began by writing fantasy novels – but fantasy completely devoid of elves, unicorns or dragons. They were novels set in a world I had invented, featuring people dealing with distressing situations that were turning their lives upside down, and making them confront strengths or weaknesses within themselves that they hadn’t realised were there. Do you see a theme developing here? My migration between genres is really quite artificial. My real theme remains the same throughout.
There is, however, a major difference between my ‘crime’ novels and my ‘science fiction.’ Crime is a very real thing, causing very real trauma. Crime is, literally, any deliberate act committed contrary to the law, but that covers a great deal of human behaviour that is closer to mild annoyance than major trauma. Crime fiction very seldom focusses on such misdeeds as parking on a double yellow line. It focusses on the seriously dark crimes that knock the stuffing out of people and wreck their lives. Murder, kidnapping, rape, terrorism. Horrible crimes that emotionally cripple.
Yes, there are branches of crime fiction that can gloss over this. There’s the Agatha Christie school of crime in which murder most foul is little more than a cerebral puzzle to be solved, with a trail of cunning clues. Name the culprit, set the trial, explain it all over a nice cup of tea, and all is done. Everyone moves on.
Then there’s cosy crime fiction, in which the nastiness of murder is dispelled by the comedy of absurd rural rituals, class divisions, and tea and cake at endless village fetes (Yes, I mean you, Inspector Barnaby). I can manage this with short stories, but I can’t do it with novels. When I attempt to get into the heads of characters who are victims, perpetrators or survivors of violent crime, I am invariably overwhelmed by the horror of it all. I cannot see murder as anything other than a cause of incurable anguish that will probably last through generations and for which there is no closure.
The great thing about science fiction, in contrast, is that it is that little bit (or a big bit) removed from reality, so it isn’t all horror. I can let the light in and rejoice a little. Having put my new novel, Inside Out, onto Kindle, I have been offered sub-genre classifications by Amazon, and I’ve gone for “Space Opera,” which I think my characters would like, as the book does have musical overtones: there is a saxophone. There is a dollop of horror in it, but then it’s also a thriller, it has humour, it’s even a romance, which very seldom gets a look-in in my books, but most of all it is, I hope, a ripping yarn. A space romp. Strangely enough, it’s about people dealing with distressing situations that are turning their lives upside down and making them confront strengths or weaknesses within themselves that they hadn’t realised were there. Enjoy.
Published on Kindle 12th May
Available for pre-order now.