An Interview with Jessie Keane
Author of DIRTY GAME, which was last month's Crime Book of the Month
Hi Jessie! Thanks for taking time out to answer a fewquestions for BOOKS MONTHLY – here goes:
BM:You're way too young to remember the 1960s – how did you come to write your first published novel about that era and what was it about those years that fascinated you?
JK: I’ve always loved the feel of the sixties – it seemed such a happy, carefree time when everything was possible & ‘swinging’ London was the fashion hub of the world. And the music! Simply the best. It was a completely natural setting for Annie Bailey and DIRTY GAME.
BM: DIRTY GAME is the first in a trilogy – when can we expect to see BLACK WIDOW published? Have you finished writing it and do you have a working title for the third book yet?
JK: BLACK WIDOW is scheduled to be published September 09, but in publishing all things are flexible! I completed BLACK WIDOW recently, and am now working on the third book of the trilogy, which has the working title SCARLET WOMEN.
BM: Looking ahead, are there other periods of recent British history that excite you enough to make you want to write about them? Or will you concentrate on the sixties and seventies for a while?
JK: I love the sixties and the seventies were great too, but the current day has its fascinations too. And the eighties. Power dressing and punk and big City dealers, very exciting. And Layla, Annie Bailey’s daughter, will be 21 years old in 1987…
BM: Is Annie Bailey or any of the characters in DIRTY GAME based on someone you know – yourself, perhaps? Are you ever tempted to write yourself into one of your novels?
JK: To a writer everything is an inspiration. Characters are often compilations of many people. And no, I’m never tempted to write myself into my novels, but apparently I’m very like Annie Bailey – a bossy cow with a can-do attitude who never gives up.
BM: What sort of novels did you write before you came up with DIRTY GAME? Were they also thrillers?
JK: Before DIRTY GAME became such a rip-roaring success, I wrote lots of different things, including chick lit and comedy crime. My excellent agent Judith Murdoch recently told me that she had scrawled ‘dire’ across one of my chick lit efforts, so clearly that wasn’t the right genre for me. As for comedy crime, I realised after some time of trying that only Janet Evanovitch ever made a living out of that. However, I did send one of my comedy crime attempts out to another London agent, and he saw enough talent in that to get in touch and say why not try straight crime. That set me thinking and started me out on the road to writing DIRTY GAME. The instant I started writing it, I knew I’d found my writer’s ‘voice’ and that crime was the right genre for me. Suddenly, writing became fun again.
BM: Are there any plans to turn DIRTY GAME into a film or a TV series? Who would you want to see playing the main roles of Annie, Max and Ruthie?
JK: I would love DIRTY GAME to become a made-for-TV series, or a film. I think it’s very ‘filmic’ in its feel, I just seem to write that way. Annie Bailey would have to be Alison King, who plays sexy and intense factory boss Carla in Coronation Street. Max Carter could be played beautifully by Matt Healy, who brings arrogant brooding bad boy Matthew King to life in Emmerdale (think he’s free later this year). And Redmond Delaney just has to be gorgeous red haired Damian Lewis. Ruthie? Someone soft and gentle and blonde. Any suggestions?
BM: How did you research DIRTY GAME to get such a degree of accuracy and such a great feel for the period?
JK: I ploughed through a lot of books on the sixties, and researched extensively on the net. The ‘feel’ of the period just comes from a love of it, I think. Put in the details, add a great big dollop of fascination, and the rest just happens.
BM: What was it that inspired you to become a writer in the first place? Were you good at creative writing at school? What authors were your main inspiration?
JK: I always wrote, even when I could barely crawl! I won my first writing award when I was 8 years old, and I was writing full-length novels by the time I hit fifteen (mostly to escape the pretty grim reality of my life, and I don’t think they were very good!) I was abused as a child, and spent my teenage years on a very tough estate, so writing was a way to escape from all that. Oddly enough, one of my main inspirations was Alistair MacLean who wrote Ice Station Zebra and Where Eagles Dare among many others– my Dad loved his books, passed them to me, I read them and loved them too.
BM: do you have a favourite crime/thriller author whose books you can't do without? Do you read other genres as well or do you find you have less time to keep up with reading now you’re committed to a three-book contract and have deadlines to meet?
JK:I think Tess Gerritsen is brilliant, I admire her work. I do dip into other genres, mainly for relaxation and beach reads, but my own writing takes up too much of my time for me to read many other people’s work.
BM: Can you name five favourite books, titles you couldn't be without? Series count as one title, for example, Stephen King's seven-volume THE DARK TOWER, which is one series I couldn't be without!
JK:Five favourite books? I’m a huge fan of Stephen King, I love both Salem’s Lot and The Shining, very spooky! Anything by Marian Keyes is good, particularly The other Side of the Story. Wilbur Smith’s Egyptian trilogy is simply great. Frank Herbert’s Dune trilogy is so awesome I am constantly amazed by it. Dick Francis’s Whip Hand is a book I always return to, I love his stoic, quiet hero Sid Halley. Having read all these I’ve come to one very simple conclusion: these best sellers are best sellers for a reason – they’re easy to read, compelling, the reader has to keep turning the page. I’ve had great feedback on DIRTY GAME and I only hope that DIRTY GAME will grow into a best seller too.
BM: Jessie, many, many thanks for finding the time to talk to me – I hope DIRTY GAME turns out to be the spectacular success it deserves to be and that it won't be too long before BLACK WIDOW turns up on my doorstep! Very best wishes and thanks for such an entertaining read!