By Elena Avanzas Álvarez
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
The Crime Fiction Association is very pleased to bring you an exclusive interview with Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train. After seeing her crime fiction debut turned into a successful blockbuster, the author is back with Into the Water, a page-turner that questions gender roles and how traditional 'femenine' knowledge has been historically dismissed. Our partner Elena Avanzas Álvarez (University of Oviedo) sat down with Hawkins to talk about feminism, writing, women in crime, and life after The Girl on the Train.
After the success of The Girl on the Train, how did you come up with the plot of Into the Water?
I usually start with a character; in this case I started with two – the sisters, Nel and Jules. I knew that they were estranged by something that happened in their past, so then I just had to figure out what it was, and how their story would develop, even though one of them was no longer around. I knew where I was going – but the details of the plot emerged during the writing.
Into the Water is an unusual crime novel with more than 10 narrators. Why did you decide to do this?
I created a small community in which almost everyone is keeping a secret, then I had to figure out how I was going to let the reader share in those secrets. I wanted the reader to become immersed in the characters’ psychologies, all the better to understand their motivations and weaknesses.
As in The Girl on the Train, Into the Water features complex female characters as well as feminist concerns. How important do you think it is to feature female-driven stories? What about feminist crime fiction?
I’m interested in women – in their lives and their concerns and the particular obstacles they might face. I have written about domestic violence more than once because this is the most common form of violence which women encounter. In Into the Water I was writing more generally about the issue of women who are troublesome – women who speak up, or who take up too much space, who don’t conform. It’s an issue that seems particularly relevant at the moment.
Many crime novels have been adapted into feature films or TV shows. What do you think about this experience, and how do you think it affects consumers of crime fiction?
Television and film adaptations tend to bring crime novels to a wider audience – I imagine there will be a great many people who hadn’t heard of Liane Moriarty going out to buy Big Little Lies in the wake of its excellent TV adaptation. I know that a great many readers were introduced to The Girl on the Train by the movie. I think provided these adaptations are done thoughtfully, then for the most part it is a good thing.
Where do you think contemporary crime fiction is headed (women, diversity, different points of view, stories that do not feature police departments, etc.)?
I’ve no idea! Clearly we have had a few years now where crime fiction written by women and set in the domestic arena (domestic noir, if you like) has been the dominant sub-genre in this part of the market. Whether that can continue is a tricky question: there is clearly a huge appetite for these sorts of stories, but as is the case with any major trend, there will come a point where people are looking for the Next Big Thing. I don’t think it’s something that authors should concern themselves too much with this sort of thing, however: we just need to tell the stories we want to tell, in the best way that we can.
Elena Avanzas Álvarez is a third-year PhD Candidate at the University of Oviedo, Spain. She has been researching crime fiction with a gender perspective for the last three years and is currently writing her thesis on female forensic doctors in contemporary American thrillers. Her research about Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Scandinavian crime fiction, and women’s issues has been published in various interantional journals, and her MA thesis about performativity and discourse analysis on the TV show Rizzoli & Isles won the First Gender and Diversity Award in 2014. She is also the founder of Books & Reviews, a blog focused on crime fiction and Women’s Studies.
Dr. Fiona Peters is Reader in Crime Fiction at Bath Spa University in the UK. She is a Patricia Highsmith scholar and is director of the Captivating Criminality project.