Good afternoon readers, earlier this month I kicked off the blog tour for the wonderful Karen Long and her dark but incredibly exciting book The Vault which you can see here. After reviewing the book and writing the review I had so many questions I wanted to ask so I must admit this guest post is a little selfish because I really wanted some answers. However I thought that this would also work as a brilliant Q+A for you to read too. If you can’t tell from my review I loved this book and cannot wait to see what Karen comes up with next, I was so consumed by this book if you are a fan of crime and thriller books, or just looking for something new to read I would definitely recommend!
Where did the idea of plasticising the victims come from? It’s quite a terrifying concept, was it just an idea, or it did come from seeing something?
I had watched a couple of documentaries on Gunther von Hagens’ ‘Bodyworld’s’ exhibition and was fortunate to be able to see the show twice. It had also shown in Toronto in 2005. What struck me most about it was the beauty and accessibility of the human form. Here were real people, presented as pieces of art; people who continued to exist, albeit in a completely different form, after their deaths. They no longer possessed an identity, as their names had long since disappeared into anonymity but they had a ‘reality’ to them and I could see just how desirable an idea that was. To own someone who could never decompose, who never judged, argued or betrayed you could be, to an individual who spent his working life amongst the valued dead in a museum, a very tempting concept. This was an idea I had played around with in ‘The Safe Word’, so obviously something that resonates with my own peculiar personality.
How easy was it to research the process needed to go through the stages of plasticising or was it a more fictional description?
As far as I can tell there is very little that can’t be gleaned from the Internet and the process used by von Hagen and the history of embalming provided a wealth of papers. There are a great many proprietary chemicals used in the process but there are available equivalents, simpler compounds such as acetone, which appear to the same job. I imagine myself in the shoes of my psychopaths; once I understand what they want I try to imagine how they are going to achieve it a) with their current knowledge and skill base b) within the confines of their environment c) without being detected. So, yes the processes are scientifically accurate but under these particular circumstances are not completely successful. I hasten to add that I have, at no point, attempted the plastination of any person either living or dead.
When writing the book did you start at the ending and work backwards or was it a forward thinking process. I always wonder with thrillers/crime books whether the ending is completely decided or whether it comes through writing the book.
I am a very linear writer. I do the ‘What if?’ and then plan a broad outline and then chapter one. I haven’t a particularly structured idea as to how it will play out because the characters haven’t really come to life at such an early stage. Sometimes I’ll get a flash of where I want to head to but it’s disappointingly
There are a number of extremely taboo themes covered in the book, was it always intended to be so dark in terms of subject or did lend itself to being more so as you kept writing?
Crime fiction is about the darkness of the soul. The very worst that can be done by and to another individual is the taking of life, everything else is survivable mentally and physically. I am not interested in revenge as a motive but rather the intricacies of a twisted mind; the sort of minds that don’t share common human values and follow their desires and internal narratives with a total disregard to the lives and happiness of others. I am very aware of and uncomfortable with ‘torture porn’ and am careful not to aggrandise or titillate with the subject of sado-masochism, necrophilia or murder. I think I have a darkness within me and need to explore these feeling through a dramatic medium.
Eleanor is a complex character, how did you plan out all the interweaving emotions that affect her throughout?
Eleanor’s strength and weakness is that she is a mirror to the murderers she hunts. To catch them she needs to understand them; to understand them is to be tainted by them. Every time she gets an insight into their desires, she steps closer to catching them and moves further away from her humanity. I see it as a game of chess. Every move has it’s cost and consequence.
What do you have planned next for writing? Is there another book on the cards, because I want to read it!
I love hearing that readers want the next book! It’s easy to work in a vacuum and have no real idea whether what you’re writing is wanted or enjoyed. I’m onto the third book, ‘The Cold Room’ at the moment. It’s about the same characters but hopefully has a new twist on Eleanor’s story.
So there you go, a very detailed and interesting set of answers to my questions! If you want to see more click the links below or get in touch using the comment box! Finally a huge thank you to Karen for being such a wonderful and utterly lovely author to work with. Cannot wait to see more of your writing! 😀 <3