We asked Paul to tell us about it.
Well, it’s about a husband and wife crime writing team. For years they’ve made a living off of crime novels where bad things have happened, where children have been hurt. On stage, and in interviews, they have made comments about how if anybody can get away with murder, it’s a crime writer. It’s all part of the gig – and I’ve said and done similar things.
But then their seven-year-old son, Zach goes missing. Did they kill him? The more the evidence suggests somebody came to their house, the more the police, the media, the public, view that evidence through the lens of ‘if anybody can get away with murder, it’s a crime writer’. Is the evidence genuine, or planted? And what happened to Zach?
How do you think your novels have developed or changed over the years since you published your first?
I like to think they’ve gotten better – I mean, I have twenty-six years of experience behind me now (I started writing when I was 19 – and got published at 31), and this is book twelve for me. I like to think that I know what I’m doing. I like to comment on society in the books these days too – The Quiet People has a lot of that in there. The way I write is the same – pedal to the metal, pretty much. I still don’t plot, I still work thirty or forty or fifty days in a row, and I still crank the stereo up for the entire process. As for the style – I don’t know – I think it’s evolved a bit, but the core of what I write is still the same – but I take bigger swings than I used to. And I think I’m better at creating a realism to the pain my characters are going through.
The Quiet People is about a couple who happen to be crime writers. What was the process of writing this book for you?
The crime writing bit I knew. The abducting children bit I could figure out. But the way the investigation unfolded I needed help with. I met with a homicide detective and got him to talk me through how things would progress from the moment they get the call of the missing child. I got the beats of how day one would play out, day two, day three etc. It gave me a map for my characters to follow, rather than just having them walking the neighbourhood calling out Zach’s name. I was really appreciative of his help. But – then I felt bad because I changed most of what he said anyway (you don’t want the facts to get in the way of a good story), and then of course you need to have the police making some mistakes along the way… and the police sure make a few in this book. I’m too scared to give him a copy of the book in case he thinks that’s what I think of him.
What are you reading these days?
I’ve been catching up on Michael Connelly books lately, some Dean Koontz, some Stephen King. Then I’ve already been reading some books of friends of mine, Gilly MacMillan’s The Nanny, Fiona Cummins’s latest, and Claire McGowan’s latest too. I’ve got a ton of books to catch up – I think around 80 that I own and haven’t read yet.
What’s next for you, Paul?
I’ve been writing a book over the last month that’s still ticking along. It’s a pretty ‘out there’ idea, but it’s working. It’s two-thirds done, and I’m excited to see if I can get it to come together. When I said I take bigger swings these days, I was more or less thinking about this novel. I’m feeling pretty good about it. I’ve had others fall over around the halfway mark, but nothing as late in the game as this one. But it’s complicated – so… we’ll see. Other than that – usually I’m travelling – but with that off the cards, I’ll spend more time focusing on the books.
The Quiet People by Paul Cleave is out now ($37.99 RRP, Upstart Press)