Remember the children’s rhyme? It’s the title of Bea Davenport’s new book, and there’s a connection between the story and the rhyme. To find out what it is, though, you’ll have to buy the book – I have!
A week or two ago I asked Bea a few questions:
How did you come to write This Little Piggy?
It was very loosely inspired by a real case I reported on as a newspaper journalist, quite a few years ago, although, of course, my story is fiction. At first I thought I would write it as a contemporary novel, but as I started writing I felt it would work well set in the very fraught time of 1984. That is a time I remember very vividly, because I did have to report on the miner’s strike at the time, which was very difficult for those of us in the newspaper industry. Many of us had strong sympathies with the miners but this conflicted with the anti-strike stance taken by the newspapers themselves.
The dispute is not the main story, which centres round the death of a baby, but it is ongoing in the background. I remember also what a desperate time it was – the unemployment, the pitiless government, the hopelessness if large areas of the north-east of England, where I live and work.
How do you go about the writing process?
I’m not a planner. I start off with sometimes the vaguest of ideas and mull it over for a little before the characters start to come to me. This means that as I write, I rarely know how the story is going to end and things change all the time during the writing process. If people claim they guessed how one of my novels was going to end, I think, Wow – that’s more than I did – I didn’t know myself until I wrote the final chapter!
What’s the best thing about being an author?
Definitely, for me, it’s when other people affirm the writing – from a commercial publisher being prepared to invest in it, because they think it’s worth it, to readers saying how much they loved it and asking for more. That probably says something very tragic about my self-esteem! If course, I also love the creative rush that comes from having a new idea and sitting down to make that happen in words.
And the worst thing?
After a certain point, editing drives me to distraction. I don’t mind the first couple of rewrites, but after that it feels almost like an obsession with my own words and I want to get out of it. That’s even though I know how necessary editing is and I am very lucky always to have worked with wonderful editors. I just quickly get bored and want to move on to new writing.
Any funny moments?
My last adult novel, In Too Deep, had its title changed because the original name was the same as a book by another female crime writer. I then discovered that one of the top novels that pops up when you type ‘In Too Deep‘ into Amazon is an erotic novel. That made me laugh, although I guess it wouldn’t be so funny if people actually thought I’d written that one!
I’ve also written a children’s novel, called The Serpent House, and I went to do a creative writing session with some kids at a summer camp. The organizer very proudly told me that they had a genuine python for me to hold to pose for a picture. What they didn’t know was that I am hugely phobic about snakes, to the point that I can’t even look at a picture of one. I almost turned and ran at that point but I managed to persuade him that the thing would not come anywhere near me.
Your own favourite book/author/genre?
Agh, this is a tough one. I’m quite an eclectic reader, so I don’t have a favourite genre. I’m in awe of Hilary Mantel, who I think is possibly our greatest living writer. I also love the writing of Neil Gaiman and Patrick Ness. Crime-wise, I like the suspense and mystery element rather than gore. Too many good writers in that genre to list, I think!
What are your hobbies away from writing?
I’m a reader, as you might imagine. But like most writers, I have to work for a living as well as writing, so I don’t get much time for anything other than the day jobs, writing, and being with my kids. It feels like a very full life, though!
What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Three things. One is that I definitely think it’s worth taking at least one creative writing course, because the techniques you will learn are what will bring your ideas off the page in the best way possible and you will be able to spot when your writing is a bit cringe-worthy.
Second, and this may sound counter-intuitive, beware creative writing ‘how-to’ books. I keep buying them because they promise so much, but I’ve never read a single one that was any real use. Some of them, with their graphs and their formulae, are the opposite of creative.
Finally, and this is the most important, don’t listen to people who say you’ll never make it. I was brought up to believe that only special people – with connections! – could become writers and so I didn’t show my work to anyone until quite late in life. I regret that now. Keep going and believe you have a story worth telling.
Plans for the future?
My favourite Tony Blair quote (and I am not a fan of him!) is ‘I never make predictions. I never have and I never will.’ I’m sure he didn’t intend to be so ridiculous but it makes me laugh every time! So I don’t really know what’s next, except that I have many more story ideas and I very much hope that I can write them well and get them out there.
Journalist Clare Jackson follows the story as police bungle the inquiry and struggle to contain the escalating violence. Haunted by a personal trauma she can’t face up to, Clare is shadowed by nine-year-old Amy, a bright but neglected little girl who seems to know more about the incident than she’s letting on.
As the days go on and the killer is not found, Clare ignores warnings not to get too close to her stories and, in doing so, puts her own life in jeopardy.