British TV producer and writer Arlidge’s debut, Eeny Meeny, launches a new thriller series starring Hampshire Det. Insp. Helen Grace.
Does your work as a television writer and producer have an impact on your novel writing?
Completely. My screen work has had a direct influence on my prose style. I write very short visual chapters that feel like scenes from a TV show—people often say my novels read like prose screenplays. Also, like most TV producers and writers, I think in multiples—Eeny Meeny was always intended to be the first in a long line of DI Helen Grace stories.
Which do you prefer, and what are your reasons?
I enjoy both, but I am loving being an author. You have such creative autonomy, and the vision you present is singular and clear. In TV, you obviously have to include and harness the talents and opinions of your cast, the director, execs, editors, and more. It can lead to great collaboration, but it can also mean projects become clouded or muddled.
Every major character in Eeny Meeny is severely flawed and living in pain—please comment.
Not every major character! For every Helen Grace we also have her assistant, Charlie Brooks—dark and light. But it is true that overall the book skews toward dysfunction. As I was writing the book, I was reading a lot of Scandinavian crime fiction. They excel at creating fallen worlds in which everyone is tainted, and I suspect their influence can be felt in my characters. Patricia Highsmith and Graham Greene—two of my absolute favorites—are adept at doing the same thing.
How do you maintain the reader’s interest (and your own) in an ongoing series?
By creating an amazing set of characters who have massive personal journeys to go on, and remembering to refresh each novel, so it seems somehow different, bigger and more surprising than its predecessor. If you are not bored, hopefully your readers will not be either.
Is your choice of a strong, independent female protagonist a political statement or purely a literary decision?
Actually it is both. I love writing female characters and am naturally drawn to them, but I also feel it is time for the women to lead. We have had enough boring, middle-aged white male coppers. All the best fictional detectives of recent times are female—Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander, The Killing’s Sarah Lund, The Bridge’s Saga Noren, and more besides. It just feels that the world is changing, and that finally it might be time for the women to take center stage.