In British author Bauer’s The Shut Eye, a misanthropic inspector deals with the aftermath of two missing-children cases.
What’s the origin of the title?
I heard a psychic on the radio use the phrase a shut eye, and I was hooked. I did a lot of research and drew on personal experience too, but basically I had the title and built the whole story around it. I was nervous of using a psychic at all, because of the risk of the book being branded supernatural or a cheat, so I had to write through the eyes of a real skeptic to keep it grounded and make sure that the case could be solved whether or not there was a supernatural element. Readers can decide what they want to believe about the psychic element. I like to leave some things for readers to make up their own minds about. I think that’s much more interesting for all of us.
Without spoiling anything for readers, can you talk about how you plant surprises throughout the book?
Sometimes I know the surprise is coming before I start writing, and sometimes the surprise surprises even me. The latter is always the most fun! When I have something I want the readers to be surprised by, the art is in hiding it skillfully enough so that they don’t see it coming, but as soon as it happens, they understand immediately where it’s come from and think they could have seen it coming. My writing style is such that there are many details that may or may not be relevant to the plot. Most of them are only relevant to character or atmosphere, or just to create a sense of environment. So luckily I have plenty of places to hide my surprises.
You also do a find job planting fair clues. How important is it to you that the reader feels you’ve been fair?
The smallest cheat can spoil a whole story. As a reader and a film fan, I can spot a cheat a mile off and never want to disappoint my readers that way. It’s fundamental that events unfold with a logic consistent to the characters and circumstances. I can’t think of a particular book or film that taught me this. I think it’s just basic, good writing, and I’ve been lucky enough to read and see enough good writing to know the difference.
What has your gardening work taught you about writing fiction and vice versa?
Gardening taught me that once you start, you get cold and wet and dirty and miserable and your back aches and you break nails, but as long as you keep going with a vision in mind, eventually you can create something wonderful out of nothing.