„Writing Crime Fiction is Like Baking: You Mix Different Ingredients Together”
Interview with English Crime Novelist Cara Hunter

It was hard to believe that a novelist, whose crime stories guide the reader through the most gruesome areas of the human brain, is a lovely, joyful person in real life, but Cara Hunter is a phenomena: she immediately wins people over with her natural way of being. After three of her books have been published in Hungary, she finally came to Budapest in November. We met her at Corinthia Hotel.

How did you become a writer?

I have always loved to write and I often thought about writing a novel. Before my first novel was published, I worked as a freelance copywriter. I considered my job a way of practicing, thinking it would make me a better writer. I experimented with different genres before my first crime novel came out, and my husband was very supportive. Actually, he encouraged me to write my first book.

What did he do?

While we were on a holiday, I was reading a crime novel. After I finished, I told my husband that I wasn’t happy with the ending and then he asked why I don’t write a story that is exciting from the beginning to the end. Then and there, before we returned home, I wrote the rough synopsis.

Your first novel was published in 2018, your third book came out this November and we can expect the fourth next year. How can you write so fast?

My first book was written in 2015. An English publisher purchased the rights in 2016 but only published it in 2017. Then a year later, the book appeared on the shelves of Hungarian bookstores too. The second book was finished before they published the first. It was much easier then because I had more time since I didn’t have to focus on the book promotion yet.

It sounds to me that you are disciplined. How much do you usually write at once?

I am a morning person. I wake up early, exercise, and then sit down to work until 3-4 PM. The biggest challenge in writing is that you need to have ideas. If I have an idea, I can write fast thanks to my copywriter past. In those times I had to squeeze ideas out of myself and finish the job by a deadline. For me, it takes 4 to 5 months to write a novel, and then another 4-5 months for the editors to check. After that, I work more on it, and change what needs to be changed.

What inspires you?

Ideas come from everywhere, let that be the news, magazines or crime novels that I read. My second book, In the Dark was inspired by the story of Jozef Fritzl (the Austrian man that kept his daughter in their home’s cellar for 24 years and constantly abused her; he was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2009 – the ed.), but of course I added some twists, this way reality and the book aren’t the same. Anything can inspire me, even interesting-looking people I see on the street. Sometimes it makes me wonder what their life might be like, where they are coming from, what they are heading towards. Writing crime fiction is like baking: you mix different ingredients together.

Cara Hunter

Your stories are unrelated, but all of them are solved by detective Adam Fawley. Isn’t it hard to write from a man’s perspective?

At first, I didn’t know if Fawley will be a man or a woman. I called the character Chris that could be either, and his partner was Alex, which is another name that could be given to both a man and a woman. Readers could think that Fawley is a man and Alex, a woman is his love interest, but it was also a possibility that they were a same sex couple.

Why did you change your mind and name the protagonist Adam, making it obvious that he is a man?

It was my publisher’s suggestion, because they thought it wouldn’t be possible to keep this concept if I wanted to write more books with Fawley as one of the characters. Also, the situation was confusing even to me. Interestingly enough, some of my readers, who couldn’t have known that his role was supposed to be genderless first, gave me the feedback that they think Adam Fawley had feminine characteristics.

Who do you show your books first?

My husband and my friends. I often tell the story-line to my husband, Simon, so he usually knows what to expect while reading it. With my 4th book though, I made an exception and didn’t spare him any details. I wanted him to be surprised at every twist and turn. I also show my books to those friends of mine, who doesn’t like crime novels. Their opinions are equally important, because they are more critical.

Your stories take place in Oxford. Why did you choose this city?

I lived in London too, but currently Oxford is my base. All university towns are said to be beautiful, but my personal favorite is Oxford. You wouldn’t even know how many different types of people live there. University students, Oxfordians, people living in the town’s innovative, modern areas and lots of artists. These groups aren’t divided, so it inspires me a lot how these different people get together in the streets. It is great to live in this city because it is impossible to get giddy with success. At parties that I attend, most guests are writers, so I am just like anyone else.

Author: Péter Tegdes