Author Kelly Creighton (Souls Wax Fair and a lot more besides) was kind enough to answer a few questions on her latest book and more.
I am a full-time writer these days. However, I do other bits and pieces. I facilitate creative writing workshops for schools and community groups, mentor new writers, and teach English as a foreign language.
*I’m soon to read your latest offering – Souls Wax Fair. Can you pitch it to a potential reader in 50 words or less? (*Finished and enjoyed!)
After a life of hardship, Mary Jane McCord’s life in Rapid City finally hits a sweet spot. Her singing career takes off. Everything is looking up until she uncovers the dark and secret obsessions of high-profile men. Twenty years pass but the people closest to Mary Jane have not forgotten.
That was hard! I’d like to add that it is a literary thriller, and more. A little bit experimental.
I believe it’s your fifth novel after your three book DI Harriet Sloane series and a standalone novel – The Bones of It, plus a couple of short story collections and a book of poetry.
Which one are you most proud of?
I am immensely proud of The Bones of It because that was where I found my voice after shelving my first (unpublished) book. The Sloane books are important as far as my portrayal of a female detective and the societal themes I deal with. I get most satisfaction out of writing the procedural books because they are a puzzle I set and have to work out myself. It’s great fun, and weird.
But as a writer, I’m most in love with Souls Wax Fair. When I finished writing it, I felt bereft of the story, the setting and the characters. Every time I read from it I feel the most pride.
It depends on the reader and what they like. Even with the series, I don’t mind if the books are read out of order or as standalones. There is a lot of great art and literature out there to compete with.
Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?
No. I do, however, insert scenarios from real life here and there. When people are telling me about mad things that happen to them, they usually add, ‘Kelly, you could put it in a book.’ It makes me laugh, and it’s a good gauge of how quirky something is if someone thinks it’s like something I would write. Real life is stranger than fiction, after all.
No. The difficult subjects draw me to them. I like fiction that disrupts my comfort zone (a bit). It is all down to how the subjects are handled. Some people would prefer to read about nicer things, but I do write about violence quite a bit; it’s one of my recurring themes. There’s nothing nice about it but plenty to say on the matter.
How long from conception to completion did Souls Wax Fair take? Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?
I got the kernel for the story in 2016. It was quite slow going until I visited South Dakota in 2018 and was able to research the place and write the book properly. It probably took two years from then, although after each draft I was setting it aside and working on another project, so it didn’t take the full two years. Still, it’s been a long process to get it out into the world.
Was there one spark or germ of imagination which started the story off in your mind?
It was more like three story ideas in my ideas folder coming together and taking shape. Then it was announced that Donald Trump was going to run for president.
I believe it has a very different location – South Dakota, compared to your previous work, most of which seems to be set in and around Belfast. Do you have a connection with the location in the new book? How did you come to set the book there?
The book had to be set there because it’s said to be the most patriotic place in the States. Hence, Mount Rushmore. The weather was very changeable. These are themes in the book. It’s a place with a history of violence. Living in Northern Ireland, it always feels like I have some understanding of that. The places had great names, Badlands, Black Hills, etc. I got really interested in these wide-open spaces and how that made people feel isolated, or not as the case may be.
Are there any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?
I think so. I’m excited about what is to come.
What’s the current project in progress?
I’m editing Sloane book 4. I will also have a Sloane Christmas story set in the past. There is a new book tapping away, but I have to ignore it for now. It’s too easy to get distracted by the shiny thing.
I recently read the anthology Alternative Ulster Noir which you had a story in. Do you think yours was the best of the bunch? Who’s was the worst Simon’s or Gerard’s? Spill the beans please.
That’s hilarious. I loved all the stories and was pleasantly surprised at how well they complemented each other. Simon edited the anthology, and as an editor he was brilliant at giving us complete freedom. Luckily he liked what I wrote, which was a relief. Alternative Ulster Noir has been a wonderful project to be involved with. The launches have even had live music from Simon and Gerard’s band. It’s not fair that they get to be great writers and musicians!
What are the last five books you’ve read?
Murder in the Neighbourhood by Ellen J. Green
A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers
Alternative Ulster Noir edited by Simon Maltman
Queering the Green edited by Paul Maddern
Seattle Noir edited by Curt Colbert
A mix of crime, stories and poetry.
Favourite activity when not working or writing?
General spending time with the family or playing with my three dogs is my favourite. I’m glad you didn’t say the word ‘hobby’, because I think that for writers writing is our job and our hobby. It’s a bit all-encompassing that way. Well, except for those musician types…
What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?
Probably Parasite. It is phenomenally good and surprising.
TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Creighton household?
TV addict for sure. Writer James Murphy has a show (Crime Scene) on Belfast247. He knows I am a true crime buff and that I love my crime TV in general, so for the last year I have had a slot on his radio show reviewing crime TV. That’s my go-to genre, but I do like trashy reality TV too.
What are the last three pieces of music you’ve listened to?
I am obsessed with Fleet Foxes, so they have been on a loop constantly. First Aid Kit and Michael Kiwanuka are other favourites.
RANDOM TRIVIA FUN QUESTIONS
What’s your favourite vegetable?
When and where did you last have a cat fight? School, church, a sleazy neighbourhood bar?
On the page. Problems with Girls (DI Sloane 2) has quite a good catfight. Anyway, I’m a dog person. I can bark but I don’t use my claws.
Do you have any tattoos?
A few. I’ve designed tattoos for others in the past and have designed a new one for myself. Just have to get around to booking an appointment.
Do you have any irrational fears?
I have lots of irrational fears. I think that’s due to an overactive imagination. But I’m a big believer in ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. My fear of boredom is the worst.
What’s your favourite holiday destination?
Glastonbury Festival in Somerset is my favourite place in the world. I’ve been a few times and now it’s been quite a while since I’ve been. I’d love to go back but I’m a bit irrationally afraid to. It is quite the bootcamp and I’ve been sitting at a desk for too long.
When did you last tell a lie?
Yesterday. It was only a little one to save someone’s embarrassment. I don’t bother with bigger lies. My memory is so rubbish I would never be able to remember what I said to cover my tracks.
----------Many thanks to Kelly for her time.
You can catch up with her at the following haunts.
Her laatest offering Souls Wax Fair was released earlier this month.
Souls Wax FairMore than a literary thriller.
Powerful men can get away with murder...for only so long.
After a life of hardship, Mary Jane McCord's life in Rapid City, South Dakota, finally hits a sweet spot. She finds happiness and her singing career takes off. Everything is looking up until she uncovers the dark and secret obsessions of two high-profile men.
Twenty years pass but the people closest to Mary Jane have not forgotten.
Will they bring the truth out into the light?
Sarah Stewart Taylor (Maggie D'arcy mysteries)
'A compelling and brilliant read.'
Sharon Dempsey (Lainey and Stowe mysteries)