The Five By Five Interview with Louise Beech/Swanson
“Five By Five?” Um, well… I wanted a name for this (hopefully regular) feature, and as well as being a big crime fiction fan I am also a big Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan, with a soft spot for “rogue slayer” Faith, who uses the phrase constantly – though she never explains what it means, it’s an expression used in telecoms/military coms to confirm a signal is being received clearly, so hopefully this means we’ll get a clearer picture of our interviewees!
I’m pretty sure I first met Louise Beech (now also Louise Swanson as she shifts direction in her new novel) at an Orenda Books Roadshow, and it’s always a joy to bump into her at a festival – do go up and say hi if you see her at one, she won’t bite! (And she’s always more than happy to sign a book for you.) She’s not someone who is big on plastering the pages of her novels with blood and violence, but you may find yourself with a lump in your throat as you read, as she is a writer that uses emotions to their full extent.
Louise Swanson is the pen name of best-selling author Louise Beech, who has published eight novels with Orenda Books. Her work has previously been longlisted for the Not the Booker and Polari prizes and shortlisted for the Romantic Novel Award. She won Best’s Book of the Year with her 2019 psychological thriller Call Me Star Girl. This spring sees the release of End Of Story (Hodder & Stoughton), and Louise will also publish her memoir, Eighteen Seconds (Mardle Books). Find Louise on Twitter at @LouiseWriter and find her website at: louisebeech.co.uk
First, the sensible questions…
Q1 Tell us a bit about your journey to publication and how you got to where you are now. Why crime fiction rather than another genre?
Oh gosh, it took a long time – four books and eight years. You have to be thick-skinned with all the many rejections. But you only need one “Yes”. I don’t actually think genre when I write. A story comes to me, and I’m compelled to write it; if it’s crime, it’s crime. Someone else can decide that, haha.
Q2 What was it like sitting down and writing your first novel, and what is it like now – easier, harder, just different?
The first one was Maria In The Moon in 2007 and it was pure therapy, giving me escape from my daughter being ill and us having lost our house for six months during floods. I still write as escape but it’s not always from such an intense situation as that – however, End of Story was written during the last lockdown of 2020, following a family tragedy.
Q3 You’ve described your writing as being “genre fluid” – have you ever felt pressure to fit in a box?
There can be pressure to stay in a box, and I get that. It’s about marketing you. It’s so that readers know what to expect, will return to your books. But I just can’t seem to stay in lane. I can only write what calls me, though I can make it fit a genre by adding certain elements perhaps.
Q4 What’s your favourite part about being a writer?
The actual writing is a joy to me. Creating stories. Magic. But I do LOVE meeting and talking to readers.
Q5 What’s next for you, in terms of writing?
I never really know. Seriously. I’ve just written what might be Louise Swanson’s next one, and have a few ideas. I’m also editing a play I wrote some years ago. Yes, a play!
Now for the quick-fire round…
Q1 Who are your favourite characters in crime fiction?
You simply cannot beat Hannibal Lector.
Q2 What book have you reread the most?
The Assassination of Marilyn Monroe by Donald H Wolfe
Q3 What’s your favourite method of killing off characters?
Insulin is a clever one – undetectable.
Q4 What is your most over-used phrase, in life or in writing?
Probably one involving swearwords!
Q5 Do you use a bookmark or do you fold down the page corner?
Both. Don’t hate on me! They’re my books. I underline sentences I love too.
Thanks to Louise for taking the time to answer my questions! Not sure I can condone underlining sentences, though I understand the temptation – but I can definitely condone swearwords 😀 And a second interviewee choosing Hannibal Lector after Tariq Ashkanani in March too, which is making me think there might be a rewatch of Silence Of The Lambs in my near future…
The official blurb about Louise’s new book, End Of Story (as Louise Swanson):
WARNING: READING THIS BOOK HAS BEEN BANNED BY THE GOVERNMENT. Once upon a time, there was a writer named Fern. She was a bestseller. An award-winner. Loved by readers and critics alike. With her words, she changed the world. Until her story took a turn. Now Fern is a cleaner in a hospital. Condemned to anonymity. Because reading books is now a crime. Only, Fern doesn’t plan on going down without a fight. She won’t let children grow up without bedtime stories. She’ll keep writing, no matter the consequences. She will make her voice heard. Because Fern’s story is only beginning. But can you guess how it will end?
Louise will be talking about End Of Story at Hull Central Library on Wednesday 19 April, in person and livestream options are both available (free, but reserve a spot via Eventbrite). The event is being chaired by Hull Noir co-funder Nick Quantrill. Check Louise’s website and social media for further events.