Tania Carver is the author of the much anticipated upcoming release Cage of Bones. This is the third book to her name but, mysteriously, there is actually no Tania Carver! She is, in fact, the amalgam of husband and wife writing team Martyn and Lynda Waites. One half of the team, Martyn Waites, joins us here at Crime Fiction Lover to talk about the new book, how writing ideas arise, inspiration and more…
CFL – Hi Martyn, and welcome to Crime Fiction Lover! Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about Cage of Bones?
MW – It’s the third in the series featuring Detective Inspector Phil Brennan and psychologist Marina Esposito. It starts with a pair of workers about to demolish a spooky old house. But in the cellar of the house they find a cage of bones, and in that cage is a feral child who holds the secret to Phil’s hidden past and also reveals a serial killer who has been going undetected for over 30 years.
CFL – What was the origin of the story?
MW – It kind of grew organically. Usually the novels start with one strong, central image or a clear concept. The Surrogate was based on an article Linda read in the paper. The Creeper was based on a dream I had. We wanted to do something that would continue in the vein of the series – and expand it – while also delivering scares and thrills, and delving into Phil’s background too. We also wanted the killer to be unconventional.
CFL – The description of the actual cage of bones within the story is a pretty dark and chilling image to present. Where did this idea come from?
MW – I was out running. I was listening to Excitable Boy by Warren Zevon – and singing along, I might add. It’s a song all about a nascent serial killer who goes undetected for the most part because people make excuses for him. An excitable boy, they call him. While I was listening – and singing – a line came up. The boy has already raped and killed his girlfriend and done time for it, and when he’s released he ‘dug up her body and made a cage of her bones’. That line got me thinking. A cage of bones. What if there was a cage of bones? Where would it be? Why would it be there? Who would be in it? Why? Is it symbolic, or metaphorical, or literal? The questions tumbled out, and the novel was born.
Also, David Shelley, the boss at Little Brown, hates Warren Zevon. I might have done it to annoy him. Perhaps. Just a little bit.
CFL – Though predominantly crime fiction, while reading it I felt a lot of the horror genre present also. Do you think there’s more crossover going on between the two genres lately?
MW – We felt that too, strangely enough. I think it’s got a kind of gothic feel to it which is deliberate. So much of the book – or at least significant sections – takes place underground in old chambers, caves… I do love gothic literature and wanted to reflect something of that.
There seems to be a crossover of horror and crime at the moment. Some writers, like John Connolly, have been doing it quite brilliantly for years. Others, like Sarah Pinborough, have come to it fairly recently and she’s doing a great job. I don’t think that this crossover belongs particularly to these two genres. I think we’re starting to see more of a mash up in terms of genre. It’s quite exciting. I mean, was China Mieville’s The City & the City sci-fi, crime, or both? And then of course there’s that tedious old chestnut, is it literary or is it crime?
As for the Tania Carver books, we just write what the story demands. The next one is a much more straightforward thriller – or it is at the minute. Just wait till the spaceships land and the devil rides out.
CFL – Tania Carver is the pseudonym for you and your wife writing together. How does that work out?
MW – Uneasily! No, I’m being deliberately disingenuous. Linda has always been my first reader. Over the years she developed into a very fine editor. Most writers, when they give their partners their work to read, aren’t really courting criticism just praise. Linda never did that. She was always tough and exacting. She wouldn’t let anything pass. She would force me to rewrite until, as James Lee Burke once said, ‘nothing on the page rattled’. The Tania books are just the logical extension of that really. We sit down and plot together, I type it up since I’m the fastest, then she reads over it and tells me what I got wrong. Then we discuss it again, make notes, change things then on to the next section.
CFL – Are you inspired by other authors, and if so, who?
MW – For me the greatest influence has always been Graham Greene – my favourite writer by several miles. There are others who come close such as Nelson Algren, Hubert Selby, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ross MacDonald, David Goodis, Patrick Hamilton… the list is huge. But Greene above all. How he’s actually influenced me, I don’t know. I couldn’t say. I don’t really write the kind of books he did, unfortunately, and I’m nowhere near as brilliant as he was. But I’m trying, always trying.
Cage of Bones arrives on 15 September and you can pre-order now, or try one of Tania Carver’s two prior novels.