Desk Worldwide sits down with crime novelist Claire McGowan to discuss the importance of dialogue and her path to publication.

Claire’s writing inspiration

I think that I’ve always written most of my life. I’ve always been the kind of person that has a lot of ideas. I don’t know if everyone has that. I always say that’s the kind of thing you can’t really teach. You can teach people to write better I think, but I don’t know if you can teach them to have ideas.

Finding the balance between dialogue and narrative

I twigged quite early on that if you have a lot of dialogue it makes your work a lot pacier and on the page it physically looks a lot more readable. It also does something psychological, if you open a book and there’s a huge chunk of text, it makes you switch off a little bit.

Most common dialogue mistake?

I think definitely it is to write unrealistic dialogue. For example, people speaking in big chunks, people speaking in a very ordered way that sounds pre-prepared. People who don’t put in any hesitations, any repetitions, any interruptions. So really it becomes more of a series of monologues rather than a dialogue.

Claire’s path to publication

I had written a different novel, which I spent three years agonising over in private and not really getting any help with it or going to any classes. It took me 6 months to get the courage up to send the book out. So I sent it to one agent at a time, because I didn’t know you were allowed to do multiple submissions!

Claire McGowan was born in Rostrevor, County Down, and now lives in London. She’s the author of the Paula Maguire crime series, which was optioned by the BBC, and also writes women’s fiction as Eva Woods. She runs the UK’s first MA in Crime Writing, at City University London.


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