Bouchercon Author Interview: Caz Frear
Author of SWEET LITTLE LIES
One of the very best things about attending crime conferences like Bouchercon is having the chance to learn about the books you love from their authors. While at this year’s Bouchercon (which you can learn about here if you haven’t already!), I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Caz Frear, author of SWEET LITTLE LIES - an exceptional debut that just released in August! SWEET LITTLE LIES tells the story of a young female police officer whose personal life collides with her professional life in a chilling and layered mystery. I absolutely loved this book, and was so excited to sit down with its very talented author to talk about her debut, her book’s protagonist, what comes next for her, and much more. Many thanks to Caz Frear for sitting down with me in the midst of a very busy conference for this interview, and to her publisher for facilitating our interview!
Before we dive into my interview with Caz, here’s what I had to say about SWEET LITTLE LIES in my recent review:
You can catch my full review of SWEET LITTLE LIES here! Without further ado - read on for my interview with Caz Frear, author of SWEET LITTLE LIES, conducted at Bouchercon 2018.
Bouchercon Author Interview: Caz Frear
Crime by the Book: Let’s start at the beginning! Could you tell us about your book, for those who haven’t read it yet?
Caz Frear: SWEET LITTLE LIES tells the story of Cat Kinsella, who’s a Detective Constable with the London Metropolitan Police. She’s quite junior in her career, and she starts to suspect that her father might be involved in the murder that she is investigating. But also, she has had a long-held belief that he might have had something to do with the disappearance of a girl eighteen years ago, from the west coast of Ireland. She’s never been quite sure how he might have been involved, but she has this deep sense that there’s something there, and that he told a lie about knowing this girl. So it’s a police procedural, but it’s also a study of dysfunctional families and the lies we tell ourselves.
CBTB: I loved that you combined those two genres, because I love police procedurals but I feel like what you’ve done makes it very accessible to people who read psychological suspense, too. Could you speak to how you came to this idea of combining procedurals with a story of family dynamics and secrets? Did one piece of the story come first?
CF: Way, way back, when the seed of SWEET LITTLE LIES first planted, it probably was a bit more of a psychological thriller. I’m a massive procedural fan, but I had this slight hangup or lack of confidence, thinking that unless you’re an ex-police officer or ex-criminal barrister, what business have you writing a police procedural? So I didn’t really have the confidence to do it at first, but then I began to think, “what harm can it do to try?” I discovered that you can get a murder investigation manual off Amazon, and I used that for research. And once I put myself out there, the number of detectives who were willing to talk to me made me feel like alright, I’m going to do this! Police procedurals are what I wanted to write, but that was the second part that fell into place. Initially Cat Kinsella was going to be an ordinary girl, and there would be the same family dynamics and mystery with her father - but then she became a police officer, and the procedural angle developed.
CBTB: Cat is one of my favorite protagonists I’ve read in… forever. I found her so relatable; her insecurities, flaws, baggage, all of it felt very real to me. Do you see yourself in Cat? Where did the idea for Cat arise?
CF: It’s an interesting one. I automatically go “oh, Cat isn’t me,” and she isn’t at all, it’s true… but at the same time, I found her voice so easy, that I think in some ways she must be. The “relatable” thing was quite a self conscious decision. Some of my favorite protagonists are these superhero men and women who fight crime, but I wanted to make Cat flawed in a sense that no matter who you are, whether you’re a police officer or an accountant, she’s kind of dealing with the same issues that you are. She’s got all this baggage and all these hangups, but ultimately we all have that, and we all have to get through the day being pleasant people! You know, sometimes you can get these protagonists where their issues are sort of pouring out of them with every interaction - I wanted Cat to be like a little ball of angst, but trying to mask it in front of everyone. And she’s successful most of the time, but not all of the time. I love it when people say she’s relatable, because that’s what I was going for.
CBTB: SWEET LITTLE LIES is your debut crime novel, which is honestly shocking to me - it was flawless! Was writing a novel a long-term goal for you? What field were you working in before turning to writing?
CF: I was a headhunter! I worked in financial services. Really, really different. I wrote a women’s fiction novel a few years ago that got an agent and a bit of interest, but it was never published, so I sort of licked my wounds from that for a little while. I’d always read crime, so I decided to give it a go then - but it’s weird, because when you’re a debut writer, it can look from the outside like it’s this shiny, overnight success, but in actuality it’s a long process with lots of rejection and a lot of self-doubt along the way. I wasn’t necessarily from childhood thinking of becoming a writer, but you kind of think that being a writer is for someone else, not for you. But it isn’t! Just put one word in front of the other, get to the end, and see what happens.
CBTB: So how long were you working on SWEET LITTLE LIES?
CF: In total, from getting the idea to getting the book into shape to be picked up by a publisher, it was about two years. And about nine months of intense focus. But I’ve just delivered book two, and that took about eight to nine months.
CBTB: Did you find that book two was easier to write?
CF: No! It nearly killed me. Book two was worse. I had moments where I was thinking let me just call me agent and cancel this whole thing, I can’t do it! But then you meet other writers and they are able to reassure you that they’ve all been there, and that you should just push through and not give up. It’s funny because both of my editors have given me the thumbs up on book two - both have said it needs a little work, but they’ve said they love it! - I actually felt my knees go out from under me with relief. It’s so different writing under contract. When you write your debut, you never know if anyone will ever read it. You desperately want it to be read widely, but you just don’t know. Whereas with the second book, you have all these people waiting for it and wanting to read it! Which is amazing, but there’s also a new kind of pressure to it.
CBTB: So book two - is it another Cat Kinsella book? Will this be a series?
CF: Yes! Same characters, completely brand-new case. But obviously the events of SWEET LITTLE LIES are still causing problems for Cat. It’s called STONE COLD HEART, and the crux of it is: a guy is arrested for the murder of a young girl in her early twenties. All the evidence points towards him. He claims that his wife is framing him. So it’s a kind of “who do you believe” mystery.
CBTB: And since we’re chatting here at Bouchercon, last but not least: what are you most excited about at this year’s conference?
CF: Just everything. I had a signing yesterday, and there were so many people coming up to me and all I could think was “how has this happened”? Everything has been amazing. I was having drinks the other day and Lee Child came by and just sat down! And that’s the thing about the crime community. The big-name authors are so supportive. It’s incredible.
Huge thanks to Caz for taking time out of her Bouchercon schedule to chat with me about her fantastic debut crime novel! Speaking of authors in the crime community being supportive - I am truly so thankful for authors like Caz taking the time to share their passion for the genre with me. SWEET LITTLE LIES is on sale now!
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Harper (August 14, 2018)
Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.