Catherine Steadman tells The Likely Suspecs about her love for dark, high concept thrillers, juicy hooks and epic twists. Her new novel, The Disappearing Act, is out now.
- You often get compared to Hitchcock which is so interesting given your involvement with the acting world! Was he a particular influence on you in terms of your writing? Or is there anyone else in the film/TV world who inspired your books in some way?
- Yes, I think Hitchcock is certainly an inspiration, especially his anthological work like Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. I like the format of a very clear, punchy, thought experiment style story. That ‘what if’ hook . . . In the same vein I’m hugely influenced by The Twilight Zone, Shirley Jackson, and TV shows like Black Mirror. I just love a dark, high concept twist.
- How about authors? Did you read a lot as a child? Are there any books that particularly inspired you when you were younger?
- Definitely. I read a lot of adult authors when I was quite young. Douglas Adams, Stephen king, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s shorts, MR James, Poe, Chuck Palahniuk – again relatively high concept, hooky, stories with a darkly comedic undertone.
- Have you always written? Did you always know that one day you would write a book?
- Not at all. I won a few English prizes at secondary school, and I loved creative writing, but I think ‘becoming an author’ was just not something in the consciousness of anyone around me in my life. Bizarrely becoming an actress seemed, by comparison, a much more achievable career. There was just more discussion, in the public consciousness, of how to go about doing that. I knew I wanted to be involved in storytelling so becoming an actor seemed the most logical move.
- There is so much natural tension in your prose which is so suited to a psychological thriller (along with your fabulously twisty plots!). What attracted you to writing in this genre?
- I think most stories can be boiled down to either being love stories or thrillers. There’s either a will-they/won’t-they sexual drive to a narrative or a whodunnit (will they get away with it) thriller aspect. Death and sex are pretty key drivers. I try to have a bit of both in my books.
- In your writing, no word is wasted, everything is there for a reason. It creates such a pacy, tense and filmic book. Was this deliberate? And do you think this has perhaps been influenced by your background in acting and working with scripts (which are naturally much more pulled back)?
- It’s definitely a hangover form acting. ‘Self-indulgent’ is the worst criticism that can be levelled at a production or a director or an actor. Anyone involved in the acting industry will know the absolute ick you get if something is just a little bit too much. I try to keep a pretty tight rein on myself. I want the reader to feel like they are part of the action of the story, so as a writer I want to disappear from that picture. I don’t want to get in the way of my own story.
- You are brilliant at creating these interesting, juicy hooks to hang your story off – a woman digging a grave at the beginning of Something in the Water, an unknown man found wandering a beach in Mr Nobody, the question of Emily’s identity in The Disappearing Act. Where do your ideas come from?
Catherine's new novel, The Disappearing Act, is out now.