Silverlight Café author-featuring magazine
- 10 March 2016
Our first crime-writing author in this first issue on crime fiction and true crime writers is Gaynor Torrance, a UK author who studied psychology at the University of Warwick and Swansea University.
All featured authors were asked to respond to two questions: What was the attraction to crime writing and why are people so fascinated with crime in all of its media representations including real situations? Gaynor provided an interesting insight.
What attracted me to the crime fiction genre?
For me, crime fiction is the ultimate brain-teaser where I’m drip-fed information to sift through in order to figure out who has committed a crime and why.
It’s an opportunity to test myself and prove my worth against twisted devious minds which I would not dare to do in reality, but actually relish the challenge within the safety of a fictional setting. Having studied psychology at university I have a keen interest in what makes us tick, and I particularly enjoy the challenges posed by crime fiction shows or novels which incorporate psychological elements into the story. My first experience of the crime fiction genre was when I visited my local library as a child and borrowed a Nancy Drew book.
I had no real idea what it was going to be like, but as soon as I started reading it I was hooked. From then on I used to save up all of my pocket money to get more of the books. I just couldn’t put them down. I thought they were very exciting and she was so daring, brave and clever. It made my life seem quite boring by comparison. I really wanted to be Nancy and whilst I was engrossed in those stories I became her.
“These days there is so much more on offer and I am like a kid in a sweet shop. As a reader, writer or TV viewer the crime fiction genre offers me such a wide array of possibilities. Stories can be set in any place, any time, and be told from so many different viewpoints. In my first novel, Revenge, I was able to take a local setting and link the here and now with ancient mythology. At the back of my mind was my own enjoyment of Agatha Christie stories which are full of misdirection, and I tried to achieve this by creating detailed back stories for quite a few incidental characters in order to create a modern take on whodunit.
I am currently working on a far different type of crime thriller which I hope will be published by the end of the year. Step Up or Die is set in both New York and London where the backdrop is a series of seemingly unconnected attacks against the US and the UK. These attacks have major implications for their respective countries, but the investigations into them remain incidental.
Although each of these events are relevant to the story, I focus on only one of these incidents and the impact it has on an American family. In particular, how - after a series of awful events - one woman is forced to change her life when the only choice she feels that she has is to step up or die.
Why are people so drawn to crime stories, whether they be in the news, novels, non-fiction or real life experiences?
“It’s human nature to crave a little excitement in our lives,” Torrance continued. “Many of us are fortunate enough to live peacefully within a relatively safe environment, but crime stories allow us to experience aspects of danger which excite, scare, and even repel us in a non-threatening way. These stories often rip us out of our comfort zones and challenge us to look at the world through the eyes of individuals we often have no affinity with.
“I recall that I was once a passenger in a vehicle which drove past a fatal traffic accident where a motorcycle had collided with a wall. I didn’t want to look at the scene but, to my shame, I couldn’t stop myself. For those few seconds I became a voyeur on someone else’s tragedy, and I experienced a rush of emotions from the shocking brutal reality of what I saw. It’s the same with crime stories whether they are real or fictional. For a limited period of time you become a voyeur. You surrender yourself to the unfolding of the story, compelled to discover every detail and occasionally recoiling at the awfulness of specific events. When the resolution is finally reached you feel relieved that it hasn’t happened to you, or to anyone that you know. It’s akin to sinking to the depths and finally coming for air. I believe that we, as readers or viewers, to a certain extent like to feel that we stand tall on the moral high ground, looking down judgmentally on those who break the law.
“A sense of righteous indignation provides a warm smug glow (albeit sometimes misguidedly) when viewing the carnage and devastation others have wreaked,” Gaynor added. “It’s all too easy to believe that, if you called the shots, the world would be a far better place. I experienced one of those self-righteous moments recently when I went to see the film, The Big Short. I already knew what it was about but, as I watched it, I felt so angry and sickened at how easy it was for people to engineer the global financial crisis and how no one seemed to feel any remorse for the part they played in it. That film affected my mood long after I returned home. There were no murders committed but, in a way, this white-collar crime was far worse.
“In my opinion,” said Gaynor, "the film is a masterpiece of emotional manipulation as it took the outrage and contempt which I have always felt towards the key players of that catastrophe to a whole new level. For me this is great storytelling. And that is the real power of crime stories whether based on fact or purely fictional. They allow us to experience such a diverse set of emotional reactions like no other genre could, as quite frankly anything goes.”
Over a number of years, Gaynor worked on a voluntary basis at an adult residential home where people with mental illnesses, personality disorders and learning difficulties were cared for and taught life skills to enable them to gain the confidence to live more independently. Throughout this period, she developed a strong interest in psychological and psychiatric conditions, particularly the effect on behaviour and the impact it has on others. Gaynor's debut 'who-dun-nit' novel, Revenge, featuring Detective Inspector Jemima Huxley, is available as an e-book at Amazon and in paperback. Step up or Die is expected to be published in 2016.
Torrance further describes her book as: “A fast-paced tale of hedonism, obsession and murder. When mutilated corpses are discovered in an exclusive city suburb, it falls to DI Jemima Huxley to find the murderer before they kill again. Exhausted and disillusioned, she struggles to focus on the facts and keep her emotions in check. Beset with self-doubt she comes to believe that the victims have been selected to implicate an innocent person, and it becomes a race against time to save another life.”