NS: You started out working as a criminal defense attorney, what led you to writing? How do you find time to balance your criminal defense career and writing?
Nadine: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember but I started to take it seriously eight years ago when I became self-employed. I wrote my first book The Sisters because I’d successfully completed the NaNoWriMo challenge and written a book in thirty days. At the same time, a friend of mine, who was also a lawyer and had left the profession to write, asked if I wanted to contribute a short story to a Sci-fi anthology that he was compiling; which I did. I then entered and won a crime writing competition and this led to me enrolling on a Creative Writing master’s degree. I suppose that it was a bit serendipitous, the events that took place to cement my commitment to become a writer.
There were times when it was hard to find the time to write because I was going to court, teaching in a law school in the evenings and also studying. Despite being busy with work I found the time to write in the spare evenings and weekends. I would also be writing during my lunch breaks. I wouldn’t waste any spare moments that I found in the day. No one tells you at law school that you will spend a lot of your time waiting at court; waiting for your clients to arrive or waiting for your case to be called on. I would use the time I spent waiting to write. I would sometimes be sitting in the back of the courtroom and writing a chapter whilst I was waiting for my case to be called on. It didn’t matter if I only wrote 150 words in that time. As long as I wrote something, it meant that I was one step closer to completing my story.
NS: How did your career influence the writing of The Jigsaw Man?
Nadine: I’ve always been intrigued by the reasons why people commit certain crimes, and that curiosity has influenced my writing. In addition to practicing law, I also teach Criminal law and trial procedure. I always tell my students that your job is to tell a convincing story when you’re delivering a jury speech. The same story arc structure applies when presenting a case, there has to be a beginning, middle and end and the defendant is the character of the story. My job as a writer and lawyer is to make you believe that everything that I’m telling you is the truth.
NS: We have to ask: Is this story drawing any inspiration from cases you’ve worked on in the past?
Nadine: The story of The Jigsaw Man was inspired by the real-life case of Jeffrey Howe who was murdered in 2009. The Howe murder investigation began when his leg was found on the side of the motorway. I can remember that I was sitting in my office working on a case when I heard the news, and that moment has always stayed with me. Even though, as strange as this sounds, I would have liked to have represented a serial killer, I never did.
I have represented murderers and I have also worked on horrific cases that would probably keep normal people up at the night. Fortunately, none of my clients have committed any murders that were as horrific as the murders committed in The Jigsaw Man. I represented a client who had escaped from police custody whilst he was at the hospital and that definitely inspired me when I was writing Olivier’s escape scene in The Jigsaw Man. I would say that overall, the personality traits of some of my clients have definitely been the inspiration behind a few of the characters in the book.
NS: This is your first crime novel, but not your first novel. How was writing this novel similar and/or different from writing The Sisters?
Nadine: It was quite similar in the sense that I had no idea what I was going to do with The Sisters and The Jigsaw Man once I’d finished writing the drafts. I’m very much a ‘lets see what happens’ sort of person. I wrote the first draft of The Sisters for NaNoWriMo and I had to write The Jigsaw Man in order to complete my master’s degree in Creative Writing. My main aim was just to finish the novels but there was a difference in how I approached both novels.
I won’t start writing without a plan. I had a plan for The Sisters, but it was quite vague, however, my plan for The Jigsaw Man was more detailed as I had to plan a series of murders and then consider each stage of the police investigation. I also had to give a lot more thought to the relevance of each character and how their involvement would change the trajectory of the story. There was also the fact that I’m a Criminal Defense lawyer and I had to change my thinking to that of a prosecutor who was building a case against a suspect.
NS: We’re always amazed at the mental strength of crime writers who have to get into the mentality of killers and their victims to write them convincingly. What was the hardest part of writing a gruesome antagonist like The Jigsaw Man?
Nadine: Peter Olivier is the antagonist in The Jigsaw Man. He’s a serial killer who murdered seven people and is a thorn in Henley’s side. Showing the violent, manipulative and cruel sides of his personality was easy to do but it was hard to show his charm. Charm is a hard characteristic to describe and people will often refer to charm as being ‘I can’t put my finger on it but there was something about him.’ Olivier is a killer but he’s able to seduce normal everyday people emotionally and make them feel as though they’re the most important person in his life; even when they know that he’s killed. Oliver is not a physically attractive person. I wouldn’t describe him as being traditionally handsome and because of that I had to find aspects of his personality that would entice both the readers and the characters in the book.
NS: What was your craziest Google search while writing this book?
Nadine: Any search involving the decomposition of bodies was crazy. The Jigsaw Man is set in the dying days of summer and in the middle of a heatwave. It was fine dumping body parts all over the over city, but authenticity and believability were very important to me. I googled decomposition stages, how a body would look if it’d been nibbled at by foxes and how a body part would look if it’d been in the river for a week. However, thinking about it, the craziest google search was probably looking for what saws would be best for cutting through human bone.
NS: Are there any new projects you’re currently working on?
Nadine: I’ve just finished the latest draft of book 2 in the Detective Inspector Henley series and I’m now in the early stages of planning book three in the series. I’m also finishing off the pilot episode of a six-episode legal thriller that I started writing last year.
A serial killer and his copycat are locked in a violent game of cat and mouse. Can DI Anjelica Henley stop them before it’s too late?
What to Read Next