"There’s so much going on beneath the skin": author Caroline England on her inspiration

Posted 9 Apr 2018 by Caroline England in Author blogs

Caroline England writes about her writing influences and inspiration.

"Writers are often asked what has inspired their writing. For me it’s both fiction and real life.

Switch BitchI discovered Roald Dahl’s Switch Bitch and his other short story collections as a teenager. I loved the intriguing spiteful tales with their dark twists and surprises. Crime fiction has always been my first choice of holiday reading, from Agatha Christie as a child through to Ruth Rendell, Minette Walters, Val McDermid, Ian Rankin and more recently Mark Billingham and Jo Nesbo. I adored Mary Wesley’s surprisingly risqué stories and I’m a big fan of Maggie O’Farrell and Kate Atkinson’s contemporary books.

England beneath skinThough my novels Beneath the Skin (published by Avon HarperCollins last October) and My Husband’s Lies (out on 17th May 2018) are at the ‘domestic noir’ end of the crime fiction umbrella, I think my writing has been influenced by the blend of the above two genres, so I write about contemporary lives but with intrigue and complications, love and betrayal, friendship and secrets. I certainly love to explore what goes on behind closed doors!

I studied Law at university and worked as a solicitor in Manchester, initially specialising in divorce and matrimonial cases, later moving on to professional indemnity work, where I represented lawyers, accountants, surveyors and other professionals accused of negligence.

These areas of my career have very much influenced my writing. I met people at their lowest ebb, emotionally stressed and exposed, having to bare their souls and admit to their darkest deeds, sometimes keeping secrets and telling lies (like the characters I write about!) It was a little like a being a therapist, I was seeing people naked, effectively; raw, human emotion. 

Husband's liesAs a trainee, I was involved in representing clients charged with crime. I accompanied my boss as a Duty Solicitor, sat in on police interviews, visited prisoners in Strangeways and spent many hours frequenting the local magistrates courts. Some of the ‘criminals’ were bad people, but others were often young people who had lost their way.

People going through divorce are at their nadir too. Sometimes they have to admit to horrible truths about their own behaviour or make allegations against someone they once loved, or face the heartbreak of adultery and betrayal.

Although an allegation of a professional mistake might seem lighter in comparison, it isn’t necessarily so. It’s often a frightening slur to one’s name, a dreadful dent in a persons professional pride and reputation. The allegation could arise in many and varied ways, sometimes relating to the misappropriation of money.

When I left the law, I became a volunteer mediator for the City Council, which again was fascinating. This time I heard not one, but two or more points of view, two or more versions of truth, which is very much what story telling is about. 

I’m captivated by people and the human condition; how we’re all different but the same, how we’re all flawed and frail but put on a brave face, when there’s so much going on beneath the skin. If you read my books, you’ll find such characters on the page!

"I’m captivated by people and the human condition; how we’re all different but the same, how we’re all flawed and frail but put on a brave face, when there’s so much going on beneath the skin."

I came to the writing game a little later in life, but when I thought about it, I realised I’d always been ‘writing’ in a way - as a child I had made up stories before sleep, then as a lawyer there had been pleas of mitigation and statements, divorce petitions and pleadings, detailed reports to insurers (that felt longer than a novel!)

Turns out my creative writing skills were developed at work without me knowing it!"

www.carolineenglandauthor.co.uk

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