I am pleased to be the latest stop on the blog tour for The Dark Isle by Clare Carson, the third book in the Sam Coyle Trilogy. I am grateful to Clare for taking the time to answer my questions with such interesting responses.
- The coastal settings for the Sam Coyle Trilogy are extremely atmospheric. What prompted you to write about these particular locations?
I’m drawn to coastal locations because they are on the edge of things, and I love saltmarshes and foreshores – stretches of land that only appear between the tides. The trilogy is about spies who exist on the borders of life and in the shadows. The stories are told from the perspective of Sam, a police spy’s daughter, an insider-outsider. Sometimes she thinks sees things clearly, and knows which side of the line different characters are on, but then the tide flows in and everything looks different.
- How much has your father’s work as an undercover policeman inspired the subject matter of your writing?
The trilogy was very much inspired by my dad’s work as an undercover policeman – although it wasn’t the details of his job that interested me so much as the impact of that secret work and life on family relationships. Having somebody who is effectively a spy in the family is pretty weird – not least because you can’t talk about it! Eventually, years after his death, I started writing fiction as a way to deal with some of the puzzles – how far can you trust your father if he is paid to lie? Is it ever safe to dig up his past? How can you distinguish fact from fiction when it comes to the double life of spies?
- The Sam Coyle Trilogy was set in the 1970s/80s. Which other era would you like to write about?
Times of change and uncertainty always interest me, so another decade I’d like to write about is the nineteen thirties when Europe was on the brink of war. My mother in law, who is Jewish, was born in Vienna in the 1930s. In the early part of the decade Vienna was one of the most liberal cities in Europe, but she remembers the Nazis arriving in 1938 while her neighbours lined the streets to welcome them. Six months later her family escaped to Britain. I find that history gripping, chilling and moving.
- Now that ‘The Dark Isle’ has ended the trilogy, what can we expect next?
I’m done with undercover policemen and spies for now and I’m working on an historical murder mystery. But there will still definitely be plenty of coastline, wilderness and birds.
- When you are not writing, which other authors do you enjoy reading?
I read anything by Cormac McCarthy – I love his economy and precision of language and his portrayal of the American landscape. I’m always rereading Graham Greene’s novels, partly because he constructs them so well. Sarah Waters is brilliant – Fingersmith is a gripping historical psychological thriller. I enjoy reading Pierre Lemaître for his sheer darkness.
- For anyone who has not read any of your work before, why should they pick up one of your books?
If you fancy a different take on spies and undercover cops, then my books are for you. If you like characters that aren’t easy to classify as goodies or baddies, you should pick up one of my stories. They don’t slot neatly into any one genre but to quote a recent review, they have great storytelling, pitch perfect plotting, and a wonderful sense of time and place.
Sam grew up in the shadow of the secret state. Her father was an undercover agent, full of tall stories about tradecraft and traitors. Then he died, killed in the line of duty.
Now Sam has travelled to Hoy, in Orkney, to piece together the puzzle of her father’s past. Haunted by echoes of childhood holidays, Sam is sure the truth lies buried here, somewhere.
What she finds is a tiny island of dramatic skies, swooping birds, rugged sea stacks and just four hundred people. An island remote enough to shelter someone who doesn’t want to be found. An island small enough to keep a secret…
The Dark Isle is available to buy now:
Take a look at the rest of the blog tour:
With thanks to Clare Carson for answering my questions, to Clare Gordon for organising the blog tour and to Head of Zeus for my copy of The Dark Isle.