Today I'm thrilled to be taking part in the Blood Tide blog tour and I'm delighted to be welcoming Claire McGowan to my blog today to discuss: What Makes a Twist a Twist.
What Makes A Twist a Twist?
There’s a lot of talk about twists at the moment. Books are sold on them, all the while cunningly keeping back what the actual twist is. There are mid-point twists, end twists, multiple twists. But how do you go about setting one up? The most tricky thing is trying to put yourself in the shoes of the reader. As the writer you already know what the twist is going to be, so it’s very hard to know if the average reader will work it out or not.
What makes a twist a twist, as opposed to a reveal? I think it’s to do with intentionally misdirecting the reader, or allowing them to misdirect themselves. We all make certain assumptions about people and about fiction, and the clever crime writer can use these to set a trap for us. Wilkie Collins did this brilliantly in The Moonstone, and another writer whose twists I really admire is Erin Kelly. Once you see it, it makes perfect sense, but you don’t guess it before because you’re looking the other way.
Then there are twists that undermine something fundamental that we believe about narrative, truth, or even identity. The ones that take our breath away because we realise that not only do we not know what’s going on, we have no idea what kind of story we’re even in. Agatha Christie was the queen of this – I love how she sets up impossible puzzles and then solves them ingeniously. We know there has to be a rational explanation for this seeming strangeness, and Poirot or Miss Marple will find it out. Sophie Hannah is also very good at this. It’s vital with this kind of twist that the book follows the rules, I think. Author SS Van Dine helpfully set these out back in 1928, and they include dictates such as no twins, no accidents, and the detective must not be the killer. Of course, there are many great examples of successful crime novels which break these rules.
In my new book, Blood Tide, I wanted to try and write something like this. Limits are important for a good twist – the killer can’t be someone random we’ve never met before, or the reader will feel cheated. I set the action on an island, so it has to be someone we’ve met, and I had to think very carefully about timelines and where people were at any given time. It also meant no one could escape – a larger version of Poirot’s ‘gathering everyone in the drawing room’ scenes (why don’t they ever run away?). I hope it works, but that’ll be up to the readers of course.
Claire McGowan grew up in a small village in Northern Ireland. After a degree in English and French from Oxford University, and time spent living in China and France, she moved to London and works in the charity sector and also teaches creative writing.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Called to investigate the disappearance of a young couple during a violent storm, Paula Maguire, forensic psychologist, has mixed feelings about going back to Bone Island. Her last family holiday as a child was spent on its beautiful, remote beaches and returning brings back haunting memories of her long-lost mother.
It soon becomes clear that outsiders aren't welcome on the island, and with no choice but to investigate the local community, Paula soon suspects foul play, realising that the islanders are hiding secrets from her, and each other.
With another storm fast approaching, Paula is faced with a choice. Leave alive or risk being trapped with a killer on an inescapable island, as the blood tide rushes in...
I’ve become a huge fan of the Paula Maguire series and I have loved every single book. For me I think it’s the characters and their own personal lives that really stand out in Claire’s novels. Paula’s history is very traumatic and this book takes her on a much more personal journey as she attempts to find answers. She is also still coming to terms with the imprisonment of her partner Aiden and is desperately trying to prove his innocence.
Paula is still searching for her mother who disappeared in the early nineties and it is suspected that she was a victim of the IRA. Paula now has a young child of her own, three year old Maggie, and this makes it even more important to her to find out the truth behind her mother’s disappearance.
In Blood Tide, Paula is sent to Bone Island, the last piece of land before the vast stretch of the Atlantic Ocean. A small community live on the island and it becomes apparent to Paula that there are some who are very hostile to outsiders. Paula is sent to investigate the disappearance of a couple from London who live and work on the island. She is hoping not to be away from her daughter for long, the main theory is that the couple were killed in an accident and drowned at sea. But as she begins to strip back the layers of the islands inhabitants she discovers a grisly set of events leading up the disappearance and she knows that she has to stay to see the investigation through.
Blood Tide was a seriously scary book. If I was anywhere near this island I would want to run a mile and when it becomes clear to the inhabitants that Paula is staying, it becomes very claustrophobic. Claire’s writing is taut and full of tension. The island setting was very atmospheric. Someone is keeping secrets on this island. Someone wants to make sure that those secrets remain secrets.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, as with all the Paula Maguire novels, Claire leaves us wanting to know more, Paula’s character and past becomes ever more intriguing. When I first discovered the series I bought each book at once and read them back to back, I don’t know what I’m going to do now that I have to wait a bit longer for the next one, I can’t wait to read it.
A massive five stars from me. Thank you to Millie Seaward at Headline for sending me a copy to review.
Publication date: 23rd March 2017
Print length: 352 pages
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