16 Oct
Guardian Interview - When crime does pay

Guardian Interview - When crime does pay

It often comes as a bit of a shock to meet certain writers once you’ve literally “lived” with their books for some time. You discover that, in person, they are perfectly normal human beings, capable of smiling, joking, gracious beyond belief and nowhere near as monstrous as the heart of darkness that lies at the core of their stories. Guitar-wielding amiable rock ‘n’ roll fan Stephen King falls into that category, but it’s when particularly dark books are written by women that the sense of disassociation proves even stronger. Even more interesting for the amateur psychiatrists amongst us is the fact that most “noir” women come from these shores rather than America. To the black pits of sheer horror and dread that emanate from novels by the likes of Val McDermid and Mo Hayder, we can now add a strong, new voice – Irish author Alex Barclay, whose debut novel Darkhouse has an ominous way of connecting with the dark side.

I ask Alex – a dark-haired, lithe Dubliner – about the deeply glum and despairing background to her book. Was it was a deliberate decision to make it this way or did her imagination just run away with her? “I was going to say it was all down to my imagination, but you’ve just reminded me that when I was a child, a neighbour once said to me, ‘There’s an evil streak in you and one of these days I’m going to knock it out of you.’ Maybe, by writing this, I saved him the trouble.”

Alex Barclay was born in Dublin in 1974. She studied journalism at university and then pursued a successful career in fashion and beauty journalism. From here she went on to become a copywriter for some of the country’s leading companies and design studios. But she had always known she had a book in her, and in March 2003 she decided to give up her job and pursue the idea. Did she ever have doubts? “I never doubted I would finish Darkhouse. I had invested so much in it from the start that to walk away would have felt like a huge failure. I would rather it lay undead, but complete in the attic, than half finished in a folder on my Mac.”

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