When people ask me how I wrote Copycat, I have to explain to them the constant state of panic that I was in while I pulled this book together. Intention, my debut novel which was also published by Bloodhound Books, was a labour of love that lasted three years in total, and five years to the point that it was published. I wrote that book as part of my PhD programme, which also means that throughout those three years I had a great support network in place to get me through the process of writing a book. The reason behind the Copycat-panic then was that this would be the first novel I would write without someone holding me up, and those first steps to get the book together were nervous and wobbly ones to say the least.
Copycat’s first draft came together in about two months. At the beginning and end of most days, I would sit down at my laptop and I would push and push until I managed a few hundred words at a time. I firmly believe that, whether you write a book fast or slow, whether you love it or when it’s a labour, there are just some days where writing comes easier than it does others. Copycat was no exception to that, especially on the days when I was writing well past midnight in order to get something finished. That said, I think part of my urgency in writing the novel – and part of the reason why I felt like I needed to push every day – was because a silly part of me really wondered whether I had another novel in me. Intention had taken so long and it had seen so many changes that I thought: Intention might be it; that might genuinely be all that I’ve got. So once I decided to start writing something new, and then once I’d decided to stick to what I was writing, I felt compelled to write the whole thing as quickly as I could through fear alone that I might lose the writing if I didn’t. It seems silly now that I think of it, but we writers can be a silly bunch.
The one real wonder that I found in writing Copycat is that I knew exactly where the story was going. From the start of the novel, I already knew who the killer was and what their motivations were, and that was a kind of clarity that I’d never had before. Everything was always plotted out, if memory serves right, a good eight or ten chapters ahead which gave me a strong outline to follow. Whenever I was nearing the end of my to-write list, I’d take myself off to a coffee shop somewhere – the great cliché – and I’d work out the next direction that the story could move in, in order to arrive at the right ending. Melanie, Edd, and Chris turned out to be such strong characters for me personally that I could build a lot of things based on how they would act, and what they would think, and again that was a level of character-clarity that I hadn’t had before either (Intention’s protagonist is a female psychopath, so she was a touch harder to predict than the characters I was working with this time around).
The characters themselves were wonderful fun to piece together and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to consider more than one backstory, in order to breathe life into the whole detective team. Prior to Copycat, I’d always sort of believed that I just wasn’t a detective-novel kind of writer – more fool me, as it turns out. Not only did I end up enjoying Copycat, but I enjoyed it to the point that I’m now working on a sequel that features the same loveable (I hope) detectives from the first book, tackling another unconventional case. The blend of human interest and quirky crime that’s allowed through detective fiction is something that I enjoy very much, as a reader and a writer now, and I can’t tell you how delighted I am that Copycat – my panic novel, of all things – is the book that’s introduced this new avenue of writing to me.
For a debut detective novel, the book – and the wonderful Bloodhound editor that helped me whip it into shape – has taught me an awful lot about writing, editing, and then writing some more (as is usually the way). Although the main lesson to take away from this is that if you panic-write when the moment strikes, you might find a second (and third) novel tucked away somewhere after all.