Article published on December 7, 2017.
Nicki Maguire: First of all, can I say what a fantastic follow up The Perfect Victim is to Breaking Dead and I hope there are many more books left in the series. I love the character of Sophie Kent, especially her ability to keep going despite the demons she faces. Is she inspired by anyone in particular?
Corrie Jackson: I was determined to write a series fronted by a journalist rather than a detective. A detective can walk onto a crime scene because he/she belongs there, but a journalist has to think outside the box. In The Perfect Victim, Sophie hits a dead end at a crime scene and her editor tells her: ‘Find me ten ways around the word no, Kent.’ In today’s ruthless world of news, it’s no good coming back empty-handed. No one taught me that more the award-winning Canadian reporter, Jana Pruden. I spent months picking her brain before writing the series and Jana’s tenacity, along with her ability to think on her feet, were instrumental in shaping Sophie’s character in my mind. I was also heavily inspired by a journalist called Edna Buchanan. She covered over three thousand murders in Miami and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1986. I swallowed up her memoir, The Corpse Has A Familiar Face, in one sitting.
Nicki Maguire: In addition to writing the Sophie Kent novels, I know you also work as a journalist. Have any of your own experiences while investigating a story influenced Sophie’s journalistic career?
Corrie Jackson: In my first book, Breaking Dead, Sophie hunts down a serial killer targeting fashion models, and the idea was inspired by a real-life murder case I worked on. I’m sure there are parts of me in Sophie. I certainly identify with her compassion. When I was 24, I joined the News team at Grazia magazine. My worst memory is the day of the terrorist bombings in London. I was pretty wet behind the ears and was tasked with the job of approaching victims’ relatives to get quotes and interviews. It was utterly brutal. I’ll never forget it. My colleague and I worked our way through the ever-growing list, stopping every now and again to have a cry. But there’s huge pressure to bring in the story. Because if you don’t, someone else will. You’re driven by fear, but also a potent desire to get it right and honour the victims. It’s a tricky line to walk.
Nicki Maguire: There are some great laugh out loud moments in the book, especially during the meetings at Sophie’s office. Do you purposely add light-hearted moments to ease the tension of the story or do they happen more organically?
Corrie Jackson: I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some hilarious characters over the years. In journalism, the general rule is: the closer the deadline, the darker the humour. I think those moments in the book happen organically but it’s based very much on my own experience.
Nicki Maguire: I’ve read about how authors sometimes feel their characters run off and do their own thing whilst a book is being written; has that ever happened to any of your characters?
Corrie Jackson: For sure. I like to think I’m a planner when it comes to plotting out my novels. But then lots of things occur as I’m writing. There are two major character twists in the book that didn’t exist during the planning stage. They appeared out of nowhere as I was hammering away at my keyboard. Both occasions I got goosebumps. Hopefully, the fact that I was surprised means the reader will be surprised, too.
Nicki Maguire: I know authors tend to follow particular habits/processes when writing and I wondered if you might share some of yours?
Corrie Jackson: I have two young kids so my writing schedule is all over the place! I often write after they go to bed, or at 5:30am if I’m on a tough deadline. And I couldn’t do it without my noise-cancelling headphones. A bomb could go off and I wouldn’t notice. Every now and again I get sick of my own company so I’ll head to a café or the library so I can wave at other humans. And I only ever listen to classical music when I write. Anything with lyrics disrupts my flow!
Nicki Maguire: Finally, can you tell us a little about what you are working on at the moment? Will there be a third mystery for Sophie Kent to solve?
Corrie Jackson: You know, I was planning to take a break because the past two years have been crazy-busy with kids/international moves/books. But recently an idea for a third Sophie Kent book hit me in the face so now of course I have to write it. Stay tuned!
We’d like to thank both Corrie and Nicki for this excellent Q&A.
The Perfect Victim by Corrie Jackson
Zaffre 9781785761829 pbk Nov 2017