Crime Writers in Residence – at home with Maggie Hamand
Crime Writers in Residence>Q&A
The CRA: Please tell us a little about yourself and the books you write.
I am a former journalist, a novelist and creative writing lecturer at the University of Hull. I studied biochemistry as a first degree and have a Masters in theology so science and religion are my big themes, and I use my knowledge of these subjects to craft intelligent, literary thrillers. I was founder and director of the award-winning independent publisher Maia Press and have taught creative writing in a range of institutions including Morley College, Holloway Prison and London University of the Arts. I’m author of the best-selling Creative Writing For Dummies and a follow-on volume, Creative Writing Exercises for Dummies. I live in East London.
The CRA: Tell us about what you are doing during lockdown/while social distancing?
I am teaching online at the University of Hull and have been busy with publicity for my latest novel which came out on 2 April. As all the events, bookshop readings and the launch have been cancelled, this has been very hard. I’m trying to stick to a routine with my husband to stay sane – breakfast, exercise workout with Joe Wicks, work, 30 minutes on the exercise bicycle, lunch, a walk, more work. In the evening I don’t watch the news as it’s too depressing and stops me from sleeping – instead we read, listen to music, watch a film or play Scrabble. I am trying to keep up with family and friends with regular Zoom/Skype meetings.
The CRA: How does the above differ from your usual routine?
Usually I’m far more sociable. I swim or go to aqua aerobics two or three times a week, and have coffee with friends afterwards. I work for the University of Hull one day a week, so on other days I spend the afternoon at my desk, writing or related tasks In the evenings I usually attend lots of bookshop events, book launches and see friends. At the moment I am unable to concentrate on writing my next novel. Everything seems so bizarre; it is hard to write a book in which the pandemic either isn’t or hasn’t happened, so it’s hard to find a way through that at the moment. Perhaps I should write a historical novel instead!
The CRA: Tell us about your most recent/forthcoming book.
Virgin & Child is a literary thriller set in Rome and Ireland. It concerns the recently elected Irish Pope Patrick who is attacked in St Peter’s Square by a woman protesting against the church’s policy on abortion. Pope Patrick makes a discovery that makes this issue a very personal one for him. As he struggles with this revelation, Cardinals turn against him, eventually trying to remove him from office. Shocking revelations threaten his traditional status and his faith. In this literary thriller where nothing is at it seems, Catholicism and modern morality are held in tension. Pope Patrick has to face challenges and make choices he never could have imagined.
The CRA: Why will it appeal to lovers of crime fiction?
The book has a mystery at its heart, and keeps up the suspense right till the end. It has all the ingredients of a thriller – intrigue, plotting, assassinations, a car chase – while at the same time exploring serious issues of sexuality and gender in the modern Catholic Church. There’s some theology and spirituality in there too. It’s less like Dan Brown than perhaps a kind of contemporary The Name of the Rose.
The CRA: What CWA member writers are you reading during NCRM?
I’ve just been reading Barry Forshaw’s Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide to tell me what books and authors I’ve missed out on, and what I should read to fill the gaps! And I’ve just downloaded my former student and author Dreda Say Mitchell’s latest, Spare Room, for some page-turning relief after finishing the latest Hilary Mantel.
The CRA: What one thing are you planning to do once lockdown is over?
Travel to my favourite place in Normandy, eat lots of French cheese and drink lots of French wine, and blissfully swim in the sea.
You can find out more about Maggie Hamand and her books on the CRA website.
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