Ali Karim: Were you a great reader in your youth? And what books struck a chord with you and perhaps even steered you to write?Read the full interview.
Laura Wilson: The first book I remember reading for myself was The Tale of the Fierce Bad Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter. When the nice friendly rabbit offers the bad rabbit a carrot, Potter writes, “He doesn’t say thank you. He just takes it.” There was a picture of the bad rabbit looking fierce and snatching the carrot. That made a very big impression on me; I thought it was a terrible thing to do. Perhaps the bad rabbit’s relatively small crime started something … I also loved Fattypuffs and Thinnifers [by Andre Maurois], Black Beauty [by Anna Sewell], and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women--but only the first book, because I lost interest when they grew up and got married and all the rest of it. I don’t remember any conscious decision about wanting to write, just as I don’t remember learning to read. I think the desire was just there in the background, waiting for me to stop dithering and act on it, which I finally did in my late 20s.
AK: What drew you to crime fiction, especially historical work?
LW: Although I chose to read English at university, I’ve always enjoyed reading non-fiction history books, though I’ve never been that keen on historical novels by contemporary writers set pre-1900; there are a few exceptions to this, such as Andrew Taylor’s brilliant novel The American Boy [U.S. title An Unpardonable Crime], but not many. The recent past fascinates me because there’s the feeling that one can almost--but not quite--touch it with one’s fingertips. I think it’s a way of understanding the present--How did we get here?--and it certainly puts things into perspective, but I don’t feel sentimental or nostalgic about it. As for being drawn to crime … that’s probably a question for a psychiatrist, but most of the best stories and plays, from the ancient Greeks onwards, contain some sort of crime--few writers can resist that sort of dramatic potential. The crime novel is an excellent vehicle for exploring social problems and social change, and I also think that the “morality tale” aspect of crime fiction is appealing--not just to me, but to the majority of writers and readers.