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17th Jan 2020

‘I had to think about it a lot before I did that’: Jo Spain on the ‘complex’ turn in Six Wicked Reasons

Keeley Ryan

For Jo Spain, being an author was something that she always wanted to do – it just wasn’t something she knew if she could achieve.

“Yeah [it was something that I always wanted to do], I just didn’t know I could achieve this. I’m from a really working class background, so nobody I knew went into careers like this,” she told Her, as she discussed what made her want to become a writer.

I always loved writing, and I was really good at it.I had a lot of teachers who told me I was really good at it, with essays and poems and things like that. In the back of my head, I was like, [being a writer] was the job I wanted to do.”

Six Wicked Reasons is the author’s eighth novel, with her ninth book After The Fire set to be published over the summer.

It follows 21-year-old Adam Lattimer, who vanishes without a trace in June 2008. Presumed dead, his disappearance shatters the reset of his family.

Ten years later, with his mother deceased and siblings scattered across the globe, Adam turns up unannounced at the family home. The rest of his siblings return reluctantly to Spanish Cove, but Adam’s reappearance poses more questions than answers.

And, as tension builds, it’s apparent somebody has planned murderous revenge for what happened ten years ago (you can read Her’s review of Six Wicked reasons here).

“You see it a lot now on social media, it’s like every day of the week somebody else is gone,” Spain said, discussing the inspiration behind the addictive thriller.

“Sometimes, something awful has happened to them – but more times than not, it’s people who wanted to leave their lives. It’s kind of fascinating when you have a crime writer’s brain to wonder what’s going on there in someone’s head. When they’re gone, obviously the family go through the worst kind of ideas of what might have happened to them.”

“In [Six Wicked Reasons] I was thinking, what if someone went and then came back? And then we put in the layer of that really recognisably dysfunctional family,” she continued. “I was thinking, that’s the kind of event – a son returning after being missing – that could blow a hole through a family that was already very dysfunctional.

“It started with that, and I have no idea how those things land in my head – they just do.”

The author admitted that there was a particular moment in Six Wicked Reasons that made it a more complex book to write than some of her previous work.

“I think with each stand alone novel I have done something different,” she explained, as she discussed how the writing process for Six Wicked Reasons compared to her previous stand alone novels.

“The Confession was a whydunnit, because I had to reveal the character and why he killed this man at the very start. Dirty Little Secrets was a closed, gated estate – there are only so many houses on it – so there was kind of this claustrophobia, of how we keep people very separate while having them in this estate where they allegedly don’t know each other.

“There’s a mix-up in [Six Wicked Reasons], where you get halfway through and it appears that the killer has been revealed, then we go back 10 years. I had to think about that a lot before I did that, because structurally it was difficult to do. It was definitely a more complex book to write than probably all the ones I’ve written to date.”

Besides Six Wicked Reasons, Spain is the author of The Confession, Dirty Little Secrets and the Inspector Tom Reynolds books, with 2020’s After The Fire to be the sixth instalment in the series.

“I’m very much, ‘love the one you’re with’. Whichever one I’m on, that tends to be my favourite,” she told us, as she discussed the differences between working on standalone novels and series’.

“With series, you don’t have to work so hard at developing the characters in each book. There are returning characters, and people buy into those characters and come back for the plot in each book. But it’s kind of restrictive, because there’s only so many places you can go,” she said.

“With stand-alone novels, you have to create this whole new world. By the time you’re finished those 600 or 400 pages, you should know every one of those characters like you’ve known them all your life. And that’s it, you’ll probably never see them again. For an author, that’s difficult to do, to create a character that’s memorable and lasting and that’s just gone at the end of 400 pages.”

Spain also shared which one of her books has been her favourite one to write – although, it looks like fans are going to be waiting a little while for a chance to read it.

“At the minute, I’ve just finished a stand alone for 2021 – and it’s been my favourite book to write to date. It’s just widely imaginative,” she explained. “I think Six Wicked Reasons is like that as well, there’s so many unusual and different characters to play with. That was liberating, because it lets you loose from the series.”

And as for what drew her to the crime genre in the first place, it turns out the answer is pretty simple: it’s the genre that she loves to read.

“I think most authors end up writing books that they themselves would like to read,” she added.

“I did write that first book when I was going through a dry spell reading-wise. I was reading books that weren’t really doing it for me, and in my head I was thinking, ‘I could write a better book than this’. It was never going to be any other genre than crime.

“It’s one of those genres that you get to do an awful lot within it. You can write a love story within a crime novel, or like in Six Wicked Reasons, about a dysfunctional family – which some people would use as a single novel strand.

“I think in novels I’m happy with crime, because TV writing is so variable. You could be writing anything from dystopian thrillers to detective procedurals to gangsters – they’re all very different.

“In book world, once you become famous for something, people come to your name to buy that book – so it’s a little more restrictive. I think I’m going to stay [in the crime genre], but I’m happy to stay there.”