Interview With Lucretia Walsh Grindle

Lucretia Grindle was born in Sherborn, Massachusetts, and graduated from Dartmouth College. She has lived and worked as a freelance journalist in England, Canada, and the United States. She and her husband divide their time between Devon, England, and Massachusetts. Lucretia Grindle's last novel, The Nightspinners (Random House), is a thriller about twin sisters who can communicate telepathically through a language they call nightspinning. When one of the sisters is suddenly murdered, the other sister believes she is continuing to receive nightspinning warnings from her dead sister.

The Nightspinners by Lucretia Walsh Grindle
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What is it about mystery writing that appeals to you?

I have always liked puzzles and initially I was drawn to mysteries because of the discipline they impose. In order to construct a good puzzle, you have to be certain that the pieces fit, and this forces you to think carefully about plotting and not wander around on the page, or pages, forever. I also like mysteries because I am interested in what happens to relatively ordinary people when they are thrown into extraordinary circumstances, which are, by definition, the essence of mysteries.

Who are your favorite writers, mystery or otherwise?

Faulkner, Faulkner and Faulkner again! I was also very influenced by Joan Didion --both her fiction and essays. My favorite book is probably Wuthering Heights simply because it’s amazing, and Jane Eyre, because, although it is less raw and powerful, it is an almost perfectly constructed novel. Poets and playwrights have influenced me a lot too -- especially Yeats, John Donne, and of course Shakespeare. Then David Mamet and John Millington Synge. For mystery writers, James Lee Burke is utterly amazing.

What are your writing habits? Do you keep a strict schedule?

I write for at least three hours a day, 5 days a week unless I'm late on a deadline in which case I go to work on weekends and do as many sessions as I can. My concentration span is about 3 hours a shot, so typically I work from 9 in the morning until noon. Then, if I feel like it, I'll often put in another two hours from 4 to 6 pm just in time to break for the news, which is glass of wine time and the end of my working day. One thing I always do is re-write and re-write, and I read all my prose out loud to myself which makes me sound bats, but helps a lot.

In terms of your writing process. Do you develop character or plot first?

That depends. Sometimes a character just pops up in my head but usually they're already in some kind of situation when they appear so it's more premise than plot. Both characters and plot develop over time and may change out of all recognition!

Is the process of writing mysteries different from writing other kinds of fiction?

Not really, except that you have to be very precise in your plotting. It's like designing a cross word. You have make sure that everything makes sense and that you didn't leave anything out. It's cheating if you do.

Do you always know where a piece will end or do you wait to see where the characters take you?

I think I know where it ends... but that doesn't mean I'm right. I have virtually never written a book that ended where I thought it was going to, or for that matter, how I thought it was going to. So the plot and characters evolve as it goes on, sometimes things just happen, and it's crucial that you let them happen, even if, at first, you don't think you like it. If you try to force characters and stories where they don't want to go, then they'll be just that, forced.

How long does it take you to finish a book?

On average, a year. Although it might be nine months or so. That doesn't include the time I spend thinking of and developing the plots and characters in my head. Almost everything I've ever written I've been thinking about for at least a year before I put a word on paper.

Where do you get your ideas, especially for The Nightspinners?

It's not helpful to say this, but a lot of the time I have no idea where my ideas come from! Sometimes it’s just a moment, a feeling, or something I see on the street or overhear in an airport. For The Nightspinners, I remember that the initial idea sort of came from the fact that a girl who looked a lot like me was murdered a few blocks away and I started thinking about how disturbing that was and from there jumped to the idea of the twins, and so on.

What kind of research did you do for The Nightspinners?

I did a lot of research on identical twins including the physical side of it such as that their heart graphs are the same, but their finger prints aren't, etc. I also researched how they relate to each other. Beyond that, I did a lot of research on stalking and the psychology behind it.

What are you working on next?

I've just finished a novel about a Southern family, a murder, love, the unintended effects of kindness and the secret lives we all live.

Posted with permission of the publisher.