What is your writing process? What does your typical writing day look like?
I wish that I was one of those writers who woke up at 5.30am, went for a 2-mile run and then sat diligently and stoically at their desk at 7am and wrote all day and all through the night and ate healthy food. However, if I’m not teaching or at court, then it’s more a case that I don’t start writing until about 10am and my brain stops working after 10pm. I have a minimum word count which I try to meet, which is 1,600 words. Some days I go past 1,600 words without even noticing and other days it’s like pulling teeth. My desk is also covered in sweet wrappers. I have a weakness for a good pick ‘n’ mix. I usually break up the writing day by doing a Pilates class and going for a walk. I live near the River Thames and I find that to be a good meditative place to have a break and to come up with new ideas.
Given you have a very busy job as a criminal solicitor, how have you found balancing writing with your career?
There were times when it was very hard and absolutely ridiculous. For example, if I was at court all day, teaching a class in the evening, having exam papers to mark and actually having a personal life, I would then have to dedicate the weekends to writing and the spare evenings to writing. That was absolutely exhausting and looking back I do wonder how I managed it, but now I work on a freelance basis so it’s much easier to balance my writing time with my legal career.
Although The Jigsaw Man is your debut crime novel, you have also written women’s fiction, and contributed to a sci-fi anthology. Do you have a favourite genre for writing, and is this the same as your preferred reading genre?
I enjoy having the freedom to explore different genres and this is just a reflection of the fact that I enjoy reading women’s fiction, sci-fi and everyone who knows me, knows that I have a comic book obsession but crime fiction has always been my first love. I just love the intricacy of a really good crime novel and also I’ve been working in crime for over fifteen years, if you include my time spent training, so I think that is a natural part of who I am.
The Jigsaw Man has a fantastic layered storyline and a brilliant DI in Anjelica Henley. Where did you draw inspiration from for your story, settings and characters?
Firstly, I thought that it was time to bring back the serial killer! There have been so many psychological thrillers published but I thought that it would be good to have a resurgence of a serial killer. I also wanted to write a story set in South-East London, especially in the Deptford area, which is where I grew up. I felt that South-East London had been a bit neglected in the crime novel and as I grew up next to the River Thames, I thought that this would be the perfect place to set a crime story. I grew up seeing all sorts of things being pulled from the river from discarded shopping trollies, tyres, dead animals and an actual body. The characters aren’t based on anyone I know and DI Anjelica Henley is definitely not based on me or my alter ego but I’d never seen a black female detective in a crime novel, even though I’d met a few in my job as a criminal solicitor and very rarely have you seen female detectives in a story having to balance a complex family life in addition to a demanding job. Henley is definitely a combination of the many women that I know both professionally and personally.
How do your characters develop? Do you find that your characters take on a life of their own when you are writing? Or are you always completely in control of what they say and do?
My characters have definitely taken on a life of their own. I was determined that all of my characters would be seen as multi-faceted and complex just like people are in life. However, even though I thought that a character would be a certain way and I thought that I knew them, I’ve found that my characters have changed and reacted in completely unexpected ways to the growing situation that they’re involved in. Sometimes, I’m definitely not in control of what they say and do. I’ve found myself, especially during editing, reading over something that Henley says and my response is, ‘Wow, where did that come from?’ or I’ve discovered whilst writing my second book that one of my characters has a very petty and vindictive side to him and I have no idea where that came from. My characters are growing the more that I write about them and put them in different situations. I’m continuously discovering new things about my characters as I write book two.
When you are not writing, what do you do to relax?
I have an amazing capacity to watch absolute rubbish. My excuse is that my working life as a criminal solicitor can be so dark and tragic that I need to go to the opposite end of the spectrum, so I have been known to watch really bad reality shows. I’ve been practising Pilates for eight years and that is physically and mentally helpful. Then there’s just the usual; I love cooking and socialising with friends and family. When I can I also escape to my parents’ house in Grenada where I’m in my element with the sun, sea and the beach. I love being near water so I’m also happy just sitting by the river.
What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
I have three! Conviction by Denise Mina was fantastic, Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid and Blood and Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to any aspiring writers?
Do not give up. I promise you that there will be times when you’ll be sit back and ask yourself, ‘What business do I have writing a book?’ or you’ll be convinced that you’ve written 80,000 words of absolute nonsense; I thought all of those things but you have to keep on going. All writers have these moments of self-doubt but don’t let it put you off. Also, rejection is part of the process. I was told by one agent that my story wasn’t ‘exciting’. I took no notice and I carried on writing my book called The Jigsaw Man which ended up in a six-publisher auction and will be on your shelves soon. So, please, keep going.
And finally, what’s next for Nadine Matheson?
I’m currently working on book two of the DI Anjelica Henley series. The Jigsaw Man has also been optioned for TV so I’m crossing my fingers that you’ll see Henley and the Serial Crime Unit on television soon.
Thanks for joining us Nadine, we can’t wait for the release of The Jigsaw Man.