Monday, August 22, 2022

Q&A with Nadine Matheson




Nadine Matheson is the author of the new novel The Binding Room, a sequel to her novel The Jigsaw Man, which also featured her character Detective Anjelica Henley. Also a criminal defense attorney, Matheson lives in London.  


Q: The Binding Room is your second novel featuring Detective Anjelica Henley--did you know before you wrote The Jigsaw Man that you'd be writing a sequel?


A: I honestly had no idea that I would be writing a sequel as the first novel started out as an assignment.


I was on a Creative Writing (Crime/Thrillers) Master’s Degree and was given an assignment on creating suspense and I wrote 1,000 words about people finding body parts on the riverbank. In order to complete the course, I had to write a novel. The novel that I wrote was The Jigsaw Man and the 1,000 word assignment became the prologue.


My intention was to finish the book, complete my degree, graduate, and go back to my normal life. It was only when agents asked to read the full manuscript, and I began to edit the manuscript before submission, did I seriously start to think about a sequel.


Q: Do you think Henley has changed at all from one book to the next?


A: Henley has changed. In book 1 Henley is quite hard and is determined to have control over her life and to keep everything, her work and personal life, compartmentalised. She doesn’t want to have anyone interfering her life, questioning her decisions, but most importantly she never wants to appear as weak.


There’s a strength to Henley in book one but being strong all the time is detrimental to her emotional health. At the end of The Jigsaw Man she recognises that she needs to ask for help and that she cannot get through her traumas on her own.


When we meet Henley in book 2, she’s slowly coming to terms with her past and she’s able to be emotionally available for others. I like to think that she’s learnt that asking for help is not a character flaw.


Q: What inspired the plot of The Binding Room?


A: There are two things.


Firstly, I’m a bit fascinated by the rise of megachurches. There are quite a few cases where these flamboyant pastors of these churches have been involved in criminal cases. The fact that these some of these megachurches and their members have been involved in fraud and more serious cases has always fascinated me.


It may also have something to do with the fact that my grandmother was a reverend with her own church and the criminal cases that I would read about were in complete conflict with my own stable upbringing and relationship with my grandmother’s church and also my experience of being educated in a Catholic school.


I just always found the almost cult-like status of these preachers to be equally strange and fascinating, which led to the “what if?” question. What if someone murdered a popular pastor?

Secondly, a few years ago, there were loads of court cases where the defendants had been charged with murder or manslaughter because they’d attempted to perform an exorcism on a family member.


I was also appearing in court for a trial a few years ago, and in the courtroom next to mine, a family consisting of mother, father, sister, brother, and uncle were on trial for manslaughter because they’d attempted to perform an exorcism.


It was the “what if a popular pastor was murdered?” question and an “exorcism gone wrong” that immediately came to mind when it was time to think of a plot for The Binding Room.


Q: Can you say more about how your work as a criminal defense attorney informs your novels?


A: On a practical level, my work as a criminal defence attorney has prepared me firstly, for writing to a deadline, but also the planning of a novel. I suppose that I take the same approach to writing that I take to writing a closing speech. I’m trying to convince the reader, like a jury, that everything I’m telling you is the truth.


Creatively, my work has taught me the importance of creating characters that are multi-dimensional. I learnt very quickly that my clients were not criminal stereotypes and that there were layers to them.


Every client I represented had a unique background and their own motivations. I also try to make sure that my characters are fully rounded and not flat cliches. I haven’t based any of my characters on a specific client, but I have been inspired by quirky and interesting character traits.


Also, I know how a criminal case works, I know what the police and prosecution have to do to build a case against my clients, and I use that same knowledge to create the “crime” in my book.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m currently working on book 3 in the series. There is no title but the last line of The Binding Room is a good indication about the focus of book 3.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: How about something random. I was once an extra in an episode of 24 when they filmed a special in London and was also an extra in an Idris Elba movie. But I gave up on my acting career after spending an uninspiring 12 hours in the freezing cold pretending that it was summer in Paris.


Not so random is that I’m also writing a legal thriller. I always thought that everyone would expect me to write a legal thriller because of my professional background, so I did the complete opposite with The Jigsaw Man and the creation of Detective Inspector Henley. But now I’ve got a character and idea that won’t go away, so we’ll see how it goes.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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