Interview – 1 book, 5 questions : Whatever it takes – Paul Cleave

An interview with PAUL CLEAVE about :

“Whatever it takes”

Original cover

French cover

With this novel, you surprise us with a story that does not take place in Christchurch. Did you want/ need to change air ? 

I didn’t want to leave Christchurch behind – I love setting my books at home, and bringing people to my city, but the idea for the book wasn’t going to work here. I needed a small town that felt claustraphobic, where there is an isolated police force that wouldn’t ask for help elsewhere. If it were set in New Zealand, the police officer involved at the beginning of the book would have called another department in the country and gotten help – that couldn’t happen in my book – because then the book would have only lasted a few pages.

But in saying that, I loved Acacia Pines. I like the setting, and I like the feel, and I like the way I can write the story a little differently – how characters sound different, and see the world different, so the speech patterns and descriptions are different from this book than the others. The thing is… I like the setting so much that next years book is set there too… and I suspect there will be others. But don’t worry… Christchurch will be back…

Would you mind telling us how you came up with this story ? 

I have having a conversation with a fellow writer about a real life crime he was telling me about. He was saying it would make a good idea for a novel… but, anybody who knows me knows that I would never set a book on real events. So he told me the idea, and it was interesting, but also upsetting, but then we started talking about small towns, and we began to wonder what it would take for a character to leave a small town, vow they would never return, and then return. So it had absolutely nothing to do with the story he was telling me about… but once he asked me that question, I said… well, if it were me, I’d have my character as a deputy, and he’d cross some lines, and it’s not that he leaves town but gets kicked out…

So one small question, and the basis of a novel was formed.

Is this story a way of saying that you cannot run away from your past ?

I think that can be true – a past often has a way of catching up to you. Noah is doing a pretty good job of it, though – and not only has he been away from Acacia Pines for twelve years, he’s actually doing well. He’s fairly successful, and happy, and he doesn’t miss his old life. Then out of nowhere he gets the call from his now ex-wife. So… I think you could say that even if you can run away from your past, there’ll be somebody who will drag you back either willingly, or kicking and screaming…

Noah is probably one of your characters you’ve made suffered the most physically throughout the novel, right ? 🙂

Well… maybe. Joe had a tough time in the park that night in The Cleaner, and Theo has been beaten a bit, and Eddie, and others… but yeah, Noah goes through the ringer. But he kind of brings a lot of it on himself. There’s this scene later in the book – you’ll know the one if you’ve read it – where it all becomes about symmetry. That won’t make sense if you haven’t read it, but I like what he has go through and endure. Again, he brings it on himself – in a way. But he’s a good guy, always trying to do the right thing. But yeah… he has a rough time…

We can feel that you had a lot of fun writing this story. But you also talk indirectly about serious topics, such as violence made against women…

I did have a lot of fun with this story. The change of scenery helped with that. But also it’s a different story – it’s more action than the others, and less psycholigcal. It’s still dark, but I think more exciting. Sometimes writing a book is tough, and sometimes you get a novel that just races along quickly – and this was one of those times. Every day I was excited to see what would happen next.

I did take on a couple of big issues – I can’t say too much what they are without spoiling anything, but violence towards woman is one of them. Even though Noah is a good guy, he lets his anger cloud his judgement. What he thinks the is the best thing to do can end up being the worst. That’s why I say he brings a lot of pain onto himself. Still… I really like him, and am wondering if there’s another story for him down the road…

Catégories :Interviews littéraires

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