Will Carver is an author with a unique and subversive style. His debut novel Girl 4 burst onto the scene last year, introducing January David, an enigmatic and haunted detective. Combining elements of crime and the supernatural it marked Carver out as a truly original talent. The next instalment, The Two, is out now, and Will was kind enough to join me for an interview to discuss it…
So, tell our readers about The Two?
The Two is a psychological thriller that explores the desperation and the lengths that ordinary people will go to, rise to, fall to, when at their most isolated and forsaken. Detective Inspector January David has lost everyone in his life. Following his previous case, he feels at odds with himself and the instincts he always used to rely on. Now he’s thrust into another high-profile investigation to capture Celeste, a serial killer who believes she is saving her victims by taking their lives, and V, the man who has made it his mission to capture Celeste before January.
January’s back, then. Are you sure he’s up to it after Girl 4?
Both of his parents are dead, his wife was impregnated by Eames, the killer in Girl 4, Detective Sergeant Murphy is showing further signs of disloyalty and corruption, and all the while January is still searching for his missing sister. He’s in a very dark place. And initially he doesn’t seem up to the task. In Girl 4 he disregarded his visions of The Smiling Man that appeared to him as a guide, but in The Two he comes to trust the visions that arise out of his intuitions, following their lead over traditional police work. Part of his journey is discovering the balance between these two approaches that he requires to function effectively. He’ll get there, but sometimes things have to get worse, much worse, before they can get better.
This is a cryptic book, with none of the easy hooks crime writers usually give their readers. Is that sadism or a stylistic choice?
Both. I think there’s room for books that sweep a reader along and allow them to lose themselves, but I prefer to jolt my readers occasionally, remind them that they are reading a book, so they can remain critical about the case they are trying to solve alongside January. So, it is a stylistic choice but there’s a degree of sadism too! It’s always interesting to hear from readers the point at which they cracked the case, and which hooks or clues they picked up on, which of the blind alleys built into the story they’ve run down. But I beat myself up about it because it’s a difficult balance to achieve. Maybe it’s actually masochism.
Yes. That’s it. I’m a stylish masochist.
The construction of The Two is unusual for a crime novel, why did you choose shifting first person present narration?
It began with a need to try something different. Initially I wanted to tell a crime story from the point of view of the killer rather than the detective. I soon realised that having the detective’s voice would create a balance, allowing the readers to take sides. What became most interesting was the idea that the victims themselves could speak and relate the events before, during and after their deaths. It created real impact to have a person refer to their own demise rather than having it relayed through a third person.
There’s a hallucinatory quality to your writing, alternately hyper-real and infuriatingly opaque…
If any readers have a signed copy of one of my books, it may contain the message ‘What’s true is not always what is real…’ This is the foundation of January’s story. What you witness in reality may not hold the same truth that can be found in a state of dream. I find the dichotomy really interesting and it opens up so many possibilities within a story.
Reality then has to be hyper-real. I spend a lot of time considering how to achieve this. When January takes a bottle opener out of the drawer and finds that he has left the cork from his previous wine bottle attached to the screw, it’s something we’ve all done and that minute detail makes his actions incredibly real. I think the reader needs this if they’re to suspend their disbelief during the more cryptic elements.
So, how did a big, tough rugby player like you end up writing?
There are big, tough rugby players and there are fast-running rugby players who are conditioned to being hit by big, tough rugby players. I was the latter. Sprinting around a muddy pitch in Bath on a rainy Saturday morning was great, I did it for 15 years, but eventually I decided I didn’t want it to be my job. I was painting, writing poetry and trying my hand at a stage play. I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. So I chose uncertainty, hope and the prospect of epiphany over a certain career in sport.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
The third January David book, out next year, is done and it has a very different vibe to Girl 4 and The Two. It’s darker, revolving around one mysterious event rather than several murders across a long period. I’ve also written half of the fourth book. It revisits some of the characters from a previous book and brings January closer to the whereabouts of his sister than ever before. Five and six are plotted.
I’m also researching a separate crime trilogy, but that’s in the early stages, started a stand-alone crime novel and have two other non-crime novels bubbling away – one is almost finished. Essentially, I will keep writing for as long as I am published. So readers can expect more January David and more Will Carver.
This interview originally appeared at Crime Fiction Lover.