Australian-based crime writer, ELLIE MARNEY, is the author of many acclaimed crime novels including The Killing Code. Her latest novel, Some Shall Break, is the highly anticipated sequel to her New York Times bestselling YA thriller None Shall Sleep which first introduced readers to junior FBI consultants Travis Bell and Emma Lewis. Good Reading caught up with the author to discuss her new book.
What can you tell us about your research process?
I can tell you that it was very long and involved! I had to do a lot of reading about the history of the FBI and the Behavioural Science unit (now called Behavioural Analysis), as well as extensive reading about early 1980s America. Food, cars, music, jails; you name it, I did research on it. I also got in touch with the FBI, who have a public relations unit that helps to coordinate things of this nature. Unfortunately, they weren’t very forthcoming, so a lot of my research involved hunting down blogs and online posts by people who’d trained at the FBI Academy at Quantico, to get a sense of what that was like. But the FBI do produce a huge amount of procedural and analytical information about serial offenders, which is all mostly public access and very useful.
PTSD is a central part of Some Shall Break, especially for the main character Emma Lewis. What was your strategy for writing realistic physical and mental trauma?
It was really important to me to make sure that Emma’s trauma in Some Shall Break was portrayed sensitively on the page, and that the reader could follow the progress of her journey towards recovery with her therapist – too often, I think, we see characters in crime fiction suffer traumatic experiences, and they just miraculously continue on as normal, when most of us would be screaming with PTSD. I wanted to portray PTSD realistically, and to show that therapy and other strategies are an essential part of recovery.
I was lucky enough to be given the contact of a specialist trauma therapist in the UK, who kindly agreed to read the sections of the manuscript that featured Emma and her therapist. She gave me excellent feedback about those scenes, which was fantastic – now readers can see what a healthy therapeutic relationship is about. I like to hope that someone will read those scenes and be reassured, and perhaps find the help they need.
Why do you think crime (and especially true crime) appeals to young people so much?
That’s easy to answer: because crime is a morality play at heart. It’s about showing what happens when people arrive at a crossroads and make critical choices, both good and bad. Teenagers come to crime fiction at a time in their lives when they’re on the precipice of adulthood; they’re about to make choices that will affect the course of their adult lives. And they like to see how those good and bad choices play out on the page. Also, of course, a lot of crime fiction is very tense and exciting – and who doesn’t love that?