Saturday, November 24, 2012

Pauline Rowson

JAN BROGAN:  Please welcome Pauline Rowson to Jungle Red today. She is the 
 the author of two thrillers and the contemporary series of mystery novels featuring the flawed and rugged DI Andy Horton set in the Solent area on the South Coast of England. Her crime novels have  have been hailed as the ‘Best of British Crime Fiction’. They have an international readership and have been translated into several languages. Before becoming a full time writer she ran her own successful marketing, media and training company.


PAULINE ROWSON: Are crime writers psychopaths?

The relationship between writers and their characters takes many forms. Some of my characters irritate me, others entertain, some make me feel cuddly and comfortable, while others I positively loath. And some I love warts and all even my alpha male Detective Superintendent Steve Uckfield, head of the Major Crime Team, with all his disgusting habits.  But whatever the relationship between the creator and characters it should never be dull.

It’s easy to become a little bit obsessed with your characters. Oh, alright very obsessed and more so when writing a series because the main cast of characters are with me all the time, they are as much part of my life as real people, they occupy my thoughts throughout the day, but strangely enough I never dream of them. Perhaps there is hope for me yet and I’m not about to be carted off to the insane asylum.

I think about my characters a great deal. Where are they? What will they do next?  How will they react to this or that situation?  What is happening in their private lives as well as in the job?  What is their relationship with their colleagues? This is all good stuff because their actions, feelings and motivations drive the plot, which can be annoying especially if I think I’ve got the plotline all nicely worked out. They have the habit of throwing me right off course even to the extent that often when I thought I knew who ‘done it’, I discover the killer is someone completely different.  Do I hear the distant siren of an ambulance approaching? 

Thinking about your characters is not the same as thinking about your ‘real’ friends or the people you know because with your characters you are in control, you create their lives. Although, as I said, they can develop a habit of doing something that surprises you. Many writers are familiar with the old adage plot is character and character is plot, which makes it almost impossible to answer the question readers often ask me, what comes first plot or character? The two are inevitably and intrinsically intertwined.

So before you call for the men in white coats I assure you I am quite sane, well as sane as any writer (and especially a crime writer can be – after all we kill people for a living). Creating characters and their lives is a fascinating game, as many children know, and perhaps that's what a lot of us writers are - kids at heart. It’s either that or we’re closet villains or psychopaths. I know which I’d prefer.

While I don’t believe I am mentally deranged others might beg to differ, because … well, OK, yes I admit it I am a little in love with my fictional detective DI Andy Horton who is fair, fit, flawed and almost forty. But if this means I’m psychotic then where does it leave the mystery novel reader? How consumed are you by the characters you read about?  How real are they to you? Let me know because I might need to book you a space on the psychiatrist’s couch alongside me!

JAN: For more info on Pauline and her books, visit her website at
You can also follow Pauline Rowson on Twitter
Or visit her Marine Mystery Facebook Page


  1. If the characters weren’t “real,” I don’t think I would find myself so completely invested in the book/series and I probably wouldn’t be trotting off to the nearest bookstore the moment the next book hit the shelves . . . . The reality of the character to the reader is, to my way of thinking, crucial to making the story both believable and compelling . . . .

  2. Hi Pauline,
    I am as invested in the characters as I am in their story. There is no mystery or thriller for me in a story without people to create it from the inside, instead of simply marking space so the story can exist by twirling itself around them.

  3. Hi Pauline! Welcome to the nuthouse where we all think our characters are real! Looking forward to adding yours to my pile.

  4. Agreed the reality of the characters is crucial to enjoying the book/s. To my mind they have to be real to the author or they will never be real to the reader. I give a lot of talks to readers and often people come up to me afterwards surprised that I am so passionate about my characters as if other authors they've listened to haven't been. Perhaps the other authors they've heard are just not good at communicating that passion verbally. Because I also set the books in the area where I live I can visualize my characters in real places and even how they would respond to real incidents I read about in my local newspapers and on line ( a good source for ideas) Maybe I am slightly mad! Make room in that nuthouse Lucy...

  5. Yes, writers are crazy. They have to be, to write for love (of their characters, as well as the craft), and have the hubris/hope that editors will love the story and buy it.

    That said, one of my best memories of BoucherCon Seattle many years ago was standing in an elevator with Deborah Crombie, discussing various methods of killing and maiming, only to discover the other passengers were sidling as far away as they could get and giving us suspicious glance. (It was a very tall hotel). Only then did we realize not everyone on the elevator was there for the convention.

    My point is, crazy can be good. Just because you imagine and write nasty characters doesn't make you a psychopath. Well, maybe. . . Hmmm.

  6. Good story, Diane.

    I hope to come over for BoucherCon one day. I believe it is in New England next year, a place I've always wanted to visit so maybe... unless I've been certified by then.

    I note there are no comments from the male of the species yet, maybe it's just us women who think we're nuts?

  7. Reine and Joan,
    I couldn't agree more!

    Diane, I am so picturing that scene in the elevator!


  8. I have another favorite to Diane's story. A few years ago my writer friends Kate Charles and Marcia Talley and I went to a Somerset B&B for a long February weekend, for what we refer to as a "plot fest." We were having a long discussion over breakfast about ways to dispatch one of my characters when we noticed some German guests at another table in the breakfast room growing very quiet. Soon, they slipped from the room and we heard conferring anxiously with our hostess. She assured them that we were all crime writers and not actually planning to murder anyone, but they studiously avoided us for the rest of the weekend.

    Of course our characters are real! and I think we're all certifiable--in a nice way, of course. And Pauline, I do dream about mine sometimes. Should I get out the white coat?

  9. Excuse all the missing words in the last comment. "Saturday failure to proof read."

  10. Psychopaths? I think it's more likely we're channeling our anti-social behavior into stories and novels, and are thus model citizens. How many of us have actually been to prison? I've met one crime writer in the past seven years who can make that claim, and he's no psychopath.

  11. Good point,Jack, and no I haven't been to prison and like to think I am a model citizen and would have been even if I hadn't been a writer.

    The Somerset B & B is a good tale too, Deb. Hope the police never raid my house they'll find files on criminal activity (notes that is).

    Wherever I am I love eavesdroping on other people's conversations, great for ideas and characters.

  12. I sometimes dream about the characters in whatever mystery I happen to be reading. In the dreams, I am always worrying about their safety. Seems to me that their authors have definitely created real people! And when I am actually wide awake and actively reading, I will sometimes groan and ask WHY did that character make that decision that is sure to put him or her in harm's way? Again, proof to me that the author created real people. I believe that I read mysteries written by some of the best writers out there. Many of them are the JRW ladies and guest authors. Yes, your characters are among the ones whose welfare becomes very important to me!

    I would love to eavesdrop on one of those brainstorming sessions!

  13. Exactly! We just watched Hunger Games and I thought--are we just as shallow and awful as the people in the story--because we are watching this movie about people watching a horrible thing??

    It was difficult for me to ignore that..

    And yes, we are a little bit crazy. Or you could look at it as..thoughtful. Hope to see you at Bouchercon, Pauline!

  14. The pleasure of reading is to immerse yourself in another world. The joy of writing is to create that other world.

    If that makes me mad so be it, I'd rather be mad than sane.