Anthony Horowitz is the author of the bestselling Magpie Murders and The Word is Murder. His latest mystery, A Line to Kill, is the twisty turny third novel in his acclaimed Hawthorne and Horowitz series. He chatted with The Penguin Post about writing himself into his Hawthorne series, his favourite mystery authors and Jaffa Cakes.
PP. What sparked the idea of Alderney and its controversial power line?
AH. I was invited to a literary festival in Alderney about three years ago and knew at once that it was a perfect setting for a murder story… if only because in reality, there had never been a murder on the island. But it’s such a fascinating place with its myriad forts, its tunnels and caves, its lovely beaches – lots of places to hide a body. I also heard people talking about the power lines (I didn’t make it up) and knew they would be part of the story.
PP. Who is your favourite – or least favourite – character in A Line to Kill?
AH. That’s easy. Derek Abbott is a truly horrible man and obviously has a connection with Hawthorne’s past. He also turned up in the first book, The Word is Murder. This is the first and (spoiler alert) last time I meet him and he’s going to be a big part of the mystery as I try to find out what happened to Hawthorne in the Yorkshire village of Reeth.
PP. Have you found that writing yourself into this series has added a whole new element to the writing process?
AH. When my publishers asked me to write a long series of murder mysteries, my first thought was – how can I do something different, that’s never been done before? At first, I asked myself lots of questions about the detective but eventually I realised that it was actually the narrator who could change everything. By making myself the narrator (as opposed to the author) I turned myself from the cleverest person in the book to the most ignorant. It made me see the mystery in a completely different light. How could I describe the clues if I didn’t even know what they were? It also changed my relationship with the detective. My publishers were a bit worried that putting myself into the book could turn it into a bit of an ego trip but in fact it’s just the opposite. The book isn’t about me – it’s about Hawthorne. And he never lets me forget it!
PP. I heard you say that you have the plots for books four, five and six in the series; can you give us any idea of what’s next for Hawthorne and Horowitz?
AH. The next mystery is actually mentioned in A Line to Kill. Hawthorne mentions an earlier case when he is interviewed for the festival. It’s about a private close in Richmond – one of the homeowners, a disruptive influence, is killed and it seems that one of the neighbours must be the culprit.
“The only ritual I have involves green tea and Jaffa cakes.”
PP. How do you build suspense in your writing?
AH. I’ll tell you in a minute.
PP. Do you have a favourite mystery author?
AH. I love Japanese murder writers including Yukito Ayatsuji, Soji Shamada and Seishi Yokomizo. What do they have in common besides their ethnicity? Well they’re all completely devilish. Their ideas are unique and original. Their denouements are startling. Their books are all fiendish puzzle boxes – they make Agatha Christie seem positively demure.
PP. Where do you draw creative inspiration from day to day?
AH. Well, as with Alderney, I’m very inspired by places that I visit. I went to Borris House in Ireland and that instantly became the setting of my book, Moonflower Murders. But I also get ideas from newspapers, conversations, dreams, random things I might see in the street.
PP. What is your writing routine like?
AH. I work in London some of the time, but more often in a tiny house in Suffolk with wonderful views of the sky and the sea. I write for about 10 hours a day, although a lot of that time is spent thinking and doodling. I try not to have a routine, to be honest. I want every day to be as different as possible.
PP. Do you have any totems or must-haves around when you write? Or any rituals leading up to, or around, your writing?
AH. I like to use a fountain pen. There are certain books I keep close including a Roget’s Thesaurus an a proper English dictionary (I like the two-volume Oxford edition). The only ritual I have involves green tea and Jaffa Cakes.
PP. What’s been your favourite read so far this year?
AH. Giles Milton: Checkmate in Berlin. It’s non-fiction but it’s still a fantastic story, brilliantly told. It’s all about the airlift in Berlin immediately after the war.
PP. What advice would you give to someone trying to find their voice as a novelist?
AH. Believe in yourself. Enjoy your writing. Never give up! And, most importantly, don’t take advice from someone like me.
A Line to Kill is out now.
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