Four of the UK’s leading female crime writers took the stage last night at the Library Gallery as part of Stoke Newington Literary Festival. The panel talk, titled ‘Killer Girls’ offered a window into the process of crime writing, the psyche of female protagonists, and the difference in how men and women act out violence.
MJ McGrath, author of the Edie Kiglatuk series, hosted the panel. Also on stage were Kate Rhodes (writer of A Killing of Angels), Lucy Atkins (The Missing Ones), and Charlotte Williams (The House on the Cliff).
Each of the accomplished authors discussed their own processes for writing novels, and where inspiration for the crimes comes from. Charlotte Williams explained that the protagonist in The House on the Cliff was “based very much on a real person, who influenced the story greatly.” Likewise, Lucy Atkins said: “I was reading a lot about crimes in the newspaper, but when I was writing, I did not have an outline, and much of it was developed as I went along.”
A central theme among the panel was the creative possibilities that come with writing a female protagonist. “Women are interesting to write about,” said MJ McGrath. “There is nothing more dangerous than a woman protecting her child.” Women are very nuanced and complicated and each writer expressed the caution and care that goes into creating a believable character. Kate Rhodes explained, “It’s difficult not to portray her as a bitch, but as someone behaving in an extreme situation.”
Inevitably, the discussion turned to violence and how women consider crime and sadism differently than men. Charlotte Williams said: “It’s interesting to look at how women are taught to bottle up violent feelings, which is not the same for men.” For Lucy Atkins, what is more interesting than the actual act of violence is the “extraordinary situations that push women and men into acting out that way.”
The Stoke Newington Literary Festival will be running until Sunday. For more information on the Killer Girls panel discussion, or for upcoming events, go the festival’s website: http://www.stokenewingtonliteraryfestival.com