Rosie Claverton is a screenwriter and novelist. She grew up in Devon, daughter to a Sri Lankan father and a Norfolk mother, surrounded by folk mythology and surly sheep. She moved to Cardiff to study Medicine and adopted Wales as her home, where she lives with her journalist husband and pet hedgehog. Her short film Dragon Chasers aired on BBC Wales in 2012. Captcha Thief is her latest novel, third in The Amy Lane Mysteries.
Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about Captcha Thief, and what compelled you to write it.
Rosie Claverton: Captcha Thief is the third novel in The Amy Lane Mysteries, a series about an agoraphobic hacker and a streetwise ex-con who fight crime in Cardiff, Wales. This time, they’re trying to solve the murder of a security guard at the National Museum of Wales and hunt down a priceless Impressionist painting.
I really wanted to write a novel that wasn’t about your typical crime, especially because art heists are good fun. I enjoy adventure films like Ocean’s Eleven and I wanted to bring that flavour of fun puzzle-solving into my mystery series.
M.C.: What is your book about?
R.C.: The central mystery is about solving the murder and finding the painting. However, this is complicated by Frieda Haas from the National Crime Agency – the UK’s equivalent of the FBI. She serves to separate my two protagonists, leading them to question what they mean to each other and their roles within their crime-solving partnership.
M.C.: What themes do you explore in Captcha Thief?
R.C.: The theme I explore in all my work is “identity”. In this novel, that comes through particularly with Jason – he feels he’s moved past his criminal history to become part of Amy’s investigations, but she doesn’t seem to trust him with more than grunt work or getting into fights. He wants to define himself as more than that, but he’s unsure if he can escape what he sees as his nature.
M.C.: Why do you write?
R.C.: I can’t not write! I’ve always written in some form or another since I was a child, including a youth well spent on fanfiction! I keep writing The Amy Lane Mysteries because I love these characters and I want to follow their paths as they grow, and fall, and get back up again.
M.C.: When do you feel the most creative?
R.C.: I need to be well-rested, fed and caffeinated before I can begin to feel creative. I like a long uninterrupted space of time in which to work, preferably without too many distractions. My absolute favourite place to write is on a long train journey.
M.C.: How picky are you with language?
R.C.: I’m not very concrete about word meanings, as I believe language evolves over time, but I am quite keen to nail down unique character voices and local speech patterns. One of the things I’m most proud of is how clearly readers can hear Cerys’ voice – as Jason’s younger sister, she has a distinct Cardiff accent in my mind but I only put that across in her choice of words and rhythm of her speech.
M.C.: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
R.C.: No – I feel I’m being manipulated close at hand! My supporting characters have a tendency to steal the show, or my tough ex-con has a crisis of confidence out of nowhere. I set a particular character arc in motion almost by accident in Code Runner, because I only later thought about how this person would deal with the fallout from events. That one incident has had a shaping influence on the next three books.
M.C.: What is your worst time as a writer?
R.C.: Feeling lost in the middle of the first draft, with no idea where the book is going and knowing that you have struggle through it to make a novel at the end. I’m also far too proud to share my difficulties at this stage so I just have to stew in it until the knots unravel in my brain.
M.C.: Your best?
R.C.: When your book is out in the world and readers tell you that they like it. That they want to read more. That makes all the hard work and heartache worth it.
M.C.: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
R.C.: If there were too many pressures on my time, I would have to consider scaling it back significantly but I don’t think I could ever stop. I might just end up subscribing to the George R R Martin school of maybe releasing a novel every five years or so, if I feel like it.
M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
R.C.: I had an amazing launch party for Captcha Thief in the Impressionist gallery at the National Museum of Wales, right in front of La Parisienne with an edible cakey edifice of her – which I stabbed with a carving knife. It was epic.
M.C.: Is writing an obsession to you?
R.C.: When I’m wrapped up in a novel, I can think of little else, but it never reaches unhealthy or pathological levels of takeover. I love the excitement but I can also take a step back if I need to.
M.C.: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
R.C.: I think all stories are linked to their writer in some way. The theme of identity is one that’s very important to me and one with which I’ve personally wrangled with for most of my life. I set this series in Cardiff because I missed it, and each of my characters share some particular aspect of my personality. But then we are all humans together.
M.C.: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?
R.C.: I do prefer to escape with my fiction, as a reader and a writer. However, that’s because I get enough reality with my work as a psychiatrist. I think there’s a healthy balance to be struck between being grounded in reality and then able to be somewhere else entirely, hot on the heels of a murderer.
M.C.: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
R.C.: I have a blog and you can follow me as @rosieclaverton on Twitter. The Amy Lane Mysteries also has its own website.