Caroline Carver enters the patisserie and suddenly all eyes are on this stunning looking woman. I was a bit nervous because I couldnt make the interview set for the previous day. After making my apologies and ordering the coffees she smiled and said, "Do you know, you are the first man to stand me up?" Infamy.
That said, the writer, sounds thrilled when I say I havent got a batch of set questions but prefer a more informal approach.
We have met on several occasions and I have always found Caroline to be great company. When we last met at Bodies in the Library event at Heffers in Cambridge we spoke a little about India Kane and what she will be up to next. So I wondered if it still held true that she would be appearing in the new book.
"She does and has a bigger role than I thought. But she doesnt have a point of view in it. Ive got another heroine. India happens to be in the area where the book is set. Which is in the far north of Queensland and India is up there investigating a story which coincides with my new heroine. They do team up but very briefly."
This suggests that the new book, which she was unable to let me know the title of, is going to be in the same vein as Blood Junction.
"Yes, an adventure thriller type of book, I love writing in that style. Especially about hostile territories. I love the monsoons, the wilderness, the mangroves and crocodiles. They do have the biggest man-eating crocodiles in the world up there, growing up to eighteen foot. I just like the thought of sticking my heroine in there and say get on with it! Ive only just delivered the manuscript, so I cant give you any details of publication date or title, Im afraid."
Caroline is the British-born daughter of a mother who in 1957 set the land speed record in Australia and a father who was a jet fighter pilot in the Aussie Fleet Air Arm. In 1998 she completed the London to Cape Town Rally, with an all-female crew, and during 2001 participated in the Inca Trail Rally around South America with the same co-driver. It wouldnt be hard to say that she has adventure in her blood.
"I did two months rallying around the trails in South America and it was almost two months off of writing. It was incredible, setting down in a different place every night and I tried to sit and write but found I was too shaken up by the rough journey to put pen to paper."
Previously Caroline has travelled widely and adventurously: back-packing in South-East Asia, walking in New Zealand, trekking in Nepal and riding a camel through the Thar Desert to name just a few of her travel experiences. All of this has provided Caroline with a great wealth of background information. These are not the run of the mill tourist destinations and provide some very exotic locations. Add into the mix that she was one a freelance travel writer it made me wonder if there was anywhere that caught her fancy.
"I was thinking of America and the Nevada desert; using that as a setting after writing Blood Junction. How many people actually get to go into the desert? The place is so hostile. I dont like writing just about a hero getting in trouble with the bad guys, the surrounding environment is important to me."
In that way, the terrain becomes a character itself.
"It does become important. Think of writers like Steve Hamiltons A Cold Day in Paradise, I felt freezing reading that, and also Jenny Silers Ice. I think the weather can be critical to a story. What better to have a whacking great storm like in the ending of Blood Junction. If the weather is too calm and sunny it makes like much too easy for the characters, Id rather have them battling against a Force 8 gale. Just pile it on thick and let the characters get out of it."
When I told her how much a first hardback edition of Blood Junction was being touted by the dealers for she was taken aback.
"How much!! £150. I didnt know that. Im keeping hold of my four copies! Thats curious and frightening."
It was sheer determination on Carolines behalf that got her published. She sent in the first chapter of Blood Junction to the annual Crime Writers Association writing competition in 1999, and won. Winning the competition brought Caroline the assurance of getting an agent and the book published. "Obviously winning the Crime Writers Debut Dagger Award helped a great deal. Its thanks to the CWA that I got published. The interest from the publishers and the media was just terrific. It made a change of you having to run around after them and bash your head up against the wall. My publishers, Orion, were really excited."
With the accolades dying down, just how much pressure in placed on a new and exciting author to deliver the second book? "With Blood Junction there was no pressure, I could write it at my own pace, enjoy it, polish it and polish it. Where with book two, they want it now and the pressure is on. It was delayed because of the Inca Trail, and when I was on that most of my creative brain was taken up by the rally. I was waking up in the morning with the ideas, thinking about the characters, meanwhile Im filling up the Jerry cans. I remember at one point my co-driver said, stop writing the book, its driving you nuts. So thats what I did. I did the rally, came back and got on with the writing because I didnt want to be known as a one-book wonder!"
As we attacked our second cup of coffee and the patisserie began to fill with noisy Londoners and tourist the interview was coming to an end. But I did have some quick-fire questions to find out Carolines likes and dislikes:
At the moment she loves listening to South American jazz which shouldnt be unexpected nor that her favourite drink is Caipirinha, the Brazilian national drink, made from a high-proof sugar-cane alcohol called Cachaca, blended with fresh lime, sugar and loads of ice. She cites her favourite book is Adrift, by Steven Callahan, "Seventy-six days lost at sea, his story on how he survived in a 5ft inflatable raft after a whale hit his yacht in the mid-Atlantic. An extraordinary tale of courage and determination . An incredible story and one I've re-read countless times. Probably not the book for a desert island!!" And The Usual Suspects is up there amongst her top films, admitting that she loves surprises (well, I didnt make our first interview!).
Compared to many other writers, Caroline has led a fascinating and exciting life. "I dont have any major rallies lined up. So I can get on with book three without too many distractions." But I have a feeling that she may hear the call of the wild, jump on a plane and head off to the Sahara at any given time. Maybe thats book four .