Cooper (aka Natasha Cooper) is well known for both her Trish Maguire
King series; now she is giving us a gripping new series under a new
name. The first, now in paperback, is No
Escape (the Simon & Schuster imprint Pocket Books,
978-1-84739-422-4, £6.99), with Karen Taylor, a forensic
protagonist. With the new name comes a new approach of psychological
one that succeeds so well that the next Karen Taylor case is a must for
shopping list. In No Escape
Karen is working and living on the Isle of Wight, a pleasant holiday
one in which a family of four enjoying a picnic at an idyllic spot has
brutally and apparently pointlessly murdered. Karen, in pursuit of her
project, visits the convicted psychopathic killer in Parkhurst prison.
happens then – well, don’t delay. Read it!
Q. Does the advent of N. J. Cooper mean adieu or
revoir to Trish Maguire? Your
hate to think that Trish has hung up her wig for good.
I think the easiest way to put it is
that Trish is taking a break. I
too much to abandon her for ever, but she reached a kind of safety in
and her life at the end of A
Mind, and I realised that I needed someone in an
edgier state for my
next few novels. Karen
Taylor is the
they'll meet in court
one day …
successful series established, what was it that inspired you to give us
Taylor and No
Escape, and why did you decide to differentiate this
by a new writing name?
I've always been interested in why – why
people cross the line between fantasies of revenge and real violence;
siblings turn out contented and successful when others are irreparably
in the same family setting; why tiny triggers that some people would
notice can drive others into extreme anguish; and so on – and
I decided that I
needed a psychologist to deal with them.
After a lot of discussion with my agent and publishers, we
decision to use a new variation on the Natasha Cooper name to make it
that this was a new series, with a new character, and a different style.
Q. You have laid the groundwork for this new
with some splendid characters, some of which are clearly going to be
particularly liked Karen’s robust encounters with DCI Charlie Trench. Will we be meeting him again
is this either a trade secret or an unanswerable question until the
Oh, we'll definitely be meeting Charlie
again: I find him riveting!
Q. You have cleverly constructed the novel so
Karen’s own personal fears and previous life are wound into
of the case through the psychological profiling of Spike Falconer, who
convicted of the murder of the family at the picnic site. Which
first in your planning for the novel: Karen or Spike?
Karen came into my mind before Spike
because I was looking for her. As
said, I wanted a psychology specialist, and I decided she had to be
new to the work so that she wasn't in a position to lecture readers
– or me –
but would need to ask and work out and probe.
But once I had her, Spike presented himself almost at
Q. The novel begins with a chilling nightmare
will strike a chord with most of us: the catastrophe that strikes out a
blue sky. The catastrophe in No Escape is the idyllic
picnic spot. Some authors write out their own fears in their work,
choose those that are unrelated to personal experience. Do you find
living your characters’ nightmares?
What an interesting question!
My nightmares are in fact more closely
related to other aspects of the story.
don't find myself worrying about a lone gunman on a blissful summer's
the country. But I
do have a lot of
nightmares about injustice and mental cruelty and people hiding
Q. In discussing one of your earlier novels, A Greater Evil, on your website, you say that it’s
not always clear
where the main impulse behind the writing of the novel comes from. Does
apply to No
The main impulse behind No
Escape has been with me for a
long long time. To
explain it in full
would be to give away too much of the story. Suffice it to say that I
someone, now dead, who had quite a lot in common with Spike.
Q. The emphasis on the psychological approach is
naturally very strong in this novel, as regards both Karen’s
and Spike’s. Have you always had an interest in what shapes
character and the
psychological effect of background?
My interest in the forces that shape –
and misshape – people's minds and characters has been with me
for as long as I
can remember. I
can't think of any more
important subject. The
ways in which our
minds and personalities are formed affects absolutely everything else. To understand even a
fraction of those forces
makes life so very much easier, as well as much more fascinating.
Q. Your descriptions of Karen’s visits
are graphic and compelling. Have you had personal experience of such
I'm really glad that the scenes in
Parkhurst are convincing. I
actually been inside that prison, but I have talked to inmates of
prisons and, indeed, once spent a fund-raising night on A Wing in
Q. I liked the way that the psychology behind the
crimes commands the development of the case, rather than being only an
explanation for it or one contributing ingredient. Did you begin the
that approach in mind?
think to tack on a psychological
explanation at the end of a successfully solved crime wastes a lot of
potential – and risks being unconvincing.
Q. Karen is full of self-doubt over her physical
appearance although it is clear from what you write that this is
How much do you think physical attraction adds to the main
and is it an essential ingredient?
When I first started writing, someone
said: “You have to make same-sex readers want to be your main character and opposite-sex
readers want to sleep with
your main character.” I
followed the recipe, but I think it can be hard to engage readers'
for a wholly unattractive – or arrogantly self-confident
Q. Has Karen appeared in any of your short
do you use that medium for experimentation into different fields? For
you wrote historical fiction at one time – do you employ your
that field in your crime writing?
Karen hasn't yet appeared in a short
story, but that's probably because I am still getting to know her. Short stories form in my
mind in a quite
different way from full-length novels, and I need to know the
well before I write one. I
only way that I use the experience of writing historical fiction in my
novels and stories is in the way I try to weave the research into the
Q. You mention Hannibal Lecter in the novel, as an arch manipulator of
psychologists who visit him in prison and tell us that all
interviewees have had similar attempts.
No Escape has a powerful theme throughout in the riveting
ongoing verbal battle that Karen has with Spike, who is a very
of fish to Hannibal. Was this battle the way you planned the relationship to develop, or did it develop
on the page/screen as you wrote?
I can't at this stage remember precisely
how I planned the struggle between Spike and Karen.
But people of Spike's type become very manipulative
– partly because manipulation is their only means to power
once they have been
convicted, and, intelligent and bored, they often find much-needed
manipulating authority figures. Who
Q. Finally, time to get my diary out with pen at
ready. When will we be able to read the next N. J.Cooper, please?
I'm so pleased that you enjoyed No
Escape so much and that you
want to know more of Karen and the others.
The next novel in the series is Lifeblood
and Simon & Schuster will be publishing it in the summer of
2010, so not
too long to wait now.
for agreeing to
this interview, Natasha –
and thank you
thank you, Amy, for such interesting questions.
COOPER/DAPHNE WRIGHT BIBLIOGRAPHY
Lilies (1990) aka A
Drowning Pool (1996) aka
Out of the
A Place of Safety
Evil (2007) aka
Evil Is Done
No More Victims (2008)