Arts Q&A: Crime writer Claire McGowan on Biffy Clyro, Abba and Eva Ibbotson

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, Co Down crime writer Claire McGowan

Best known for her crime fiction, Rostrevor writer Claire McGowan's forthcoming novel The Heartbreak Club is published under the pseudonym Eva Woods

1. When did you think about a career in writing and what were your first steps into it?

I always wanted to be a writer, from almost as soon as I started reading. I wrote little stories all through my childhood and teenage years, but didn’t start seriously working on a novel until I was about 25.

2. Best gigs you’ve been to?

I haven’t made it to many gigs in recent years which I feel a bit sad about now it’s been banned for so long, so I’ve booked a few for when restrictions lift. I’ve seen Bruce Springsteen a few times, in Dublin and also in London, both brilliant, and have also seen Arcade Fire three times, including once in Paris. The last gig I went to was Wilco at the Brixton Academy.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

I really like Biffy Clyro but they are very punky/rocky live, so that might be a bit much for a wedding.?

4. The record you’d take to a desert island?

Probably Abba Gold – my dad bought it for me on cassette when I was nine and I listened to it over and over for years. I would never get sick of those songs.

5. And the book you’d take?

I generally re-read The Secret History every few years, so perhaps that – it combines a brilliant story with beautiful prose, so I always find something new in it. ?

6. Top three films?

Two of my favourite films – In Her Shoes and LA Confidential, actually have the same director, despite being tonally so different. My favourite recent film is Booksmart, which I’ve seen three times already. It is so funny and full of energy.

7. Worst film you’ve seen?

It was a well-made film, but I found Once Upon a Time in Hollywood kind of offensive, as it took the brutal real-life murder of a woman and made it into a story about the failings of a fictional middle-aged man.

8. Favourite authors?

I have so many favourite authors but always find myself re-reading Jilly Cooper, Agatha Christie, and Eva Ibbotson. They are all feel-good reads, even the ones about murder (strangely), which I especially like to read around Christmas.

9. Sports you most enjoy?

I don’t enjoy any sports and watching it on TV would be my worst nightmare. I make an exception for the Olympics where I enjoy the gymnastics, swimming, and athletics. Once every four years is about enough sport for me, although I do enjoy playing tennis myself.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

The best holiday I’ve had is to Canada – it’s just so beautiful and welcoming, with amazing wildlife. I’d really like to go back there even though I only went in 2019. ?

11. Pet hates?

I can’t stand it when people play their phones out loud on public transport or in restaurants or cafés. I think it’s so rude and distracting, so I’ll usually shoot them dirty looks or even say something. Ideally they would turn it off but sometimes they just get angry back.

12. What’s your favourite:

Dinner? Something French or Japanese

Dessert? I like most kinds of cakes and desserts. The one I make most often is sticky toffee pudding, Nigella’s recipe.

Drink? I mostly just drink loads of tea, that’s how I punctuate my writing day. But I had to switch to decaf in the afternoons to let me sleep. In lockdown I’ve got quite into postal cocktails – an expensive and potentially ruinous habit.?

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

My best friend is also a writer and we met through taking a creative writing class together, years ago. This means we are a tiny bit competitive with each other, usually in a productive way...

14. Is there a God?

I was brought up religious, but would call myself an atheist now

Claire McGowan’s new book The Heartbreak Club (written as Eva Woods), a warmhearted and hopeful look at grief and loss, is out now.

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