An interview with Brighton-based crime writer Daisy White
PUBLISHED: 14:00 11 February 2020 | UPDATED: 14:00 11 February 2020
Brighton author Daisy White drew on her experience as an ambulance call handler for her latest psychological thriller, The Forgotten Child. Simone Hellyer finds out why she is drawn to the genre
Brighton-based author Daisy White has certainly had a very varied career path - from cabin crew with British Airways to a 999 call handler and now a full-time crime and thriller writer. And it was her time handling emergency calls for the Ambulance Service that inspired her latest psychological thriller, The Forgotten Child.
Her second novel to be published last year, The Forgotten Child centres around Holly, a single mother and 999 call handler, who is involved in a car accident and regains consciousness to find a strange child on the backseat. On her decision to give the reader a twist right at the beginning of the novel, Daisy says: "I always look for a different twist and in this case you wouldn't expect to turn round and see another child in the back. Normally I have a twist at the beginning and the end, but on this one I just had it at the beginning. That wasn't always the case though, as initially I had written about 20,000 words going off in a completely different direction but I realised it wasn't working. In the end it became much more of a gangland thriller and possibly not what people were expecting. It's quite harsh and has been likened to a Kimberley Chambers or Martina Cole-style novel."
The mysterious child in Holly's car draws her back into her traumatic past and the world of her crime boss father, where the tension really ramps up a gear. As a way of paying homage to all of the strong single mother friends in her life, Daisy chose for Holly to raise her son Milo on her own. But that also turned out to be a great way to inject a feeling of danger into the novel, as she explains: "If you're writing a thriller you try to take away a particular support system. I think it is incredibly difficult to bring up a child on your own, so by taking away her support network you put her in danger. If the characters aren't in danger, it doesn't make for a very exciting story."
Strong female characters are a common theme running through all of her books, something that Daisy attributes to her close group of female friends. In The Forgotten Child we learn that heroine Holly is not just mentally strong, but physically too. "I decided to make her an amateur boxer, so I asked a personal trainer friend of mine for a few tips on the kind of punches a boxer would throw. Even though it's not a huge thread in the story, I do like things to be accurate and whenever I read a book I like to feel that whoever has written it knows more than me," Daisy explains, adding: "I have another friend who is ex-Metropolitan Police and he is my police consultant, so every time I have a query about police procedure I ask him and we go through it together."
On why she is drawn to the crime and thriller genre, Daisy says: "I think it's because I'm always asking 'what if?'. Even my kids do it - if they see a bundle of clothes on the way to school they'll say: 'Wow Mummy, what if that's a body?'" It is, however, easy to see how writing psychological thrillers could be a bit of a drain, especially if you pour as much emotion into your writing as Daisy does. To counter this Daisy has also written a series of 'cosy crime' books, a sub-genre of crime fiction in the vein of Agatha Christie or Midsomer Murders. Her Ruby Baker trilogy of mysteries is set in Brighton and features another strong female character inspired by a family member. "I love writing my cosy mysteries as they're the kind of thing that I like to read at bedtime. The Ruby Baker series is set in 1960s Brighton and was inspired by conversations with my aunt, who would talk about all the things they got up to back then. I loved being able to place it in Brighton, which is where I was born. I have actually done another cosy crime series which is with my agent at the moment and I'd love to carry on writing in the two genres because I like them both equally," Daisy explains.
Daisy now treats writing as a business with a financial bottom line, meaning that she is incredibly disciplined about her daily word count, she says: "It was really hard to start with because you don't know how much you need to write and although I set myself deadlines, I wasn't ever sure that the books would be successful enough to keep me going. Touch wood, but at the moment if I write two books a year at least then I can keep going as a business." With two books published last year as well as another cosy mystery series and stand-alone thriller out in 2020, that financial bottom line looks set to be exceeded.
Good to know:
The Forgotten Child is published by HQ Digital (HarperCollins) RRP £8.99 paperback.