Welcome to Emily Donoho, an intriguing new crime writer, with an enquiring mind and an inside knowledge of her craft. I look forward to sampling her work.
Your crime thriller book, published in May this year, takes the reader deep into the psyche of a New York homicide detective. Sounds intriguing. What prompted you to write it, and how long did it take you?
I wrote an early draft of it while I was an undergraduate, about ten years ago, that was about 30,000 words long. I was a psychology major, and I was interested in the criminal justice system, the therapeutic process, and also in writing something that jumped around temporally. This combines all three in a different sort of police procedural. Then it languished for about a decade. After I finished my PhD, I was not busy being mostly unemployed, and I figured I would revisit the (then) little novella and attempt to make something serious out of it. I effectively rewrote the entire thing while retaining the basic premise, and it took me about three years.
Care to tell us about your journey to publication?
I submitted it to a couple of publishers in 2014, but did not hear back from them, de facto rejections. Then after a long spate of redrafting and rewriting, I got in touch with a professional editor, who really liked the manuscript. She was starting up her own small publishing company, Upatree Press, and wanted to take the novel on. I feel like I lucked out.
How much of your book draws from your own experiences?
I had an internship in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office in 2003 and gained some firsthand familiarity with the New York City criminal justice system. Otherwise, it draws from research, research, research. That said, I think any writer’s views and experiences get infused into their novels, even though they may be writing about people/situations that they don’t have direct experience of. That’s the art of it. I might not be a middle-aged male mentally ill, alcoholic New York City detective, but I can take aspects of things I have experienced or felt and then apply it to my characters, bringing them to life.
This is your debut novel. Have you published any other writings, and are you thinking of writing more books?
I published an academic paper about Highland ‘folk’ cures for madness several years ago, and I’m working on a sequel to Canyons, a big, sweeping novel about homicide investigations in New York City in the early 90s, the height of the ‘crack wars’ and the murder rate in the city at its apex. I have also just started an MSc in investigative journalism, so I hope to have a lot of things, fiction and non-fiction, published in the future.
Like to give us a glimpse of your favourite authors, and why.
To keep it brief, I’ll name two. Richard Price and David Simon stand out. Simon’s non-fiction books, Homicide and The Corner, about Baltimore homicide detectives and residents of the Baltimore ghetto respectively, were hugely influential. If you want to understand the culture of policing inner-city America, read those books. He wrote them in the late 80s and early 90s, but with all the noise in the media now and increased awareness of the difficult relationship between the African-American community and the police, they are more pertinent than ever.
Price is a great writer, and his novels set the gold standard for how I want to write about crime. Not whodunits with super-sleuthy detectives, but rather an attempt to show police work as accurately as possible with a kind of sociological and psychological awareness of culture and context of crime, cops, and the people they deal with in the street. He can encompass all of that, while telling a fantastic story.
You have an impressive academic record, and are a lady of many talents. Care to tell us something about your favourite hobby?
Hillwalking and mountaineering. I try to get out to the Scottish mountains as much as possible.
What made you move from the United States to Glasgow?
I started my first master’s degree in Durham and then did my PhD in Glasgow. I love the city – reminds me of New York in some ways, but smaller and more manageable. So I have done my best to stay in or near it after finishing my doctorate in 2012.
I’ve been horse mad all my life, was it the same with you? I see, like me, that you have mentioned a horse early on in your book. I judge dressage, and you train. What are you working on at the moment?
My horse is 22 years old, but she is still sound and in work. I school dressage with her, but I have not shown since 2002, when I got fed up with the intensely competitive horse show culture on the East Coast of the US. Since I’ve been in Britain, I haven’t had the money nor the transport to get back into it, but I don’t mind. I just enjoy my horse, and I’m delighted she is still going strong at her age.
What has been the proudest moment of your life so far?
Getting Canyons published was up there, alongside finishing my PhD.